Do you fear change—especially if it’s a big change? You’re not alone. And you can do something about it!
Whether you call it worry, anxiety, or doubt, even the most confident people feel fear at least some of the time. The key is to learn to manage your fear so it doesn’t stop you from doing what you want to do.
Here are 8 proven strategies for managing fear so you can move forward with your goals.
1. Name your fear
Fear often loses some of its power when you identify it. What scares you about the situation you’re facing?
Some of the more common fears in times of change include:
- Fear of the unknown. Even when you’re unhappy with your present situation, not knowing what will happen next can be stressful.
- Fear of failure. Creating change in your life and work can come with the risk of rejection, disapproval, embarrassment, or looking bad.
- Fear of success. Even positive change can be scary because your life may not be the same if you succeed.
Name your fear out loud, or write it down. Be as specific as you can. Then you’ll know exactly what you’re dealing with.
2. Ask yourself "What if?"
Planning how to handle something in advance can reduce your fear of the unknown. Ask yourself:
- What could happen if your worst-case scenario comes true? How would you feel if it happened?
- Now that you have a picture of the worst that could happen, what are some things you could do to manage it?
- Now, imagine your best-case scenario. What will life be like if things turn out as you hope?
3. Turn unknowns into knowns
Fear often comes from not knowing what to expect. What are you uncertain about in your situation? Try to get more clarity. Talk to people, read articles, and look online for information.
For example, if you are thinking about going back to work after being a stay-at-home parent, you may worry that your skills are out of date, or no longer needed. You may think that the equipment may have changed since you last worked. Or you may be afraid that even if you find a job, you won’t fit in.
Make a list of your questions and concerns, and find out everything you can. Consider arranging an informational interview with someone who has the answers you are looking for.
By turning unknowns into knowns, research can reduce your fear and increase your confidence.
Setting small goals and visualizing what you need to do to succeed can help you overcome your fears.
4. Take action
Do something! Sitting at home worrying about your fear can actually make it worse. Instead, try taking small actions that will help you face your fear.
Make a list of tasks you can do to prepare for a new or stressful situation. Check them off the list as you complete them. Seeing your progress will help you to feel in control of the situation.
For example, if you’re anxious about a job interview, visit the site of the interview a day or two before. Learn how to get there and how long it takes by bus or by car. If you need to pay for parking, find out what methods of payment are accepted. Go into the building, get a feel for the atmosphere, and pick up company brochures. Check out the dress code by seeing what employees are wearing to work.
5. Decide to do nothing
Sometimes, the best solution is not taking action right away. Ask yourself, “What if I do nothing?”
What could happen? How would you deal with it?
For example, if you have heard rumours that your company may be downsizing, you could be worried about needing to find another job. But it may make sense to wait for a while and see what happens, especially if you can’t confirm the rumours.
6. Don’t waste time worrying
What if your fear never comes true? Often, what we worry about never happens. Think back—have there been times when you worried needlessly?
A recent study of people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) found that 91.4% of their worries did not come true.
Worrying won’t improve an outcome. Instead, focus on actions and factors you can control.
For example, if you need to move to a new city for school or a job, you may be afraid that you will be lonely. Instead of worrying, you could plan visits and ways to stay in touch with friends and family back home until you meet new people.
7. Keep a positive mindset
A positive attitude is a powerful antidote to fear. Make time in your day for gratitude and mindfulness. Visualize success, and write down your goals. And practise positive self-talk, also called positive affirmations.
For positive self-talk to work, you don’t even have to believe what you say. Just talk to yourself in an upbeat way. Here are a few suggestions:
- I am aware of my fears.
- I welcome change.
- I make good decisions.
- I am confident and capable.
- I’m proud of myself for...
- I know that I can change my life.
Create your own positive statements. Use the present tense. Repeat these messages to yourself several times a day. You may be surprised by how effective positivity can be.
8. Don’t go it alone
Another key to facing fear is to make sure you have a support network available. Friends, family, neighbours, co-workers, mentors, health-care practitioners, and clergy are just some of the people you can turn to for a helping hand, a friendly conversation, guidance, and advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
You can manage your fear of change
Don’t let fear get in the way of doing what you want in life. Going after the things worth having often involves risk, doubt, or fear. Acknowledging your fear of change is the first step in managing that fear and making positive changes in your life and work.