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The Top 5 Ways to Shrink Your Anxiety Down to Size

5 proven ways to speak up, show up, and be brave when anxiety strikes.

No one likes feeling anxious, not that you can avoid it. If you're fully alive, you'll have your share (or unfair) share of it. You’ll wake up at three in the morning searching your breasts for lumps. You’ll worry that your daughter has dropped out of her drug treatment program (again), that your partner is getting bored with you, that you’ll end up a bag lady if you leave your job, that your memory is getting more porous with each passing day, and that possibly you’re going crazy.

You can make your own list. No one is immune to the grip of fear and other difficult emotions. These are the uninvited guests in our lives. When tragedy or hardship hit, they may become our constant companions.

While we can't beat anxiety away with a big stick, we can feel the fear and not let it stop us from speaking out and showing up.

Here are five tips for doing just that:

1. Action is powerful. Sometimes you can move past a fear quickly if you are willing to act. When you avoid what you fear, your anxieties are apt to worsen over time.

2. Succeed by failing. If you fear rejection, you may, indeed, need to accumulate more experience getting snubbed. This applies not just to asking someone for a date, but also making sales calls, trying to get an article published, or approaching new people at a party.

3. Risk feeling ridiculous. Most people feel deeply ashamed at the very idea of appearing foolish, and shy away from taking healthy risks in order to avoid that possibility. You need to learn from experience that feeling ridiculous is tedious and uncomfortable, but not the primal threat to your dignity that you imagine it to be.

4. Invite fear in. When you anticipate a guest coming to visit, you are more prepared for whatever happens. Almost all treatments and strategies that help people with fear involve inviting fear in.

5. Motivation matters. If you’re not at least a 6 or 7 on that 1-to-10 motivation scale, you may need to be in more pain about the status quo before you are willing to act. At the very least, you need to deeply feel the negative consequences of not acting.

Along with the good days, you're going to experience anxiety and the entire range of painful emotions that make us human. You can't beat these negative emotions away with a big stick. But as I explain in The Dance of Fear, there are specific steps you can take to rise above them to be your best and bravest self.