What Can We Learn From Fear?
Fear can paralyse you and stop you from having an amazing life. Now more than ever before, we as a community, have been experiencing fear.
In Australia it all started in June 2019 with the fire season starting earlier than it ever has before. We were suffering a long drought for five years before that. It’s been the longest and hottest fire season ever recorded. Then came the floods and finally, COVID-19.
Our lives have been infiltrated with disasters for the past 18 months.
When you turn on the TV, listen to the radio, scroll through all social media platforms – Disasters are happening everywhere. I don’t know about you but I’m overwhelmed and exhausted by it.
Let’s look at what fear is. Fear is a part of the flight or fight response. It’s a natural part of being human. Sometimes fear is based on reality, and sometimes it’s based on what we imagine will happen. Sometimes it’s a bit of column A, and a bit of column B, like right now.
The media plays into our fears. All our advertising is about being COVID safe, and what could happen if you’re not. Melbourne, Australia is still in lock down, and has been for what seems like forever. They’re really suffering down there.
In fact my cousin, who is a personal trainer and lives alone with her gorgeous dog hasn’t been able to work since March of this year. She’s also been locked down in her home unable to visit or have anyone visit her at all.
What is Fear?
We have two reactions to fear. One is biomechanical your heartbeats faster. Adrenaline races around your body and you get sweaty. This is physical – Preparation to either stay and fight or run away. It’s a natural survival response.
The other response is emotional, which is very subjective. The chemicals in our brains during fear are that of positive emotions like happiness, and excitement.
The fight or fight response is still there in adrenaline junkies who like extreme sports and other adrenaline inducing things.
However, some people have the opposite reaction and feel fear in a negative, avoidant way. This type of fear in the extreme can lead to phobias, panic attacks and anxiety disorders.
Fear is complex because we each feel it in a different way.
Some common symptoms are:
- Racing heart
- Chest pain
- Stomach upset
- Difficulty breathing
If you have these symptoms, it’s important to get it checked out by your doctor to make sure there are no physical problems that need taking care of medically.
When Fear Is Paralysing?
Sometimes we fear things we can’t control.
This means that there’s no real physical danger but you’re still fearful. Like when you have a symptom and look it up on Doctor Google and of course you’re dying or have some disease or condition that’s life threatening in some way.
We ricochet ourselves into a future of living what might or might not be our reality. We terrify ourselves with fictional stories. Our mind tries to make sense of the unknown. As soon as you tell yourself to stop terrorising you and reassure yourself that it’s okay not to know the future, your mind will settle down.
Here’s some steps you can take to help you work through these thoughts and feelings:
- Settle your brain down by not projecting into the future. Live your life in the here and now
- Live in knowing that you can’t control other people’s reactions, only your own
- Know that you will feel uncomfortable or a little anxious and that’s okay
- Journal your thoughts and feelings
- Have conversations with people who are supportive about your fears
- Create an art journal
- Question your beliefs and stories you’re telling yourself. Are your fears real?
What You Can Do Now
Write about what you’d like to do, but aren’t doing. What’s the cost of not doing it?
- Next, record your level of fearfrom one to 10, with 1 being not fearful and 10 being paralyzed by fear
- Write about your process. How did you feel about starting? Was it difficult to complete? Were the steps you took workable and useful? What would you change if anything? Why do you think those steps worked? Would you do this fearful thing again? Is fear at the same level as it was before you started? What level are you at now? Do you think you can do it again?
- When you are catastrophizing what might happen, sit and take a deep breath. Feel your lungs expanding and deflating do this as long as it takes to calm yourself
- Have a poem, mantra or song on your phone to read or listen to
- Write your goals, even if it is just one. Where do you want to be? How long do you want to take to complete the steps to achieve your goal?
- Do the steps, complete your task, and celebrate completing your task
The Final Word
Our mind is so powerful, it can make us believe things that aren’t real, it’s imagination can run wild. Life is challenging enough without our mind making up unimaginable terror on ourselves. Know that it’s okay to live in not knowing and that we don’t have to fill in the blanks of what might happen.
Live your life in the here and now. Experience your emotions, all of them because they guide us to where we need to be.
Email me about how your mind makes up fantastic stories of fear and terror, I’d love to hear about your coping mechanisms and what fear has taught you.