By: Alison Dunn Apr 19, 2011
Fear factor

What are you afraid of?

I’m afraid of lots of things; heights, spiders, snorkeling, mouldy food and zombies, just to name a few. But, like most people who are afraid of little things, these fears don’t ruin the quality of my life. I just don’t go up the CN Tower, I don’t go snorkeling on my vacation, and, let’s be honest, I really don’t have to worry about running into a zombie on my morning run. I can live my life happily without having to face one of these fears.

The problem, of course, is when these fears become debilitating. What if, for example, my silly little fear of zombies suddenly grows to the point I’m afraid to leave the house? What if my fear of heights escalates to the point I can barely walk up a flight of stairs? It’s when the fear, whether rational or irrational, starts to take over that it really becomes a problem and does affect the quality of your life.

Earlier this year, a new show on the Movie Network really brought this idea home. The show, Shameless, depicts the life of a boisterous, dysfunctional, somewhat criminal family living in the slums of Chicago. One character, played by Joan Cusack, suffers from agoraphobia, a condition where a person has severe anxiety of being in a public place. Cusack’s character is unable to leave her house, relying on her daughter and others to bring in needed supplies. And every so often, the character tries to muster up her courage to leave the house but fails.

For people suffering from conditions such as this, fears are real and can be crippling. It doesn’t matter if the rest of us see the fears as rational or irrational – to the person in the grip of the fear, it’s the only thing that matters.

But while your fears may not be as severe, ask yourself if they are holding you back from getting what you want in life. Are you not advancing in your career because you’re afraid of speaking in public? Are you stuck in a bad relationship because you’re afraid of being alone?

This week on Health Local, Crystal Andrus, star of Slice Network’s X-Weighted, offers some advice on how to get past those fears and find the life you want. It’s not easy to overcome your fear, she says, but if you can find the courage to move past it, you can have the life you want.

I think Andrus is right. If we don’t move past the fear before it starts to cripple us, we could risk ending up exactly where we don’t want to be. Next time I’m on vacation, I just might try snorkeling to see if I can get past my fear and find the beauty that lives underwater. Or I might try heading up the CN Tower to see the spectacular view of the city below me.

And if I do see a zombie when I’m out for a morning run? I guess I’ll just have to run faster!

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.