With the right strategy, facing your fears need not be as awful as it sounds.  Learn how to face your fears, and you'll be one crucial step close to ridding yourself of anxiety, and reducing the amount of stress in your life.

What do we commonly do if we are afraid of something? Take the example of being afraid of going in a lift: the person who is fearful might climb the stairs instead, even if there are ten floors. This is an avoidant behavior.

Excessive avoidance of anxiety is the issue that is responsible for turning worries, fears and anxieties into life-limiting problems. We can avoid in many different ways, including escape, avoidance, procrastination and safety behaviors.There are several strategies that may assist you in managing the anxiety and fit with behavioral approaches.

Problem-solving

Before taking on this task, you should have a few options in consideration. You should start with more straightforward problems rather than complex ones. Proceed to set aside time without distraction to work through the problem (perhaps with the help of your therapist). Learn to deal with one problem at a time; make a list of all possible solutions, even if some are a bitwild, as this helps you come up with more ideas.

After contemplating on these, you will then follow a series of steps to:

1. Define the problem; identify the situation you are dealing with exactly
2. Make a list of all possible solutions; think of all the possible ways to make the situation improve
3. Evaluate the solutions; that is, think about the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
4. Choose the best possible solution; weigh your options and make your pick
5. Plan how to carry it out — this involves breaking the solution down into small steps that will eventually lead to the desired outcome.
6. Review your progress; after a couple of weeks, assess how the strategies are coming along. Correct any flaws.

These steps will help you customize the process and aid you at finding the solution to your problem.

Assertiveness

To improve confidence and allay anxiety we have to develop communication skills. One useful communication skill is assertiveness. Assertiveness involves changing the ways in which you relate to people and the behaviors that you use, and it can be helpful in responding to criticism, saying ‘no’ to requests or starting conversations with people in social situations. There are several tips to help you develop your assertiveness:

First, consider what you learnt about being passive, assertive or aggressive as you grew up and since then, and jot down your ideas.Identify the behavior you would like to be different now; those that you feel need to be dropped and those that need to be changed.

Second, learn to be confident, in both your speech and manner of expression. Use the ‘I’ statement. Don’t use subtle ways of shifting the focus from yourself in discussion. Example, rather than say “The job was done”, say “I did the job”.

As you speak, it is important to stand or sit in an upright position and not to fidget. Maintain an open body posture (no folded arms or crossed legs) Speak in a clear and calm tone of voice and use eye contact. And finally, practice — with your therapist or a friend or even in the mirror. You might consider writing down what you want to say before you practice.

Embrace these tips and you will find that you had really nothing to worry about. It’s all about your attitude. As it goes, attitude determines altitude. Altitude refers to how far you go with a situation; and in this case, the situation is facing your fears. You need proper strategies.

By Dr Cate Howell and Dr Michele Murphy, authors of Release Your Worries - a guide to letting go of your stress and anxiety.