Helpful tips for doing exposure exercises
Start small. It’s important to start really small and take gradual steps.
Practice. In order to overcome your fears, you need to practice often. It’s like working out. If you want to be in shape, you need to work out several times a week. When it comes to exposure exercises, the more you do, the faster your fear fades! Some things can be done daily (such as saying “hi” to three people in the hall), while others can only be done once in a while (such as going on a school trip or to a dance). The more you do something the easier it will become.
Get help. Facing your fears is not easy. Recruit your friends or family to help you. Let them know what you’re working on and get them to cheer you on. Or get them to help with some of your exposure exercises by coming with you or meeting up with you afterwards to share in your victories.
Keep it up! Even if you’ve become comfortable doing something, it’s still important to go into those situations from time to time to make sure your fear doesn’t creep back. So, if standing on a balcony is easy now, make sure to go stand on one once in awhile.
Use your imagination. You can’t face some feared situations repeatedly. For example, you probably can’t take a flight somewhere every day! But you can use your imagination to help you face it. This is called imaginal exposure.
All you have to do is close your eyes and imagine that you are in that situation. Use all your senses – what do you see, feel, hear, smell, taste, and touch?
Let yourself get anxious by imagining yourself in that situation and keep imagining being there until your anxiety starts to come down. Then, do the same imaginal exposure again the next day. Keep doing it until you really don’t feel much anxiety anymore.
Write it down: It can also be helpful to write this situation out on paper or type it up on the computer so you can read it to yourself over and over. For example, if you are afraid of an earthquake happening you could write a short story of about being someplace when an earthquake strikes and how the experience would be for you. Read it over daily until you don’t get as anxious when you read it.
Get creative. There is lots of great stuff on the Internet that might help you face your fears, such as pictures or videos. Get a family member or trusted friend to check some out for you and then tell you about them to see if it’s something you think you could face (like pictures of needles or videos of someone flying).