beating your fears concept: woman walking across tightrope blindfolded over city landscape

10 Simple Ways To Beat Your Fears Today

9 mins

Are you anxious about flying, scared of spiders or the prospect of how the climate crisis will affect your children’s future? Do you have OCD, phobias or suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? No matter how bad your problem, you can beat your fears with some simple steps, experts say

Dianne, sitting so close I can smell her perfume, doesn’t make eye contact as she tells her life story – a sad catalogue of domestic abuse that has left her fearful. Benjamin, nervously clicking his fingers opposite me, has done several tours with the British Army. Now, after years of witnessing the horrors of conflict, he’s battling post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Many others in the room have been through the heartbreak of cancer and have been left with crippling health anxiety. Some are fighting eating disorders while a handful suffer obsessive compulsive disorder, and one or two are dreading their children leaving home for university. Others, like me, are anxious about the state of the planet, disasters caused by climate change and the impact of war. 

We’re a mixed bunch but we have one thing in common – we’ve gathered in York, in the UK, for a workshop with The Speakmans, who describe themselves as life change specialists, and we’re all keen to become a better version of ourselves. The all-encompassing workshop title is Upgrade Your Life, and it offers help with everything from positive thinking and improving self-esteem at work and home to banishing bullies and handling trauma.

Beat Your Fears

woman looking anxious

Well known as the resident therapists on ITV’s This Morning in Britain, Nik and Eva Speakman have cured TV presenter Holly Willoughby and Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon of a fear of flying and ex-Hear’Say singer and actress Kym Marsh of her phobia of motorway driving. But the couple have helped ordinary people to overcome fear and anxiety including emetophobia (fear of vomiting), agoraphobia (fear of open spaces) and arachnophobia (fear of spiders), to name just a few phobias and irrational fears crippling people’s lives. 

And it’s easy to see why they have such a following. With characterful Lancashire accents, and stories of their own suffering – Eva at the hands of an abusive and controlling ex-partner and Nik from a severe childhood colon condition, they come over as warm, personable, and down-to-earth. 

‘People with low self-esteem don’t like compliments. When someone says they like your shirt, and you say: “Oh, this old thing?” you’re calling them a liar. Say thank you. It will bolster your self-esteem and train your brain to look for more positive things which helps to beat your fears’

Motivational from the start, Eva tells us: ‘Today is the recipe. It’s down to you to make the cake. Find out what’s causing your issues and resolve it. Imagine your anxiety as blood. You’d clean it, then you’d wonder where it was coming from. It’s the same with fears, phobias and OCD. They’re emotional wounds that you need to find and start to heal. It’s not a question of what’s wrong with you, but what happened to you.

woman in military uniform with PTSD

‘We were all born perfect, with just two fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. That’s it. We didn’t even know how to compare ourselves to others. We’re a jigsaw puzzle made of many pieces, and then suddenly a little piece of the puzzle gets turned upside down. 

‘You might see your mum screaming when she’s looking at a spider, or you might get bullied at school and find by pulling a hair out of your head it’s a distraction and takes away the initial pain. You might discover if you feel bad, you can make yourself feel better with food. 

‘Someone tells you about bad luck, and you get OCD. Next your grandma dies. You might get health anxiety and a fear of death. If someone is sick, and another person says that’s gross, you could develop phobia around vomit.’

Nik and Eva Speakman who help to beat your fears

The couple have devised their own brand of therapy – VSDT, visual schema displacement therapy, which is currently going through a clinical study, following research in The Netherlands. VSDT is a version of EMDR, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing, which uses side to side eye movements, combined with talk therapy in a specific format that the NHS recommends to treat conditions such as PTSD. A non-clinical study into their VSDT technique found that in the short-term it was more effective than an abbreviated version of EMDR.  

And while private sessions can be booked with the Speakmans to spend time facing your fears, their workshops are a taster of their motivational magic. But here they share their top tips to beat your fears with The Ethicalist that we can all do right now. 

Anxiety Antidote 

woman waiting to write in a journal with cup of coffee

Adopting an attitude of gratitude is the antidote to overcome your fear or anxiety, reveals Eva. ‘Have a gratitude book and every day write in it three things that you’re grateful for,’ she says. ‘Set your alarm a few minutes early so you can do this or write gratitude on your toothbrush and think grateful thoughts as you brush your teeth.’

