How to Face Your Fears—And Crush Them!

Jasper Smits, psychologist at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about exercise as an anxiety reliever for dealing with phobias.

Ready to kiss your fears goodbye? A positive attitude toward whatever you’re afraid of, combined with exposure therapy (where you confront the source of your anxiety head-on), may help you overcome your fears for the long haul, according to new research out of Ohio State University.
For the study, 40 adults with a fear of public speaking received exposure therapy that required them to prepare and deliver multiple five-minute speeches in a short amount of time. Researchers assessed the participants at different points throughout the study by taking several measures, including their heart rate and self-reported anxiety level. The researchers also used a test that showed how strongly participants associated public speaking with things they liked or didn’t like.
“That measure of associative strength gives us a snapshot of their attitude,” says Russell Fazio, PhD, a coauthor of the study.
When the participants came back for follow-up tests a month later, the ones who relapsed tended to be the people who associated public speaking with negative objects—while those with more positive associations maintained their progress.
Fazio says further research is needed to figure out why some people’s attitudes toward their fear changed. One theory, however, is that the people with improved attitudes were the ones who gave themselves credit for mastering public speaking, rather than chalking up their initial successes to therapy or a therapist.
Have a fear of your own? Here, four tips for conquering it:...

Hit the Gym
Distractions can be a major source of comfort when you’re facing something scary—“anything you can do to keep your mind from going off in a bad direction helps,” Norton says.  One of the best ways to get your mind off of what ails you? Working out. Plus, research shows that people who exercise are more immune to stressors, says Jasper Smits, PhD, co-director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and coauthor of Exercise for Mood and Anxiety....