How to Overcome Neophobia (Your Fear of New Things)

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When it comes to trying new things, we’re all nervous at some point. Whether it’s that “I can’t sit still” nervous excited blend or the panicky “get me out of here!” feeling.

Both are normal – and even having the second one doesn’t mean you’re not ready to try something new. It just means you need to find ways to control your anxiety, so it doesn’t control you at the moment.

Think your fear of new things is worse than other peoples? Learn about neophobia (the fear of new things) and some strategies to help you get over it, below.

Neophobia: The Fear of New Things

Like we said before, everyone gets nervous. But if your nerves are so bad they stop you from doing something, they may not just be nerves. You could have diagnosable neophobia, which is like any other intense fear.

To get over an intense fear, some people believe in exposure therapy – aka doing the scary thing so many times that it loses its stimulation. But exposure therapy is best done under the eye of a trained therapist.

What can you do to help yourself get over your fears? Read about our at-home strategies.

1. Do It with a Friend

A lot of the fear we have comes partly from being alone. When you have someone to help you through a new experience – even if it’s your first time and you’re both experiencing it together – it’s better for both of you.

If you’re truly terrified, try to find someone you trust who’s done this thing before. Ideally, they’ve done it so many times they could walk you through it in their sleep.

If it’s something like your first bikini wax and they can’t go in the room with you, they can tell you exactly what to expect. Getting rid of the unknown in any situation is a good way to calm fear and anxiety.

2. Think of Something Harder

When you’re in the grips of anxiety, it feels like it’s the worst it’s ever been or could be. But most of the time, it’s not. You’ve probably done other things in your life that you were even more terrified of, but they went okay.

Tell yourself that since you could do that, you can easily do this. That’s called putting things in perspective.

And while comparing your experiences to other peoples isn’t generally a good practice, you can do it if you have no experience to compare. Think to yourself, there are people that swim in cages with sharks – surely I can get my legs in the water if they can do that.

It’s not going to work every time, but it’s a good tool to have in your toolbox.

3. Ask Yourself What Your Motivations Are

When we’re nervous about something, we’re mostly focusing on the process. The needle piercing is going to hurt, I’m going to faint, say the wrong thing, etc.

Focusing on what-ifs is a great way to give yourself a panic attack. Instead, focus on how you’ll feel after you accomplish whatever it is.

When you’ve gotten that tongue piercing you’ve wanted your whole life, how cool will it be to move it around in your mouth?

Or when you go on the roller coaster for the first time, how exhilarated and proud of yourself will you feel when you get off?

If you practice meditation, you can focus on that feeling, in advance. You can trick your mind into feeling success before you’ve even done whatever it is!

4. Know Your Panic Signals

Let’s say you’re worried about clamming up or freezing while you’re doing the task. You need to learn to recognize when your body is getting to that point before it happens.

No one goes from relaxed to petrified and frozen in place in one second. Unless something really terrible (like a true threat) happens.

Anxiety builds, and if you let it get away from you, that’s when you freeze up.

If you notice your chest starting to feel tight, take three deep breaths. If you notice racing thoughts in your head, tell yourself whatever mantra you’ve picked out.

Breathing through an anxious situation is almost always the path to success. Inhale for a count to five, as if you were trying to make your stomach as round as possible. Hold for one, then breathe out for five.

Repeat this as often as you need to.

5. Smile

This sounds silly and simplistic, we know. But smiling can actually trick your brain into thinking you’re happy.

As smart as our brains are, they don’t know the difference between an authentic smile and one as fake as Wiley Coyotes.

If you smile authentically, you’re already creating/activating happiness chemicals in your brain. If fake a smile, your brain thinks “oops, I missed something. Better activate those neurochems to catch up!

Use This Experience Going Forward

Remember how we told you to think of something hard you’d already done? When you’ve gotten over your fear of new things enough to finish this task, now you have a new memory for when you’re scared next.

Try to focus on how good you feel afterward, and sear that into your memory.

When you’re anxious again, you’ll think of how good it felt to face your fears last time, and have less trouble doing it again.

Nervous about traveling in particular? Get more tips here