18 Oct 5 Ways Fear Impacts Mental Health
*disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links and mental health triggers… and it will definitely contain curse words, hard truths, hope, inspiration, and love
Fear is a real mind fucking son of a bitch, excuse my French. C’est La Vie. It’s like this weird mind game that maybe keeps you safe but also maybe holds you back but also maybe makes you feel insane. Especially if you struggle with our good ole friends, mental health, depression, and anxiety.
I feel like fear is such an interesting topic and also, a super important one. Once I got a grasp on my own fears, I was able to start navigating through other aspects of my struggles with depression and anxiety in a different light than I had in the past. Looking back on my mental health journey, I think accepting and understanding my fears was a huge and impactful part of my road to recovery and finally feeling good.
Fear Keeps you Stuck
When you are stuck, you cannot grow. Growth is part of life. Life is an evolution (evolution definition: the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form). When we are stuck in fear, we are staying in our simplest form and not living up to our truest potential, and like, who wants to do that? Welp, fear wants you to do that.
When we identify, learn about, and begin to navigate our fears, we start to stir up and shift that mud and mirk that our feet are stuck in, which gives us a chance to make our move. What you do with that move is up to you so choose and work wisely. You get to decide your next step.
How do we get unstuck?
For me, my next step after identifying my fears was shining a light on them and taking control. I created a FEAR TRACKER to help me, which you can download and use for yourself at the bottom of this post. But you like, really really really need to actually want to take the step of facing fears because I promise, it’s not a picnic.
I didn’t want to look at my fears for a long time which certainly kept me stuck. And I’m going to be so honest with you, there’s not a magic phrase that makes you want to face them. You need to find that tiny fire somewhere in you. And I know right now you’re probs all like ‘yeah Michelle, that fire is dead and it’s not coming back and you don’t know what you’re talking about’, but I promise you, your fire is still there. I know, because I once sat where you might be. Hopeless, wanting to die, and feeling like no one understands. YOU need to find your fire and then I can help you figure out what to do with it.
Okay, so now I’ll get off my high horse of lecturing and give you some tangible examples of how fear keeps you stuck and how to cope with it. Finally, I know.
So IMO, fear keeps you stuck in two ways; in life and mentally. For me personally, these two different ways of being stuck very much went hand in hand. When my depression peaked, I became afraid of the entire world. Grocery stores, hikes, driving, walking my dog, etc. Seemingly simple things felt like the end of my world. I was not learning, growing, being challenged, meeting goals, finding and feeling joy, having fun, laughing, and so on in my physical life.
Not only did this hinder my experience and evolution in the 3D world, but it kept me mentally in a box and a slave to my fears. I was always so mad at myself (which projected outwards to others) for not doing seemingly simple day-to-day tasks that pretty much most people do. Not facing my fears hurt my confidence, altered my reality, perpetuated negative thought patterns, and kept me isolated. Staying in fear was basically me letting myself sink deeper in my mental health struggles, rather than moving forward.
Fear Hurts and Hinders your Confidence
I basically felt like a worthless piece of shit daily before I started facing my fears, as opposed to only every other Tuesday now that I’ve been doing the work (I joke, I joke. TBH for the most part, I don’t feel like a worthless piece of shit at all these days, not even on Tuesday’s.). Being afraid of pretty much everything, knowing in my heart I was afraid of everything, and refusing to look at it or do something about it made me hate myself. And because I hated myself so much, I felt like I didn’t deserve to not live in fear. Or even live at all. So like, why even try to fix it?
Everything about me was small and it was this never ending sick cycle of being afraid of everything, hating myself for being afraid, not doing anything about it because I hated myself so much, hating myself even more because I didn’t try to take positive steps, and then finding something else to be afraid of so I could start the cycle all over again and continue living in my misery. Without even realizing it, I was actually choosing to keep myself there by not identifying and committing to finding ways to work through or at least understand some of my fears.
This really beautiful thing happens when you work through fears
You find some confidence. You speak with a bit more umph in your tone, you advocate for yourself, you take pride in yourself, and you feel some weight lifted from your chest. It doesn’t feel as if the world is caving in on you as much as it has felt in the past. Working through fear makes you feel proud and strong which inspires and flows into other aspects of your life.
