Stare Down the Fear


How it Works

  1. Each student identifies something that she or he either wants to do or needs to do, but that he or she tends  to avoid because it triggers anxiety, nervousness, or worry. Examples might be avoiding studying because it leads to feeling overwhelmed, avoiding asking someone out because it triggers feeling embarrassed or vulnerable, avoiding giving a class presentation because it triggers feeling nervous.  

    Note: It is important that students be guided to pick things that they WANT or NEED to do – so, the focus is not on avoidance of fighting, avoidance of getting drunk, etc.
  2. Students should be encouraged to identify in words (either spoken or written,) what they are worried might happen (e.g., rejection, failure, messing up, etc.).  If designed as a writing exercise, the Facing My Fears worksheet can be used.
  3. Once students identify what the thing is that they avoid, they can use the Gradual Exposure worksheet to break it down into 5-10 steps, starting with something easy and ending with the very thing they tend to avoid.


Students can learn that (1) the things they are afraid might happen usually don’t happen, (2) students can discover that even if that feared thing does happen, they are able to cope with it (this is critical for later success with adversity – we all experience rejection and we need to practice coping with rejection while the stakes aren’t as high as they will become in adulthood, and (3) students can learn how to break an overwhelming task down into manageable steps – a great skill for all kinds of goal achievement.