Woman stands still as the train passes her by

8 Things to Do When You’re Held Back By Fear

By Peg is a transition coach who helps people break free from the ties that hold them back and find their way to success when they are facing change.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

Woman stands still as the train passes her by

We’ve all been there. Whether when it’s applying for a new job, starting a relationship, or pursuing a goal; we try to move forward with something positive, but we get held back by fear.

Our fears take different forms. You may experience fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of embarrassment, fear of the unknown, or fear of learning something we may not like about ourselves. Of course, for many in recovery, there’s also the fear of relapse. We often think to ourselves, “What if what I’m pursuing is too much to handle and I backslide?”

When fear holds you back from making positive changes in your life, there are ways to deal with it so you can shift your focus on moving forward to a better you.

Pursuing goals while clean and sober can feel very new and unknown, no matter how long you’ve been in recovery. But remember, the one thing that separates those who do end up following through and those who never do is simple: action.

Here are 8 things you can do when you experience fear so you can begin dealing with it and shifting your focus on moving forward.

1. Have compassion for yourself.

Sitting through fear and anxiety is an uncomfortable experience, which is why you have to be kind to yourself. Chances are, if you fight your feelings or beat yourself up for having them, you will experience even more discomfort without getting any closer to your goal. Tell yourself that you care about your emotional experience and treat yourself as you would treat a dear friend. As a matter of fact, there’s actual evidence that self-compassion can help people achieve their goals.

2. Accept fear as a part of life.

Sometimes, our resistance to fear keeps us stuck. Instead of trying to get rid of your fear, try assuming that it’s just an unavoidable part of pursing a goal. How about telling yourself “Yes, I’m experiencing anxiety, AND I’m going to move forward anyway.” While there are times when fear is a sign not to move forward, it’s important to recognize when it doesn’t reflect any real danger. Being afraid doesn’t always have to mean “Stop!” It can also be something you experience as you’re putting one foot in front of another.

3. Deal with your fear.

After you engage in self-compassion and accept your fear, there are activities you can do to further alleviate your discomfort. You can start with relaxation techniques, such as breathing deeply from your belly instead of your chest or tensing then relaxing your muscles from head to toe. Then, determine what you’re most afraid of—the worst case scenario—and decide how you can overcome this. Think of what has helped you cope with unpleasant emotions while you were getting clean or sober and use those same things to see if they will help you deal with your fear.

4. Let your motivation to succeed become more powerful than your fear.

Take a good look at your motivation to pursue your goal. What are the advantages of succeeding? How will you benefit? List all the ways your life will improve if you achieve your goal. Make this list so big and compelling that your anxiety seems like a small price to pay for what you may gain.

5. Visualize moving forward.

No matter how much fear you are experiencing, visualize yourself moving forward anyway. What would the first step be? Imagine yourself taking that first step with courage. Visualize what you are wearing, your surroundings, who is with you, and all of the sights, smells, and sounds around you that will make this vision feel real. Think of your success from the very start all the way to the finish.

6. Have a plan.

Sometimes, we are so held back by fear that we don’t think of how we can get from A to Z. Be clear on your goal, then create an action plan to help you accomplish your goal. Write out your plan in detail so that you can engage your head rather than just your emotions. After all, having a plan can help set you up for success and give you a sense of control.

7. Mobilize your resources.

Set yourself up for success by getting support from friends and loved ones. Share your fears with trusted individuals to take the power out of the emotion. Enlist the aid of people to help you accomplish your goal. Share in meetings, have an accountability buddy, and ask people to encourage you. You can also explore other sources of support and inspiration, such as readings, training sessions, or anything else that can help increase the likelihood of your success.

8. Keep it simple.

Once you’ve done all of the above, keep it simple by focusing just on your first step. After you have accomplished that first step, then address your next step. Prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed by focusing only on what requires your immediate attention rather than on things you cannot do anything about at the moment.

Fear and anxiety often come up in my coaching conversations with my clients. I’ve seen time and time again that fear and anxiety do not have to keep people from pursuing their goals. Do what you can to deal with your fear, but ultimately, if a goal is important to you, try to move forward anyway. If you are unable to move forward on your own using the above tips, consider working with a coach, a facilitated support group, or a therapist so that you may achieve success and fulfillment and stop being stuck in fear. May you thrive in your recovery while you pursue your goals.

If you or someone you know is seeking professional help, please visit our directory of counseling and therapy centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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