Nik adds: ‘Research has found that grateful people are happier, do more exercise and are more optimistic about the future. When you’re making your gratitude list, really think about the people in your life and the things you’re doing.’

Finish On A High

Change a negative into a positive to beat your fears with just two words, suggests Eva. ‘The two words – ‘but luckily’ – can turn everything around for you,’ she says. ‘If you comment that there are a lot of road closures due to a marathon, add: “But luckily, they will have cleared by the time I set off home.” If you tell someone you’re ill, add: “But luckily, I know I can get better.”

‘Try it – it’s a great technique and it will change your mindset.’

Accept Compliments

People with low self-esteem don’t like compliments, says Nik. ‘When someone says they like your shirt, and you say: “Oh, this old thing?” you’re calling the person who gave the compliment a liar. Start to say thank you. It will bolster your self-esteem and it will help in training your brain to look for more positive things which helps to beat your fears. In turn, that will create new neural pathways in your brain and thinking positively will come more naturally.’

Change One Letter

Instead of saying that you’ve got to do something, make a switch and say that you get to do something, suggests Eva.

‘When you say you’ve got to do something, it makes it a chore, but if you say you get to do something, it’s a choice. “I’ve got to play with the kids” becomes “I get to play with the kids.”

Reframe Your Labels

When we secrete adrenaline, we produce anxiety, and excessive anxiety can become a panic attack, explains Nik.

‘But it’s not really a panic attack,’ he says. ‘Your body is trying to protect you and keep you safe. You’re not in real danger. You’re basing your anxiety on something that’s left over from childhood, so start thinking of it as a protection attack.’

Do A Timeline

To find out where your anxiety or phobia started, do a timeline, suggests Nik. ‘Start from your birth and list every positive and negative experience you’ve had up until now,’ he says. ‘Ask yourself what school was like. If you were bullied, get some memories out and onto paper. ‘

Eva adds: ‘Look at when you were massively embarrassed – one women’s trauma started when she wet herself as a child at school. Ask yourself how it felt then.

‘If your day is going well, and suddenly your mood slumps, turn inward to find out why. Ask yourself what you just saw, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought about. It might give you a clue about your triggers and the root of them to help beat your fears’

‘A timeline can take a long time – mine is 38 pages long! Once you have your timeline, give each occurrence a mark out of ten, where zero has no emotion attached to it at all and ten is excruciatingly painful.’

Drill Down On Your Timeline

Take the memories that get seven or more out of ten and work through them, says Eva. ‘Look at how you interpreted what happened, and then try and find contra evidence,’ she says. ‘It might be that someone vomited, and people were shouting, and you became scared but the truth was, vomiting saved that person’s life.’

Nik adds: ‘When you look at different perspectives, the whole thing changes and you begin to beat your fears. Getting ill is brilliant – it’s a message to promote a better lifestyle. When you change perspective, you become a victor, not a victim.’

Become Your Own Detective

If your day is going well, and then suddenly your mood slumps, turn inward to find out why, suggests Eva.

‘Ask yourself what you just saw, heard, smelled, tasted, touched or thought about,’ she says. ‘Keep a notebook and record these ideas. They might give you a clue about your triggers and then you can look back for the root of them to help beat your fears.’

Do Your Research

If you have a fear of something, read up about it – you’ll be surprised at your own empathy.

‘If your memory is of your mum screaming when she sees a spider, you’ll naturally think you should be frightened of them,’ says Eva. ‘But realistically, the spider was the innocent party and probably the most terrified of all of you. Spiders are blind and see us only as a shadow. That’s why they appear skittish.

‘If seeing a single magpie convinces you you’ll have bad luck, research will tell you magpies mate for life, and they’re alone when their partner dies. The ‘one for sorrow’ saying relates to their sorrow, not yours.’

Beat The Bullies

If you’re the victim of bullying at home or work, it’s time to give yourself a talking to, says Eva. ‘Bullies bully to make themselves feel better,’ she says. ‘They target the person who doesn’t fight back. They might see bullying at home and they bully other people to stop themselves being bullied.

‘But remember, it’s not personal to you. It says more about how the bully feels inside themselves than what they say about you.’

For more details about The Speakmans’ therapy to help beat your fears and UK tour, go to

Names have been changed of the people taking part in the workshop to protect their identities but their stories are real.


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