Fear is a normal animal and human emotion. Even the most corageous people have felt fear at one time or another. Some people are afraid of heights, while others may be afraid of spiders or confined places. These fears are psychological in nature and as such, therapy may be needed to overcome them.
This article focuses on the more common fears, the kind of fears that we all experience at one point, the fears associated with rejection, failure, and success, as well as the stress generated by them.
So, what exactly is fear?
First, let’s acknowledge that experiencing fear is not necesarily a bad thing. The purpose of it is to keep us safe, healthy and alive.
Truth is, without the fear response we could not have survived as a species. Such is the case of the caveman who had to fight or run for his life when an angry mamoth or saber-tooth tiger charged after him. This was a real threat, so fearing the large mammal actually saved his life.
Understanding fear and its effects
The physiological response of fear starts in the amygdala, the part of our brain that’s always vigilant, on the lookout for dangerous circumstances. Once a threatening stimulus or situation is idenfitied, the ‘fight of flight’ response gets activated as the brain sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release high levels of adrenalin and cortisol into our system.
This surge of ‘stress’ hormones causes an increase in heart rate that pumps more blood into the muscles followed by shallow and quick breaths, pupil dilation, sweating, and goosebumps; as well as specific behavior patterns such as the urge to run, climb, jump, etc. All of this happens in preparation to either defend ourselves or make a quick exit.
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things.
The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions:
could have, might have, and should have.”
The problem with fear in today’s world is that the ‘fight or flight’ response gets activated often as a result of daily stressors. Since most of us lead high-paced lifestyles, stress is a common ocurrence; hence, the physiological response gets triggered too frequently, and more often that not it’s due to ‘perceived’ and not to real threats. In the example above, there was a real threat to the caveman’s survival. However, the anxiety you feel when you have to get to a meeting and you’re sitting in traffic has the power to activate the same area of the amygdala, when in fact it is not a real life threatening situation.
In other words, nature did not design the fear response to be a non-stop occurrence. So when the ‘fight of flight’ response gets activated regularly, it will eventually take a toll on your health. This is why doctors claim that stress is the culprit of many of today’s ailments.
In all fairness, it’s hard not to fall for the stress response in today’s high-paced world, but there are ways to help you cope. Here are a few ideas to start with:
- Plan ahead
Be realistic when planning your weekly and monthly agenda. Do not pack your schedule with too many things to do. Prioritize and learn to delegate to free some of your time. And always remember that whatever you cannot do today, can always be done tomorrow.
- Turn the TV off, especially the news channels
Many people do not realize the impact that watching the news can have in their lives. Sadly, 99% of the news portrayed on TV cause distress. Even if the news come from the other side of the planet, you are human and as such, it affects you. Oftentimes the simple act of watching scenes of violence can trigger the stress response. Also important, always consider the source if you rely on social media to learn what’s happening around the world. There are plenty of fake news foating around, so don’t believe everything you read!
On a more positive note, there are plenty of good news happening daily and all around us, even though they’re rarely spoken about in the main news channels. I invite you to join us at the Positive News Group in Facebook to start your days with a positive mind 🙂
- Acknowledge fear
The worst thing you can do is to avoid confronting fear. Ignoring fear will not make it disappear; it will only make it grow to the point in which it can make you feel blocked, paralized, or stuck. Also, failing to face fear will lead to procrastination and will stop you from starting something new or achieving what you want. Recognize your kind of fear (is it fear of failure or fear of success?) and find a way to move through it regardless. Much like jumping into a pool of cold water, just jump in with both feet and you will overcome fear as you start your new endeavor. Find strenght in the memories of your past victories.
- Talk to a friend
Your friend may not have the power to stop your fear; however, talking about it can bring you comfort. When something is affecting us and causing us stress, the mere act of talking about it, will make it feel lighter. The same happens with fear. It will shrink by just talking about it with a friend who’s willing to listen.
In general, people tend to believe that meditation takes a long time to learn and then a lot of time to practice. Truth is, just 15 minutes a day (or even every other day) can work wonders for calming the mind and the spirit, bringing the balance to a busy and stressful lifestyle. Meditation also gets you grounded and helps you see things from a different perspective, making fear appear smaller or disappear altogether. Give it a try!
What do you do when you feel fear or anxiety? Do you have a technique that works? Please share in the space below. Thank you!