Fear is part of an arsenal of reactions that humans possess to deal with various situations that may come up in life. Most of us don’t encounter life-or-death situations in our daily lives; that doesn’t mean, however, that we never feel the nerve-wracking emotion of fear from time to time, whether in response to certain situations that trigger this emotion or from nervousness becoming so overwhelming that it turns into fear. Many times, our fears come from personal issues or past negative experiences. If you once had a terrible experience with public speaking (perhaps you couldn’t capture the audience’s attention, or you became so nervous you forgot a majority of your speech), it is very likely that the next time a public speaking opportunity arises, you’ll feel your heart race and may find yourself paralysed by fear or nervousness.

The first thing to remember when fear has a grip on you is not to panic. Panicking only makes things worse, as you begin to imagine the awful things that could happen, which then turns into a cycle of fear from which it becomes difficult to break. Much like in emergency situations, being able to keep a cool head while afraid is a valuable asset, even in non-life-threatening situations such as making a presentation or striking up a conversation with complete strangers.

Next, acknowledge your fear, then take several deep breaths and try to let the fear pass without allowing it to take hold of you. Allowing your fear to take root will only choke you into paralysis. Keep yourself together and you will have a hand up on controlling and overcoming your fear.

Finally, focus on what you are going to do next. This will help prevent you from sliding back into a mind-numbing state of fear, because as long as you think about the next steps you want to take – in as calm a manner as you can – it will keep you focussed on useful ways to overcome the obstacle or situation in front of you.

Fear can be a mind killer, sapping all of your energy and willpower to take control of a situation and overcome it. Always remember that it is best to keep calm, acknowledge your fear, and let it go. Don’t allow it to overcome you. Focus instead on solving the situation at hand, which will help keep your fear at bay and prevent you from getting caught in a never-ending cycle of fear.