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Fear and anxiety. Coping Techniques

Fear and anxiety. Coping Techniques

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When we talk about fear we talk about an emotion, which together with joy, fear, sadness, surprise, disgust, anger, etc. They were considered by the famous Paul Ekman as basic emotions (later he would add contempt). However, we can already intuit that tireless research has been carried out on this and we do not have a rigid consensus.


  • 1 Fear, a basic and multidimensional emotion
  • 2 Fear and anxiety
  • 3 The dreaded crisis of anguish
  • 4 How to handle fear and anxiety
  • 5 Technique 1: deep breathing
  • 6 Technique 2: thought arrest
  • 7 Technique 3: mental essay

Fear, a basic and multidimensional emotion

What we do have an agreement on emotions is that they involve three different components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and one behavioral or expressive response”, That its functions are adaptive (That fear, anger, disgust that we fear so much has its function) and that it is a multidimensional experience. This approach coincides with the three-dimensional model of anxiety proposed by Lang (1968). Each of these dimensions can acquire special relevance in a particular emotion, in a particular person, or in a given situation.

According to Reeve (1994), they have adaptive functions, social functions and motivational functions.

Consider, for example: "I am angry" (conscious / subjective experience). Our reply physiological (facial redness, increased heart rate, muscle tension ...) and our expressive behavior (eyebrows furrowed, poor communication with others, constant complaints ...)

As we see what we think, we act and feel is closely related.

Once briefly clarified how emotions work (if you want to know more do not forget to check the biography where links come to go deeper) we will analyze the “most feared”.

Fear and anxiety

Today fear and specifically anxiety are central issues for both experts and the media.

Anxiety is the physiological response that accompanies fear. It is the type of activation that the organism needs to flee or face a stimulus that causes emotion. But let's stop here, unlike animals, fear is in us according to the interpretation we make of the situation. The stimulus is not in itself the generator of fear, but it is the perception of security or control of the situation that makes it something feared or bearable.

We have said that fear is an adaptive emotion that allows survival. When does it become a problem? When it is excessive or inappropriate; that is to say, when such intensity does not allow us to be functional, to react properly or when it occurs in situations that at first are not a threat.

Let's think about the fear that a dog can produce us, at the beginning there is no problem, it even prevents us from the occasional bite. But this fear prevents us from visiting friends who also have the dog locked in the garage. So? Here we start talking about phobias and specifically of a specific phobia These are situations in which fear is excessive or irrational, manifests itself before a specifically identified object or situation, which implies a systematic avoidance of this situation or object and that can take us to the degree of paralyzing us socially.

It is worth mentioning that in the case of phobias, just think about the object or situation that generates anxiety to feel the physiological activation and catastrophic thoughts of your fear. Let us also differentiate it from agoraphobia because it is not so concrete. It refers to irrational and disabling fear in all situations in which the person interprets that running away or getting help is difficult or impossible, so avoid getting away from home, climbing the elevators, taking the train, etc.

The dreaded crisis of anguish

In clinical psychology, a disorder characterized by the appearance of episodes of distress has been defined, with an approximate duration of minutes, but lived with extreme bitterness by those who suffer from it, such as crisis of anguish. This type of sudden reaction is always accompanied by feelings of imminent death, loss of control and even madness trigger. Given their high intensity and unpredictability, they are experienced as unbearable that can generate functional limitations.

View the triad (thought-emotion-action) we bring you four simple techniques but effective for you to start managing these emotions and we know that being consistent with them you will feel much better. Of course. Do not hesitate to consult a professional if you notice that you cannot do it, remember that we each have a unique way of being and reacting.

How to handle fear and anxiety

Technique 1: deep breathing

This technique is very easy to apply and is useful for controlling physiological reactions before, during and after facing emotionally intense situations.

  • Take a deep breath while counting mentally up to 4
  • Hold your breath while mentally counting up to 7
  • Release the air while mentally counting up to 8
  • Repeat the above process.

What it is about is to do the different phases of breathing slowly and a little more intensely than normal, but without having to force it at any time. To verify that you are breathing correctly you can put one hand on the chest and another on the abdomen. You will be doing your breathing correctly when you only move your hand from your abdomen when breathing (some call it abdominal breathing).

Technique 2: thought arrest

This technique can also be used before, during or after the situation that causes us problems. It focuses on thought control. To implement it you must follow the following steps:

  • When you begin to find yourself uncomfortable, nervous or upset, pay attention to the type of thoughts you are having, and identify all those with negative connotations (focused on failure, hatred of other people, guilt, etc.). Say to yourself "Enough!"
  • Replace those thoughts with more positive ones. The problem with this technique is that some practice is needed to identify negative thoughts, as well as to turn them over and make them positive. In the following table we present some examples:

Negative thoughts

"I'm a mess"
"I can not stand it"
“I feel overwhelmed”
"Everything will go wrong"
"I can't control this situation"
"He does it on purpose"

Positive thoughts

"I am able to overcome this situation"
“If I try hard I will succeed”
“Worrying doesn't make things easier”
"This is not going to be so terrible."
"Surely I will do it"
"You may not have realized that what you do bothers me"

Technique 3: mental essay

This technique is intended to be used before facing situations in which we do not feel safe. It consists simply of imagining that you are in that situation (for example, asking someone to go out with you) and that you are doing well, while feeling totally relaxed and safe. You must mentally practice what you are going to say and do. Repeat this several times, until you begin to feel more relaxed and confident.

Technique 4: muscle relaxation

This technique also serves to apply before, during and after the situation, but for effective use requires prior training. For your practice follow the following steps:

  • Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Slowly relax all the muscles in your body, starting with the toes and then relaxing the rest of the body until you reach the neck and head muscles.
  • Once you have relaxed all the muscles in your body, imagine yourself in a peaceful and relaxing place (for example, lying on a beach). Whichever place you choose, imagine yourself totally relaxed and carefree.
  • Imagine in that place as clearly as possible.
  • Practice this exercise as often as possible, at least once a day for about 10 minutes on each occasion.

If you have been convinced of the usefulness of the exercise, remember that you must practice it constantly to get to automate the process and get relax in a few seconds.


    • Fernández-Abascal, E. G., García Rodríguez, B., Jiménez Sánchez, M. P., Martín Díaz, M. D. and Domínguez Sánchez, F. J. (2010). The psychology of emotion. Madrid: Ramón Arce University.
    • García Villalón, A. L. (2013). The emotions. Recovered from //
    • Garrido, J. M. (2015). Emotion psychology: The emotional process. Recovered from //
    • The emotions that accompany our life (2007). In Encyclopedia of Psychology (Vol. 2, 59-77 pp). Spain: Ocean.
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