How to manage your fear of the dentist
How to Deal with Fear of the Unknown
The future and what it may be bring can be scary, and uncertainty brings a lot of anxiety. You may be concerned because you don’t know what effects the changes in your life will have on you. You may wonder whether things will go as planned. You don’t have to let worries about the future and concerns about change limit your life, though. There are things you can do to take control of your life and face change and the future with courage. You can deal with fear of the unknown if you find the cause of your fear, learn about what you’re afraid of, and expose yourself to what you fear.
Finding the Cause of Your Fear
Try mindfulness.One way to become aware of the cause of your fear is to be more aware of yourself in general. Being present in the moment and aware of your emotions and thoughts can help you identify what exactly you’re afraid of. It can also help you recognize what strategies help you overcome your fear. Meditation and yoga classes can train your mindfulness for everyday life.
- Be fully present in the moment by focusing your senses and your mind on what you are doing. For example, if you’re eating, pay attention to how the food smells, looks, tastes, and feels in your mouth.
- Pay attention to how certain situations and the thought of certain situations make you feel. For instance, you might think, “When I thought about speaking at the meeting, I got nauseous.” Keep a journal to track these thoughts and discoveries.
Examine your past.Fear of the unknown often has an underlying cause you may not be aware of. Figuring out what exactly you’re afraid of about unknown situations and why you’re afraid can help you overcome the fear.It is often easier to get insight into other people than about ourselves, so consider talking to a trusted friend or a therapist who can help you identify patterns or connections. In the meantime, you can start with some self-reflection:
- Think about the last time you feared the unknown or about something you’re afraid of know. For example, you may fear living on your own after a divorce.
- Write down what this situation meant or will mean for you. For example, living alone will mean being independent, spending more time alone, and being responsible for everything.
- Highlight those things that make you anxious about the situation. For instance, you may be okay with being independent and responsible for everything, but being alone may scare you.
- Ask yourself why those specific things scare you. Did something happen in your past to make you uneasy about similar situations? How did you (or the affected person) handle the situation?
Play fill-in-the-blank.This game is one way to figure out what you’re afraid of. It can be useful when you’re having trouble articulating what you fear. By completing the sentence “I am afraid of ___ because ____” you can force yourself to figure out what exactly you’re afraid of and why.
- For example, you may fear traveling because of the uncertainty you feel it has. You could say, “I’m afraid of traveling because someone might break in while I’m gone.”
- Or, for instance, you may be afraid of dating. You might say to yourself, “I’m afraid of asking someone out because they might reject me.”
Learning About What You Fear
Organize and prepare.Being organized will make it easier for you to be prepared, and being prepared will make it easier for you to handle your fear of the unknown.Knowing where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there, what materials you’ll need, and where those materials are will help a lot. It will eliminate a lot of your fear because you’ll have control over some of the factors that may worry you.
- For example, you may be a great basketball player and want to join a team, but may be anxious because you don’t know how it will go. Get organized and find out when tryouts are and what you skills you’ll have to demonstrate. Then prepare by practicing.
- Or, for instance, if you’re afraid of asking your crush out, you might prepare by finding out more about them and giving yourself a pep talk.
Educate yourself.It’s said that “knowledge is power” and when dealing with fear of the unknown this can be true. The more you know about a situation, the better you can prepare yourself for it and address any fears about it.Find out everything you can about the situation so that you can get organized and prepared to address it.
- Ask questions. For example, ask your mom for more information about her new partner. The more you know about the person, the more prepared you’ll be to include them in your life (or not).
- Get online or go to the library and find out what you can. For example, you might do an online search about traveling abroad to help you deal with your fear of what might happen overseas.
Use your support system.Your friends and family can help you address your fear of the unknown in a lot of ways. They can help you get organized and prepared, answer questions or help you find information, and encourage you. Let the people close to you know about your fear so that they can help you deal with it.