Fear Alters Reality and Increases Anxiety
The more I sat in my fears, the worse they got, and I no longer had a grasp of if my fears were actually realistic, exaggerated, or completely made up. I was so numb to what was what because my reality completely altered due to living in my fears for so long and letting my anxiety around them spiral.
After not stepping in a grocery store for over a year due to being afraid of grocery stores but not actually knowing why, I had pretty much come to believe they were definitely 100% hell on earth. Just to clarify, I know with so many recent mass shootings, grocery stores can definitely evoke some fear and anxiety… but for me, the fear of shootings was not even on my radar – probs bc I wanted to die at that point in my life, so like that would have been super convenient, but that’s neither here nor there.
I was so afraid of making decisions or having to talk to someone that I would often leave the store in tears and empty handed due to having a panic attack over which brand of honey I should buy or because someone asked me if I knew which aisle the toilet paper is in. Totes normal stuff over here.
Anxiety: a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks
Living in fear for a prolonged period of time can sometimes make us forget what we were even afraid of in the first place and increase our anxiety. Maybe over time, we’ve shifted the actual truth of where our fears came from, telling ourselves stories to keep us comfortably uncomfortable. This altered reality feeds our anxiety, digs us even deeper, keeps us stuck, hurts our confidence, and alters our reality. Facing fears brings us back to truth and gives us space to understand how to better navigate our lives.
Fear Perpetuates Negative Thought Patterns
When you are constantly avoiding facing your fears, it’s eventually going to surface cognitive distortions and negative thought patterns that will keep you in a cycle of hating yourself.
“I can’t even go to the grocery store to feed myself. I’m such a loser. I don’t even deserve to eat.”
“I can’t go for that hike because I’m terrified of seeing a bear or coming across a scary stretch. No one is ever going to want to be friends with me because I’m afraid of hikes. Why would anyone want to be friends with me anyway? I definitely shouldn’t hike.”
“I’m not going to speak up on the conference call because I’m afraid of saying something dumb. I know speaking up could be good for the promotion that’s available, but I don’t deserve a promotion and probably wouldn’t get it anyway. There are so many people who are smarter and better than me. I’m definitely not going to speak up, speaking in public is terrifying and I’m not worthy of a promotion so why even try?”
Like, why? Why do we do this shit to ourselves?
Why are we so mean? Staying in fear gives us a reason to hate ourselves even more than we already do. Negative thought patterns have a direct link to depression and anxiety (no duh) which means that fear does as well. Shine a light on your fears, face them, and for gods sake – be fucking nicer to yourself. Don’t sit in the cycle of your negative thought patterns.
Fear Promotes Isolation
As if it’s not enough to already feel stuck, lack confidence, live in an altered reality, and constantly say really mean and unnecessary stuff to yourself because of fear… let’s pile on some isolation for the funsies. Because our fear is keeping us in this weird/sad holding pattern, we’re either going to start to retract from life or most of the people in our lives are going to pull away from us and we will be left isolated. Which then will make you say more mean and unnecessary shit to yourself because you’re lacking confidence and stuck in a negative thought pattern (are you catching onto how this is all some sick twisted cycle that’s actually super related yet???). Everything that we’ve talked through above has a very good chance of resulting in isolation. It all goes hand in hand.
Feeling isolated just plays into all of the icky stuff that is a result of staying stuck in your fears. It closes us off from the world and makes us lonely. It gives us an excuse to stay down and not fight the fight that we deserve to win. And then that brings on a whole new set of fears, anxieties, and unproductive thoughts that hold us back. And then the cycle starts again. Working through your fears minimizes isolation and gives you the opportunity to find a support system and the skill sets needed to navigate and overcome mental health struggles that are often rooted in or related to some sort of fear.
Go ahead and face your fears… I’ve got your back!
I hope this post gave you some insight to how fear might be holding you back. Sometimes awareness and education is all you need to make the first move. Just remember that overcoming your fears will be a journey and it’s going to take hard work. Give yourself grace and make sure to praise yourself along the way.
And don’t forget to download my Fear Tracker!
It’ll help inspire, encourage, and support you as you break down those fears and all the gross stuff that comes with it!