A different take on living with fear
Fear is one of our most powerful and primal emotions. And when we are in a proper crisis – a fire or faced with someone pointing a gun in our direction for example, fear is our friend. It’s that emotional trigger that makes sure we act, fast to take action and make ourselves safe. That ancient part of our brain responsible for safety-seeking, signals a surge of adrenaline that drives us into a state of ‘fight / flight’. Physiologically this results in an increased heart rate, pumping extra blood to our major organs and large muscle groups which would all be recruited for that fighting or fleeing. In regular life though, fear can be one of our most unhelpful and problematic emotions. We experience the identical physiological response but this time it leads us to experience debilitating anxiety and can ultimately stop us living a rich and fulfilling life.
This week I’m focusing on the strategies that we can utilise when we’re gripped by that second kind of fear – the one that gets us stuck in unhealthy thoughts and behaviours but if left unchecked can result in debilitating mental health challenges. Fear can stop us in our tracks and it’s often the thing that stops our dreams from becoming our reality. Fears are often at the root of unattained goals.
What are you afraid of?
- Fear of what other people think?
- Fear of failure?
- Fear of being successful?
- Fear of letting other people down?
- Fear of being seen?
Whatever your fears the most powerful thing we can do is name them, bring them into the light and really look at them. Whenever we leave something in the shadows, trying to stifle its power and influence over us, all we really ever manage to do is allow it to do is take root and grow.
Here are a few different exercises, or strategies, to help you think about and work differently with your fears.
Facing your fears:
This might not seem like the most comfortable thing; it can be quite effective. We are always going to have difficult things we have to do – whether it’s giving a presentation, going back to study, sitting an exam or having difficult conversations. Starting with small challenges and building up the capacity to navigate them is a great way to start. Notice how it feels when you get through it and see if it was what you were expecting. Give yourself credit for getting through and then try again. It’s a bit like building stronger muscles!
Keep a diary:
I often talk to clients about emotions only being interesting data or information. The same is true when we think about specific emotions – in this case fear. Keep a note of your anxiety symptoms, when they occur, how they show up and affect you. Notice also what happens when you face a fear and how you respond to it when you do. That way you have useful data which can help you make informed choices in the future.
This exercise is just like goal setting but with your fears.
Make three columns with the headings:
- Define – what is the worst thing that could happen?
- Prevent – how do I stop it from happening?
- Repair – if the worst does happen, how can I fix it?
Write as many different fears as you can, as big or as small, as specific as you can manage.
- Make a list of all the possible benefits if you are successful or even partially successful (this is where you dream a little bit!)
- Make another three columns with the headings:
- 6 months
- 1 year
- 3 years
Now consider for each column, if I avoid doing this big (or small) thing, what will I miss out on. In other words, what will the consequences be if you let your fears stop you from achieving your goals.
If you’d like somewhere to talk about your fears and figure out how to start living a rich and fulfilling life, please get in touch with us: www.theabaker.com.au / email@example.com / 03 9077 8194.