Fear Factor

Fear is the underlining pulse that pumps your heart, cools your sweat, and knots your stomach. But fear is like guilt — useful as a gentle prod, but debilitating when it’s dwelt upon. Know how to tame unruly fears and when to listen:

Real versus fantasy:’s fair to heed caution triggered by seeing an unleashed dog roaming the park you’re in with your kids — your senses perceive reality and understand the potential risk. But staying home because you’re scared you might encounter an animal only churns up fictional waters. If you’re drowning in a theoretical riptide, try feeling for the ground you can actually touch.

Knowledge versus obsession: Information often removes fear. But paranoia and anxiety can lead to overload. If you’re concerned about getting sick, learn what you can do to prevent it — like exercising, eating right, and washing your hands. But don’t try to discover every disease you could conceivably develop. The data can overload your senses, leaving you helpless. Information should support your ability to take action, not paralyze it.

Emotion versus intellect: Trepidations often compel us into emotional tailspins, which make it difficult to navigate and troubleshoot with an appropriate frame of reference. Try talking to yourself as if you’re advising someone else who’s afraid. The tactic can help you approach your terror with reason while adding cognitive control back into the equation.

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