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What is the Root Cause of Your Anxiety and Fear?

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast:

Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.

This is part 2 in my series, “Focus on Reducing Anxiety and Fear.”

Part 1: The Cost of Obsessive Anxiety

“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

—Norman Vincent Peale

Fear – like all emotions – gives us information. It can warn us, keep us safe and alert us to danger. It can help prevent disasters. It can empower us to take appropriate action to avoid a calamity or to correct behaviors.

Years ago, I was attacked in my home by an intruder. I was fortunate and came away unhurt. But it was a moment of real fear when confronted with a danger that was overpowering and very real.

“What if” Fears

However, we create fears that can be just as overpowering and overwhelming and can feel just as real, even if they aren’t. I call them the “what if” fears.

  • What if I lose my job?
  • What if my partner leaves me?
  • What if I can’t pay my mortgage?
  • What if I get really sick and can’t care for my child?
  • What if I don’t get this job?
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if I’m not good enough?
  • What if . . .?

Our list of “what if’s” can go on forever.

Negative Internal Dialogue

I’m sure you recognize some form of self-talk that resembles this. When times get really tough this kind of internal dialogue can become pervasive and dominate your thinking. While there may be indications that you might lose your job or you might not get a job, or people might not like you, there is just as much probability that you will keep your job or you will get that job, and people will like you.

However, when we fixate on what might happen in a negative way, we are on our way to creating that outcome. We begin to act according to how we think and put in motion the beginning of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What ifs can become so real that we defend their existence against their opposite, which is thinking positively about what we are capable of doing.

We can’t resolve all problems, but we can choose practical ways to respond.

Creating Fear Dragons

When we become consumed by the panic of what might happen even when someone suggests something positive, we will go to great lengths to prove why they are wrong and we are right. When we do this, we create a “fear dragon” that constantly needs feeding.

Creating and Taming Fear Dragons | FocusWithMarlene.com

The problem with fear dragons is that we treat them as though they are real. They’re not. If we can create them, we can tame them and turn them into something positive that works for us.

If you recognize a fear dragon, here is what you can do:

Challenge every negative thought with a positive opposite. When we focus on the negative, we draw ourselves toward an outcome we do not want. Focus on the positive things you can do to bring about what you want to have happen.

For example: If you’re concerned about your job, worrying about whether you will lose it will keep you stressed, less focused, and less capable. Instead, think of ways to improve your work, your outlook, and your responses.

Focus on what you can do, not what you have no control over.

Remember, fear gives us valuable information we need to act. It tells us when we are in danger.  When our brain perceives danger, it immediately and automatically triggers the survival response, gearing up the body to either flee or fight. So, we need to pay attention to danger signals.

Make Stress Work For You by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comRead more about factors that create stress in my book, Make Stress Work for You: 12 Steps to Understanding Stress and Turning it Into a Positive Force.

If you sense danger, stop and assess what is happening.

  • If you have a habit of thinking about everything that could go wrong, write them down. On paper, they seem less intimidating.
  • Then, list all the ways you might counteract or neutralize them in some positive way.

Fear is helpful to us when we stop, examine, analyze, or investigate. Fear is an important emotion that requires our attention. What will you do with it?

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