- For instance, you might tell your best friend, “I’m afraid of going to the dance. I don’t know what might happen. Can you help me deal with this because I do want to go.”
- Or, for example, you might ask your dad, “Would you help me with driving. I want to get my license but I’m afraid of all the different things that could happen. Can you answer some questions for me?”
Challenging Your Fear
Prepare to face your fear.Facing your fear can help you realize that the situation isn’t as bad as you imagined, and it builds your confidence when you show yourself that you can handle it.Before you jump into the deep end of the pool, however, you need to learn to swim:
- Practice relaxation techniques to help you through frightening situations. Don't force yourself too far out of your comfort zone until you have practiced these techniques many times.
- Ask a friend to accompany you to scary situations and prompt you to use your relaxation techniques when you start to get nervous.
Start small.You don’t have to try to tackle all of your fears and even fears that distress you the most.Instead, try challenging your fear a little at a time. Starting small can help build confidence in yourself as you overcome each new challenge. It can also help you learn what strategies work to help you deal with your fear. This way you can use those strategies and confidence when you face larger fears. A therapist who specializes in "systematic desensitization" can structure this process for you.
- For instance, if you fear moving to a new town, it may also make you afraid of even searching for homes. Instead of tackling your big fear of moving, challenge your smaller fear of home searching.
- Or, for example, you may fear handling the next grade because you don’t know how you’ll make friends and do the work. Focus on challenging your smaller fear of doing the work.
Use humor.One way to deal with your fear of the unknown is to lighten up in general. Taking a more relaxed perspective on life and what it may bring can help reduce stress related to specific situations.Try doing things that put a smile on your face and a laugh in your throat.
- Spend time with people that make you happy. For instance, take your younger siblings to park.
- Take a couple of minutes to browse a funny website you enjoy or check out the latest memes on social media.
- Subscribe to a joke of the day app or site or download a humorous e-book.
- When you start worrying about the unknown, imagine the funniest, most-outlandish outcome possible. For example, if you’re afraid of switching schools, imagine that on your first day everyone has on clown shoes.
Consult a professional.In some cases, fear of the unknown can cause panic attacks or even develop into a phobia or anxiety disorder. If your fear is causing you significant impairment in your life, you may want to consider speaking with a mental health professional. They can provide you with strategies to help you cope, treatment options, and address any deeper issues you may be having.
- For example, if your fear of dangerous situations that might happen is keeping you from leaving your home, you may want to contact a therapist or counselor.
- Talk to someone you trust like a parent, your physician, school counselor, or human resources representative for information about therapists in your area.
QuestionHow do I deal with a fear of demons and ghosts?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThanks!
QuestionWhat if I'm afraid to close my eyes at night because I think an alien will come in my room at night? I also won't sleep facing the wall. I really want to stop but I can't, any advice?Evangeline P. ReinardyCommunity AnswerDon't think too much about aliens at night before you go to bed. Make yourself busy with other things like playing a game until you fall asleep.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I fear going to hell? How can I stop this?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAccept Jesus Christ as your savior. Go to church, read the Holy Bible, pray every day and repent. You'll be all right.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if I panic whenever I think about death?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerDeath is a scary thing, but it is unavoidable. Just know that you still have a long life to live and you should enjoy it while you are here. If you spend all your time worrying about death, you will not have lived a very good life. When you start thinking about death, just calmly dismiss the thought and start thinking about something else.Thanks!
QuestionWhat if whenever I am in the dark I start to think of scary stuff and I can't control it?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerClose your eyes and take deep breaths. Reassure yourself that there is nothing scary there. Distract yourself with pleasant thoughts. Think of your friends and family, your favorite shows or movies, etc. It might also help you to leave a nightlight on.Thanks!
- Think about how dreary a state of absolute certainty and predictability would be. If you always knew what would happen tomorrow, next week, or even what happens after you die, life would be too boring and predictable. Uncertainty makes room for change and possibility, and the best surprises happen a lot of the time!
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