Fear. It’s something we find ourselves gripped with at least once in our lives.
For some it’s when we are faced with a very real danger; the edge of a cliff, a traffic accident, awaiting a medical report or the loss of a loved one.
For some it’s when we are faced with an emotional danger; the fear of judgement, the fear of failure, the fear of success.
For some the perceived danger is highly illogical and yet the fear response remains as real as if they are facing a man-eating lion.
And for some, the fear surfaces on a daily basis, a constant anxiety bubbling up within them, making simple everyday acts feel like monumental challenges.
Fear, anxiety, phobias, nerves, they all trigger the same response. The body jumps into fight or flight, the heart pumps faster, the breathing becomes irregular, the palms begin to sweat. The body prepares itself for the perceived danger and whether its logical or illogical, the response remains the same.
So how do we face our fears? How do we take control of a feeling that feels so out of control?
As a ‘scaredy-cat’ rock climber I face my fears on a regular basis. Yes, I do it for fun! The fear of falling, the fear of my gear failing, the fear of dropping my husband (did that once, oh boy was that a scary experience) and so many other fears are forever plaguing my mind when I climb. And when I feel that familiar feeling of fear begin to surface, I use the same methods that I teach my clients for managing their anxiety.
- I breathe. Oh man do I breathe! I focus on that breath and let everything else fade away for a few moments. Breathing deeply and consciously not only allows more oxygen into the lungs to help us physically but it also distracts your mind from the ‘what ifs’ and grounds us in the present moment.
- I take a mental step back. I look at the bigger picture. Sometimes I imagine floating high up into the sky and assessing the situation from there. Is the danger really quite that big? Hardly. Do I need to look at this from a better perspective? Well yes, yes I do.
- I rationalise, often out loud. There have been many times when I’ve been high up on a cliff muttering to myself. Am I crazy? Maybe a little. But actually I’m talking myself out of that fear response. Repeating rational phrases like ‘I am safe’ and ‘there is no reason to be afraid’ sends a positive message to brain. Saying it out loud reinforces that message even more. Say it enough times and we begin to believe it. It is simple re-programming.
- I accept that there are subconscious responses at play here and try as I might I may not be able to consciously master the situation as bravely as I’d like. When a fear response arises we often get frustrated with ourselves thinking we should (my most hated word) be able to cope with this. The truth is the irrational/emotional part of our brain so often wins the fight against the logical part and so consciously talking ourselves out of it just isn't an option. Sometimes finding someone to help you in letting go of your fear is the best approach. A fellow hypnotherapist shifted one of my fears for me using one of the methods I use to help others shift theirs. It's ok to ask for help.
So next time you feel that familiar feeling of fear or anxiety rising within you, why not give one of these methods a go. Life is for living and we shouldn't be living it in fear.
"Courage doesn't mean you don't get afraid. Courage means you don't let fear stop you."