Being fearful is inherent to the human condition. It’s the way we protect ourselves from legitimate threats, it’s how we cope with life or death situations. But for many people fear is an unavoidable daily reality.

Fear comes to us in many difference guises. Some of the fears we live with are:

Gender based violence – many women and gay people live with the threat of violence purely because of who they are. They live constantly with this threat of violence. And the violence is often perpetrated by a person in the victim’s household.
https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures

Discrimination – Many people are put through the pain of discrimination because others perceive them as somehow different. These perceptions of difference may be based on body shape, age, socio economic status, race or gender. The fear arises from being the target of demeaning interactions ranging from snide remarks to downright abuse. This affects the victim’s sense of well-being and self-worth. The victim is fearful of situations where discrimination may occur, and avoids them. This has negative effects on the lived experience of the victim, who may withdraw from otherwise healthy social interaction.
https://www.apa.org/topics/racism-bias-discrimination/types-stress

Sexual Harassment – Many women experience sexual harassment, within their personal circle and from strangers. They have constantly to be on their guard against lewd suggestions, inappropriate behaviour and physical aggression. In this regard, we have seen the rise of whisper networks: an informal chain of information on sexual harassers and abusers is passed privately between women. Whisper networks warn potential victims of people to avoid. While whisper groups can help avoid some abusers, the threat of abuse still remains.
https://www.who.int/news/item/09-03-2021-devastatingly-pervasive-1-in-3-women-globally-experience-violence

Covid – For the last year and a half, the Covid pandemic has been a constant source of fear to millions. Right across society, we have all lost family and loved ones. The novelty and unpredictability of the pandemic has heightened our fear. Even with vaccinations, the future is unclear. We carry this fear with us every time we leave the safety of our homes.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7474809/

Crime – Crime is every present in society. Increasing inequality, unemployment, opportunism , and criminal intent all contribute to ever-present crime. Our experience of crime can range from mugging, theft, physical violence or even murder. The constant mental awareness of the possibility of this happening, and constantly having to be on our guard, saps our personal resilience. Even at a subliminal level, the fear is with us.
http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=13811
https://www.statista.com/topics/7491/crime-in-nigeria/
https://ncrb.gov.in/en/crime-india

Fear of the new and unknown – You may be facing a difficult situation like a divorce or a retrenchment. You may have to move to a new town and make new friends all over again. This fear gnaws at you, nudged you to unwise decisions and fills you with dis-ease.

We have touched on only a few examples of daily fear. Many, many people have to deal with them every day. There are many more, but they serve to illustrate the pervasiveness of the problem.

How does fear affect us?

Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a real or perceived threat. It is an essential part of keeping us safe; by enabling us to fight the danger or to run away . But when we live in constant fear, we experience negative impacts in all areas of our lives and our ability to live fulfilling lives is incapacitated. And this is what is so debilitating about fear. Its stops us from living our best lives. It permeates our every thought. It hold us back from taking realistic risks. And it sucks the joy and wonder out of our experience of the everyday. No one can be fulfilled when having to continually dodge fear.

How fear works

Fear responds to danger by prompting our body to release hormones that slow or shut down functions not needed for survival such as our digestive system. These hormones push up our heart rate and increase the blood flow to our muscles so that we can either fight or run away.

The flow of hormones affect the amygdala in our brain. The activated amygdala overrides our rational thought processes. But instead of fighting the threat or running away, we end up with an uneasy truce in our brain processing. We never get to flush the hormones out of our system. The amygdala remembers these negative associations and stores it in our memory. The brain stores all the details of the threat; the sights, sounds, smells , time of day, weather, and so forth. They are written onto the hard drive of our memory.

So when we are confronted with a memory or a repeat of a fearful situation, our minds run the fear algorithm. And herein lies the problem. The fears we face, such as the ones we discussed at the beginning, never leave us. They are never resolved. And so we live in a constant state of fear; murmuring just below the surface. We try to thrust it away, but it is always there. The associations within the brain are powerful, we cannot overcome this by sheer willpower This is a state of chronic fear.

The Impact of chronic fear

Living under constant threat has serious consequences for our social, physical and emotional health. Chronic fear weakens our immune system, because we are constantly in Fight the Threat mode. It can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can affect our memory and leave us anxious and irritable. We have difficulty in regulating our emotions, and in severe cases it may lead to depression and other mental disorders. It is also a most unpleasant mental state.

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323492  So whether threats to our security are real or perceived, they impact our mental and physical wellbeing.

How to deal with fear 

Before we discuss some techniques for overcoming fear, we must consider the following:

A person who is regularly facing physical and psychological aggression, must seek help. There are limits to what the victim can do in these circumstances. Every society has telephonic and social media hotlines to assist persons suffering from abuse. Break the cycle by enlisting their support.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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Life is full of stresses, we have good days and we have bad days. Life is messing. Hang on to the prospect that things will change for the better. Yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html

  1. Take a break

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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Constant fear can blow our world apart. It can lead us to question why this is happening to us, and what is the meaning of what has befallen us. Did we provoke the situation that brought the fear with it? Could we have prevented it? A good place to start is to rediscover a sense of purpose. What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be?
https://soulsalt.com/how-to-find-your-purpose/

  1. Accept yourself

Life is full of stresses, we have good days and we have bad days. Life is messing. Hang on to the prospect that things will change for the better. Yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html

  1. Take a break

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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Meditation works well for mild anxiety. Sit quietly in a safe space and observe the present moment. If a fear arises, recognise it. Accept it. Observe the anxiety. Notice how it feels in your body. Notice any associated thoughts. Just observe. Don’t get involved. And when it feels right take a break. Slowly come back to the now. Reflect on your experience. Take time to be by yourself. A gentle stroll in a park will help.
https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

