How to Overcome Fear: 21 Ways to Be Fearless
Fear is an adrenaline rush that people pay both big money to enjoy and big money to avoid. From theme parks to intensive sports, to night lights and security guards, experiencing fear is something most people have a love-hate relationship with. In this article, we’ll look at how to overcome fear with 21 ways to be fearless.
When it comes to how to overcome fear, our ability to become fearless and manage our fears comes down to the type of fear. Is it a real fear—one that is something that is right to fear and happening in the present time? Or is it a pretend fear? Pretend fears are those that center around something unknown in the future, around a possible repetition of the past, or other fictional beliefs (i.e. monsters under the bed).
While real fears are inevitable, it can be easier to manage these fears. Pretend fears, on the other hand, can run wild and free without any care for reality. Either way, when your amygdala (the “feelings” part of the brain) engages, it can be difficult to manage whatever emotion it is because when the amygdala is activated enough, our prefrontal cortex (the “thinking” part of the brain) shuts off.
21 ways to be fearless.
I’ve been working with clients for over ten years on how to overcome fear and become fearless in the face of their worries and anxieties. Here are 21 ways to be fearless and help tackle anxiety without medication:
1. Accept fear as a part of you.
Like Sarah E. Ball (The Courage, 2019) says when writing about why we can’t just pray anxiety away, “We all feel anxious from time to time. We would be inhuman if we didn’t. But when we begin to fear the fear and do everything in our lives to avoid feeling it, we perpetuate a vicious cycle of fear.”
It’s important to understand that feeling fearless 100% of the time is likely impossible, and in fact, something you do not want. Fear keeps us alive, and often some of the greatest danger we can find ourselves in is when fear is totally absent.
2. Establish habits of routinely questioning your fear.
If you have a habit of engaging with worry, you’ll have to put in the work to consciously interrupt that habit and replace it. Put your worries to the test and find evidence that they may not be valid. Don’t just take it for granted. Connect with wise counsel and keep those fears accountable to reason.
3. Challenge it with Dr. Amen’s one simple question.
If you haven’t discovered ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and Dr. Amen’s work in helping people overcome their negative thinking, it can be summed up by two sentences: Everyone has automatic negative thoughts of different types. These automatic negative thoughts can be challenged and decrease over time.
Dr. Amen makes it so simple, he wrote a children’s book on the matter: Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. One of his super questions is to ask yourself, “Am I 100% certain this thought is true?” If you’re not 100% certain, there’s the possibility for something less scary—and that can go a long way in helping you calm down.
4. Get to know fear from a biblical perspective.
What does the Bible say about fear? Does God give advice on how to overcome fear? You can be sure that He keeps His promise of providing wisdom to those who are asking for it! Being anxious is a part of being human, but God’s Word shines a light on it that allows us to put fear in its place.
You can start by reading the full passage of a famously quoted verse in Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything . . . .” You’ll find some helpful to-do’s that have inspired some of this list!
5. Know the difference between real fear vs. fictional fear.
Just as I outlined above, different fears can have different levels of intensity. When you are facing a really scary situation (like someone’s health being jeopardized), reaching out for support becomes easier. There are time frames that naturally fall into place for the most part, and there are boundaries that contain the fear to the specific situation.
When fears cross over to the fictional sense, say after a scary event you question whether it will happen again every day, the support is more difficult to find because it’s all in your head. These fictional fears have no boundaries and can do more damage. Worries that are made up need to be addressed differently.
6. Get to know who God is.
Knowing who God is in the face of anxieties can put it into perspective. When you have a right view of God, your fears can often be influenced in a way that makes them easier to manage. It’s like the soldiers against Goliath. Their view of God wasn’t even on their mind—they took a look at Goliath and then looked at themselves and the math wasn’t on their side.
Then David shows up and sees who God is in the situation and rests His mind on that and that alone. Then, without any armor or a big weapon to defend himself, David steps up to face the fears of everyone there.
7. Remember what God has done.
Number 7 on the list of 21 ways to be fearless is to look back and account for how God has shown up in your life. God set dates and rituals in the lives of the Israelites not because He wanted religion to run their lives, but because He knew it would be important for them to set aside time to remember what He did for them so that they would be stirred up to follow Him and find the strength and peace to do so. Our minds can often be set at ease when we look back on certain things we overlook when our worries take over.
8. Recount God’s attributes.
Knowing who God is can put our worries into perspective and our nerves at ease. If you’re finding your mind wandering often to places that question God’s goodness, diving deep into His attributes and reflecting on them often is a way to challenge those thoughts. The Bible doesn’t just tell us who God is, it tells us example after example of how and why He is good, will take care of His children, is trustworthy, and is with us when we are afraid.
