facing your fears

Facing your fears

Fear is like that overprotective, overbearing relative. It tells you it has your best interests at heart, but its methods are a little OTT. It tells you all the things that could go wrong and advises you to just steer clear.

It’s one of the most human emotions, fear, and it could actually be pretty dangerous if we didn’t have it. I listened to a brilliant episode of the Invisibilia podcast recently (‘fearless’) and they talked to a woman who could not feel fear and discovered the pitfalls of this.

So fear is necessary, but what happens when it gets in the way of everyday life? When it overwhelms you?

Stuff that scares me

There’s quite a few things that scare me on the regular. These include:

  • Driving new routes
  • Parking anywhere but a lovely empty car park
  • Small spaces
  • Change

Just a few things then. When I had CBT for anxiety recently, I mentioned my driving anxiety and my therapist gave me some really helpful tips.

At the time I was more concerned with getting my everyday low-level anxiety under control before facing any bigger fears, so I’ve kept the tips in the back of my mind for when I feel ready to tackle them – which I’m hoping will be very soon.

facing-fears-1.jpg

The techniques my therapist spoke to me about were: decatastrophising, graded exposure and no safety behaviours. Let’s break that down:

Decatastrophising

This is when you allow yourself to actually think about the worst case scenario and make a plan for if that happened. For me and my driving anxiety, the worst case scenario that I thought was likely, was me getting lost, panicking and then crashing.

So I started off by giving my fear a percentage out of 100 (about 70%) and how likely I thought it was to happen (about 50%). My therapist asked if I had ever crashed before in my three years of driving, I said no.

She said immediately that 50% stat was wrong then and I agreed (maths isn’t my strong suit). We talked about a past experience of getting lost and what I did then (called a friend to meet me) and how that worked out (fine).


We then discussed what I would do if I crashed.


I listed all the things I would do, call 999 if someone was hurt, call the RAC, get insurance details and call my dad (because well, dads always know what to do, right?).

After going through all this I graded my fear again (down to 40%) and how likely I thought that it would happen (about 20%). It sounds simple, but often when we’re really frightened of something we don’t even allow ourselves to think of what we would do if it happened and usually it’s nowhere near as terrifying as we think.

Lettering by Susanna April

Graded exposure

This means taking things one step at a time and increasing the activity that scares you slowly. So for me this means taking short drives on routes I’ve never done before and building up to longer and longer ones.

At this point I mentioned to my therapist that I feel better doing new routes with someone in the car. And this, apparently, is called a safety behaviour.

No safety behaviours

Safety behaviours are when you give yourself a safety net, so it feels like you’re making progress… but you’re not really. While I thought I was being super brave driving new routes with other people in the car, really I was relying on them to tell me which way to go and be my emotional support.


Going out alone was much scarier, but would be the best way to really tackle this fear.


The next step

So far I haven’t done any drives. Things are still pretty full on right now, and I’m trying to be gentle with myself and not trigger any relapses so have decided that I’ll tackle my driving anxiety in the new year.

It’s something that is getting worse the more I put it off so I’m determined this year will be my year to feel calmer when driving. Do you have any fears or anxieties you’re keen to tackle in 2018?


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How to face your fears

4 thoughts on “Facing your fears

  1. Miss Steer says:

    I really enjoyed reading this! I had CBT years ago and found success with these aspects. I’ve been driving for 10 years, but was still afraid to drive to new places and into cities, and I realised towards the end of last year that this was causing friction between me and my partner (we’d argue when he wanted me to drive) and stopping me from going to visit friends that I wanted to visit. So…for 2017, I said I was going to take every opportunity to drive and see it as an exciting challenge. Honestly, I think car parks will always be a source of stress for me, but I’ve driven all over the country now. I realised when I was driving through the centre of Leeds in rush hour traffic last week, that I hadn’t even thought about it. It was still a hassle, but it didn’t worry me or cause anxiety. Good luck! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • bluejayofhappiness says:

      Ah that’s so nice to hear you were able to tackle it – and that I’m not alone in my driving anxiety! This is it, it’s stopping me from doing quite a lot now, so the time has come to make a change. Thanks so much for sharing your story, this gives me hope! x

      Liked by 1 person

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