  1. Find meaning

Constant fear can blow our world apart. It can lead us to question why this is happening to us, and what is the meaning of what has befallen us. Did we provoke the situation that brought the fear with it? Could we have prevented it? A good place to start is to rediscover a sense of purpose. What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be?
https://soulsalt.com/how-to-find-your-purpose/

  1. Accept yourself

Life is full of stresses, we have good days and we have bad days. Life is messing. Hang on to the prospect that things will change for the better. Yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html

  1. Take a break

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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Being positive in the face of fear is not a brutal attempt to pretend that all is good. Our minds can lead us astray by reliving and replaying the negative. Put a new, positive loop in your thoughts. Remember positive situations and relive them. Seek out positive experiences; a sunny day, the birds chirping in the trees, having coffee with a friend. Deliberately notice what is positive. Carry that with you and dwell on it. And don’t forget to laugh.

  1. Avoid avoidance

The best way to grapple with a problem, is to grapple with it. Face the fear. Avoiding the fear keeps us in the paralysing state of fearfulness. Be gentle with yourself and stay within what feels safe to you!. Sharing fears takes away a great deal of their scariness. If you can’t talk to a partner, friend or family member, call a helpline. If you find it difficult to address chronic fears or anxiety on your own, engage a therapist to help you work through the fear, especially if you have experienced trauma. A therapist will provide a safe environment where you can face the fear and reconstruct your memories.

Meditation works well for mild anxiety. Sit quietly in a safe space and observe the present moment. If a fear arises, recognise it. Accept it. Observe the anxiety. Notice how it feels in your body. Notice any associated thoughts. Just observe. Don’t get involved. And when it feels right take a break. Slowly come back to the now. Reflect on your experience. Take time to be by yourself. A gentle stroll in a park will help.
https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

  1. Find meaning

Constant fear can blow our world apart. It can lead us to question why this is happening to us, and what is the meaning of what has befallen us. Did we provoke the situation that brought the fear with it? Could we have prevented it? A good place to start is to rediscover a sense of purpose. What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be?
https://soulsalt.com/how-to-find-your-purpose/

  1. Accept yourself

Life is full of stresses, we have good days and we have bad days. Life is messing. Hang on to the prospect that things will change for the better. Yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html

  1. Take a break

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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In order to deal successfully with pervasive low level fear, we have to unlearn the sequence that seared the response into our amygdala. It’s a mental process that will demand much, but success far outweighs any discomfort along the way.

  1. Be positive

Being positive in the face of fear is not a brutal attempt to pretend that all is good. Our minds can lead us astray by reliving and replaying the negative. Put a new, positive loop in your thoughts. Remember positive situations and relive them. Seek out positive experiences; a sunny day, the birds chirping in the trees, having coffee with a friend. Deliberately notice what is positive. Carry that with you and dwell on it. And don’t forget to laugh.

  1. Avoid avoidance

The best way to grapple with a problem, is to grapple with it. Face the fear. Avoiding the fear keeps us in the paralysing state of fearfulness. Be gentle with yourself and stay within what feels safe to you!. Sharing fears takes away a great deal of their scariness. If you can’t talk to a partner, friend or family member, call a helpline. If you find it difficult to address chronic fears or anxiety on your own, engage a therapist to help you work through the fear, especially if you have experienced trauma. A therapist will provide a safe environment where you can face the fear and reconstruct your memories.

Meditation works well for mild anxiety. Sit quietly in a safe space and observe the present moment. If a fear arises, recognise it. Accept it. Observe the anxiety. Notice how it feels in your body. Notice any associated thoughts. Just observe. Don’t get involved. And when it feels right take a break. Slowly come back to the now. Reflect on your experience. Take time to be by yourself. A gentle stroll in a park will help.
https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/top-meditation-iphone-android-apps

  1. Find meaning

Constant fear can blow our world apart. It can lead us to question why this is happening to us, and what is the meaning of what has befallen us. Did we provoke the situation that brought the fear with it? Could we have prevented it? A good place to start is to rediscover a sense of purpose. What do you want to do with your life? What are your goals? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be?
https://soulsalt.com/how-to-find-your-purpose/

  1. Accept yourself

Life is full of stresses, we have good days and we have bad days. Life is messing. Hang on to the prospect that things will change for the better. Yet many of us feel that our lives must be perfect. Bad days and setbacks will always happen, and it’s important to remember that life is messy.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/how-to-accept-yourself-your-life-your-reality.html

  1. Take a break

It is difficult to think clearly when you’re gripped with fear. Get away from the stressful context. Go to a safe, different place. Breathe deeply Try exercise or a pleasant pastime. But don’t do this to avoid the fear. You will have to come back to face it, once you are composed.
https://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/need-a-break-52-ways-to-do-it.html

  1. Your happy place

Sometimes you just have to take your own personal mini mind-holiday. Close your eyes and imagine a place of safety and calm. It could be an image of walking on a beautiful tropical beach, or snuggled up in bed with the cat next to you, or a happy memory from childhood. Or relive a happy event. These visualisations are particularly helpful when you wake up at three in the morning and the fear is with you.
https://www.livehappy.com/self/5-tips-find-your-own-happy-place

  1. Go back to basics

Avoid  alcohol or drugs as a means to deal with fear. This will only make matters worse. Simple, everyday things like a good night’s sleep, a wholesome meal, a conversation with a friend and a walk will be your go-to options.
https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/mental-health/stress/related/7-healthy-ways-handle-stress/

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

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