Doing scary things
Doing scary things
Working as a therapist who has a special interest in trauma, I talk about fear pretty much every day. Fear has a super important evolutionary purpose. Back in the day the squirt of adrenaline that is released when facing fear inducing situations helped to ensure our ancestors survived attacks from predators and natural disasters. But most people have heard all about the fight – flight – freeze response (if you want to read more click HERE). Whilst things that cause us stress and fear in our lives might have changed, our ancient body and its nervous system hasn’t, which means that our bodies often over-react in everyday situations.
What has all this got to do with things that scare us?
Operating within our comfort zones involves doing activities where we feel confident in our ability to perform them. Everything that makes us feel anxious or nervous, or where we aren’t so sure about our capacity to successfully undertake tasks or activities sits outside of our comfort zone. And all of these might trigger our fear response. Putting it another way, the smaller our comfort zone or the more often we operate within our comfort zone, the more likely we are to feel unfulfilled and to fear change. It is even more likely to affect our happiness.
Now we all have very different tolerances for fear. We aren’t in a competition with others to do scarier things than our friends or partner. More than that, what instils a sense of fear in you will be different to what makes me afraid. What matters is taxing our own comfort zone and doing the things (both big and small) that scare us as individuals.
The magic happens when we face our fears, and it happens on many levels. When we face our fears, we prove to ourselves that we are capable of more than we believed. This awareness impacts our self-confidence and self-esteem. It says, “I can do hard things”. Facing our fears and doing something new and hard also allows us to develop new neural pathways in our brain that mean that those once scary things become part of our experience-bank. Even when you do something scary and don’t enjoy the experience there’s still a positive feedback loop because there are lessons in trying, experiencing, and practicing stepping into the un-comfort zone! Lastly, when we face our fears regularly, we build a really strong muscle. The more we do it, the stronger our muscle gets and the easier it is to use and leverage. Over time this means that we get used to that feeling of fear so that it doesn’t stop is stepping up and into spaces that otherwise we would never have explored, and in turn our lives get bigger, brighter and more exciting.
How to start doing things that scare you:
- Make a list!
Write down all the small and big things that you want to face or challenge yourself with. Don’t bother putting things on the list that you would never consider doing (you won’t find bungee-jumping on my list!) – just the ones that align with your values and purpose.
- Rank your list
Group them or prioritise all the fears that you want to face, considering all the practicalities.
- Make a plan (obvs)
Schedule your fears-facing activities and consider the whole of your life as you do so – your plan needs to stack up and fit in with all the things you need to do.
- Review your progress
Journal your experience or make some kind of note about how it felt to face each fear so that you reinforce the learning and this might help shape other fear-facing opportunities for the future.
If this blog has brought up something in your life that you’d like the space to explore, we have a team of trauma-informed therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing and we have IMMEDIATE availability – please reach out to us at: email@example.com / 03 9077 8194.