Fears & Worries

Fears and worries are normal and useful reactions to threatening situations or changing circumstances. Although they can be a burden for us in our daily lives, fears and worries have a function. In order to be able to deal with these emotions and thoughts constructively, it is important that we properly understand what they are telling us, accept the feeling of fear and find our way back to a sense of self-control when we feel powerless.

Why do we have worries and fears?

Senior woman feeling worried

A pounding heart and sweating before delivering a presentation? Trembling and a racing pulse when faced with thunderstorms, spiders or the dark? Constantly circling thoughts, concentration problems and fear of not being able to sleep well? Every one of us has at some point come across reactions like these and feels anxiety in one type of situation or another. The global challenges of our fast-moving and complex world, such as the financial crisis, the occurrence of natural disasters, the Corona pandemic or war, also confront us daily with our own fears and worries. When the fears and worries make themselves permanently felt, they can affect our performance and quality of life.   

Nevertheless, the feeling of fear is essential for survival. It helps us to evaluate new, changing and unexpected situations. In evolutionary terms, fear protects us from life-threatening situations, recognises danger and puts the body on alert. The amygdala, the “emotional memory”, plays an important role in this. This brain region evaluates incoming information or situations on an emotional level and triggers physical reactions such as a racing heart, a queasy stomach, sweating or difficulty breathing.   

What positive functions does fear have?

1. Fear is our mental safety belt

It wants to keep us secure, makes us careful, is concerned for our safety and evaluates every situation for risks and dangers.

2. Fear makes us focus and prioritise

In a state of fear, we experience a heightened sense of alertness and elevated performance. Fear gives us a boost of energy, mobilises our internal resources and causes us to focus on the immediate situation and adjust our priorities.

3. Fear is one of the strongest primal impulses

Fear is a completely normal reaction to being confronted with a threatening situation, even though these tend to be of a more emotional nature nowadays. It is important to get off the mental merry-go-round of worries and fears when they are counterproductive and based only on assumptions.

How do I deal with fears and worries?

When fears and worries get out of hand, they can determine our behaviour. We get the feeling that fear controls our thoughts, our decisions and our actions. When we feel blocked or paralysed by our fears and worries, it is important to find a healthy way for us to deal with them. The following four steps will help you to confront and reflect on your own fears and worries.  

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Reality check
How real is your fear? Is the situation really threatening for you personally? What speaks for and against your fears actually being realised?
Hiker with walking stick
Become active
What can you do to protect yourself? What can you influence? What can you actively change?
Put things into perspective
What is fear trying to tell you? What aspects of your life are currently untouched by your fears and worries?
Activate your resources
What is good for you at this current moment? What has helped you so far in dealing with your fears? Who can give you support?

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