Get fit: One of the many physical and psychological benefits of cardiovascular fitness is that it inures the individual against the effects of stress, including anxiety and fear. One 2009 study reported that skydivers with a higher percentage of body fat took longer to return from elevated stress-hormone levels and performed worse on tests of mental agility. Other studies have even shown that exercise can ease depression and anxiety. And it can protect you from feeling stressed out in the future. Princeton researchers found that rats who exercise grow neurons in their brains that are less responsive to the stress hormone cortisol.

Lean on Your Friends: Human beings are mammals, and mammals are fundamentally social creatures. In a tough situation, we rely on emotional rapport with friends and family members. Oxytocin, the hormone that binds mothers and children and husbands and wives, has been shown to lessen the sensation of pain and fear. In wartime, it likely plays a role in turning a group of strangers into a band of brothers who will lay down their lives for one another. But even the challenge is as mundane as a work place crisis or a tough athletic competition, having friends by your side can make all the difference.

Expose Yourself: One crucial tool for mastering fear is to develop a sense of confidence in your abilities. You can train yourself for this mindset by setting challenging but reachable goals that become progressively more difficult. Dread public speaking? Make a toast at a small dinner party. Afraid of heights? Try tackling the lower reaches of a climbing wall. Above all, be sure to reward yourself when you’re successful. The goal is to train the emotional centers of your brain to anticipate a positive outcome when pushing boundaries.

 

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