As a child, I swam on a competitive swim team. We trained at a facility with a diving pool. This wasn’t your usual diving pool with a six or eight-foot-tall diving board. This was a deep pool with concrete diving platforms that were between 16 and 32 feet up in the air, like in the Olympics.
During each practice, we would finish our laps and watch the divers walk to the end of the platform and dive in without hesitation. It all looked so simple and easy.
After one practice, we were given the opportunity to jump off the shortest, 16-foot diving platform. We cheered as we walked as fast as we could, without running, to the stairs. The first girl slowly walked to the end of the platform and looked down. Our swim coach was on the side of the pool below, cheering for her to jump. The diving coach was behind her on the platform encouraging her to jump. And, of course, her team was on the stairs chanting her name. She swayed a little forward, looking as if she was going to jump, but then she walked back to the stairs with tears in her eyes and said she was too scared.
The next boy confidently stepped onto the platform and started to stride to the end. Then, his stride changed into a very slow creep. He inched his way forward. Before he got to the end, he turned around and asked the diving coach if he could close his eyes when he jumped. The diving coach told him that would be fine. The boy took a deep breath, walked to the end and jumped. He let out a scream that didn’t stop until he hit the pool and his mouth was full of water. When he surfaced and stopped coughing, he shouted, “that was the best thing ever!”
It was now my turn. I had been breathing deeply while I was waiting on the stairs. It was something my dad taught me to do as it expands our lungs and allows us to hold our breath longer under water. I thought these deep breaths would be helpful to give me more time to resurface in case I plunged to the bottom of that very deep pool. As I stepped up onto the platform, I remember hearing the cheering and feeling quite calm as I walked to the end of the diving board and jumped without hesitation. I didn’t know then that the deep breathing I was doing actually helped calm me down and prepared me to do something that might otherwise seem scary to me.
Fear gets to the best of us, whether it is fear of failure, fear of success, fear of fear, or even fear of heights. All of us have experienced fear at some point in our lives and it can be a real stumbling block that holds us back from being truly successful.
Fear can keep you from ever taking that jump, but it doesn’t have to. There are several ways to overcome fear, here are my top 9:
9 Ways To Combat Fear
- SEPARATE REALITY FROM PERCEPTION
Ask yourself what is really going on. Locate the facts and place them over your feelings.
- IDENTIFY THE TRIGGER
Figure out what it is in a situation that triggers you. Learning to identify it will help you learn to combat it.
- KNOW WHERE FEAR LIVES IN YOUR BODY
A lot of times, fear takes over physically. It affects different people different ways. Identify if/how it affects your physical body and do the work to take care of your body. For example, if fear is in your visual perspective, close your eyes before you jump. You may want to close your mouth before you hit the water, too.
- PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Everyday, list out one to three things you are thankful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is as gratitude helps shift the mind into a positive light, which over time, overcomes fear.
- LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE
Monitor your inner conversations. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself. Speak positively to yourself and remind yourself of your strengths.
- CREATE A NEW ASSOCIATION
Remind yourself that the feeling and the moment will pass. Focus on the positive outcome of the situation, rather than the scary in between.
- LOOK AT THE GLASS HALF FULL
Perception is a very powerful thing, and how you feel about your situation dictates how you respond. So think positively and you’ll give yourself a much better chance of success. This won’t happen overnight; practice with just one thought. What is one recurring negative/fearful thought you have? Work on reversing this one thought. Over time, this will become a habit.
- PRACTICE BREATHING EXERCISES
Breathing helps center your body; when you stop breathing, your heart stops beating. You can do a grounding exercise, or even just take 5 deep, long breaths at any point to calm and center yourself. It is best to start your day with this, but feel free to practice all day long.
- CREATE A SAFE SPACE
When you feel safe and secure, there is no room for fear. Find somewhere safe you can retreat to when negative feelings begin. This can be a real place such as your bedroom or a place in your mind such as the beach. This sense of comfort will soothe you and allow you to face your fear.
Please keep in mind, these are just nine strategies, not everything works for everyone. The key is to pick a place and start implementing these techniques into your life and don’t let fear hold you back from reaching your goals and your highest potential this year!