We all have things that cause us anxiety or fear. It may be spiders, heights, elevators, public speaking, or airplanes that cause us fear. Some fears may rarely be encountered while others may cause daily struggles. If you have a fear that you would like to confront and master, a fear ladder may be a great tool for you.
A fear ladder is a tool used to help you gradually increase exposure to your fear until it no longer causes the level of fear and anxiety that leads to unwanted behaviors like avoidance. Remember, it is unrealistic to expect that you will no longer experience a particular fear. Rather the expectation should be a significant reduction in the intensity of fear and a decrease in negative/unwanted behaviors as a result of your fear.
Steps to create a fear ladder:
- Think of something that you fear. Hint: you may want to start with something innocuous.
- Break your fear into smaller steps or things that cause mild, moderate, and high anxiety
- Rate each step based on how much fear/anxiety it causes
- Create your ladder
- Start practicing!
Example: Student who is afraid of giving a speech in class
- Fear of public speaking
- Raise hand in class, get up to get something during class, giving speech in front of 1 person, giving speech in front of 3 people
- Raise hand in class (4), get up to get something during class (2), giving speech in front of 1 person (6), giving speech in front of 3 people (8)
- Goal: give speech in class
- Give speech in front of 3 people (8)
- Give speech in front of 1 person (6)
- Raise hand in class (4)
- Get up to get something during class (2)
- Practice each rung of the ladder until you feel less anxious.
- Set realistic expectations.
- Use coping skills like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, to help you manage your anxiety.
- Practice often. The more you practice, the sooner you will feel more in control and less afraid.
- Get help and support.
- Reward yourself. Use rewards to motivate you to keep going.