9. Get counsel.
Finding wise counsel is a game changer. Let’s start with what wise counsel is not: it isn’t running to multiple people and telling all; it isn’t going to someone because they have the same opinion on the matter as you, and it isn’t posting on social media. Wise counsel is finding someone who is likely older than you and who will point you back to Jesus and the Bible.
10. Connect with support.
While wise counsel has a mission to gain instruction, support is something different. Support is what you can access at times of need to lean on during the worst of it or celebrate during the best. Support looks like the people you’ve got on a prayer thread, the church you attend, and the people who bring you a coffee or a meal on any given day. This doesn’t mean you can’t find counsel and support in the same person, however.
11. Memorize Scripture .
Another practical tip for how to overcome fear is to fill your mind with solid truth that can be used by your brain automatically once you’ve memorized it. Your brain is running on autopilot, but you can change the route and destination. When fear strikes or your heart starts to race, consider reaching for a favorite verse to recite over and over again until the feeling changes and your heart calms.
12. Pray Scripture.
A beautiful way to find words for your prayers when you’re simply too overwhelmed by your fears and stress is by opening the Psalms and praying through them. Personalize whatever Scripture you are reading as a prayer to God, asking for what He is promising to you and expressing gratitude for who He is.
13. Make a list of Philippians 4:8.
Philippians is one of my favorite books to go through in a time of need. God doesn’t tell you to simply stop feeling fear or anxiety, He gives you ways to be fearless.
Philippians 4:8 instructs us to direct our thoughts to Him and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise.” Sound familiar? Dwelling on the positive takes work, but it is timeless advice for any circumstance.
14. Get some prayer warriors to help you lift your burdens up.
When you’re struggling with fear and overwhelmed by worries, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Don’t have a church group? Are you the only Christian you know? Ministries like Christian radio and Focus on the Family have prayer lines open for you. Prayer is the most powerful support you can get.
15. Hold a hand.
Physical touch creates a ripple effect on your nervous system. A firm hand hold or hug can help your body know it’s safe and start to relax. If no one is around, try tensing and releasing your body one part at a time from your head to your toes, taking deep breaths as you go.
16. Minimize responsibilities for the moment.
Feeling anxious can create chaos in your brain. As the amygdala takes over, your prefrontal cortex can be challenged with getting its job done. This leaves you feeling disorganized, with difficulty concentrating, and with little ability to process information well. In other words, your normal super abilities to multitask and keep the house or office running aren’t functioning properly, so it’s a good idea to put a halt on the to-dos.
17. Hold off on making big decisions.
When your brain is on overload, it will process everything and anything as a potential threat. If you don’t have to make big decisions, hold off. If you have to make big decisions, get some wise counsel and take some deep breaths while you try and figure it out. This will minimize any rash or poor judgment that can lead to more problems later.
18. Prioritize the basics.
When you are caught in a cycle of thoughts that keep you afraid, prioritizing the basics is another tip for how to overcome fear. By prioritizing the basics, you’re sending signals to your body to reduce fight or flight mode. Making sure you eat, rest, and drink water will help you have what it takes to keep going—especially in light of a genuinely scary situation.
19. Face it anyway.
Facing your fears can be a daunting task, but it’s one of the best ways to ensure that the fears won’t run your life forever. Studies show that avoiding your fears can help them grow bigger, reinforcing that you need to feel afraid and taking away from your ability to function.
20. Prayer with thanksgiving.
It’s no secret that practicing gratitude improves your mental health. Finding something to be grateful for is a great way to balance your emotions and reduce your fears. Anxiety can be overwhelming at times. Praying with thanksgiving isn’t about ignoring your worries, it’s about acknowledging them and the good that is still there simultaneously.
21. Keep going.
Yes, keep going. Becoming fearless is a journey that will lead you to face your fears and press on with life. Feeling fear doesn’t mean that you need to base your behavior on it. In fact, when the circumstances allow for it, pressing on instead of giving into your fears can be exactly the thing that will help you and give you the courage to do it all over again.
Learning how to overcome fear using these 21 ways to be fearless is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of these may work at times but seem ineffective later. The tools you need to face the very real fears and anxieties that plague you, your family, and your friends are available—but they are specific to you and your circumstances. I encourage you to find wise counsel and connect with another therapist or me near you to find what will work for you.
“Rickety Bridge”, Courtesy of Benjamin Davies, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Be Fearless”, Courtesy of James Healy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Standing on the Ridge”, Courtesy of Julian Santa Ana, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Free!”, Courtesy of alfcermed, Pixabay.com, CC0 License