‘Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.’
Are you experiencing fear? Or anxiety?
Fear is, or seems, uncontrollable. It’s there. Right? If everything around you changes and you experience external threats, fear is triggered. Fear leads to stress, and stress can block your ability to see things in perspective. Which increases fear even more.
Or you do something about it
This blog can help you to lower your fears and reduce your stress. The negative loop I just described can be interrupted. If you act with your thinking brain (prefrontal cortex), you can counterbalance the amygdala fear hijack.
First steps to less fear:
- Become aware of your fear and accept your feelings.
Acceptance will decrease the intensity of your emotions.
If acceptance is difficult for you, be at least willing to accept.
- Write down what triggers your fears. Describe it as accurately as possible.
A clear overview of what is triggering your fear makes it less threatening.
- Challenge yourself: ‘Is it true?’, ‘What outside of my control?’, ‘What can I influence?’
The answers to those questions can be good or bad news; in both cases, clarity helps you. The clarity helps you to focus on what you can influence. And helps you to accept what you cannot control.
‘Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.’
What is more important to you, freedom or safety?
This is an impossible question because it suggests you must choose one: freedom OR safety. You could also answer: ‘Both!’. That question is an example of how fear works. The danger feels real, and it is like there are no other options. And that is an illusion.
You do have more options
Are you familiar with the Power Questions by Tony Robbins? A helpful set of questions guiding you in solving problems. As an antidote to despair.
Here they are:
- What is great about this problem?
- And what is not perfect yet?
- What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
- What am I willing to no longer do to make it the way I want it?
- How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?
If you answer these questions attentively, you will notice something changes. You feel less helpless and more in charge. In charge of your choices, in charge of your actions, in charge of your life.
‘If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it.
Go out and get busy.’
What do you do?
Yes, ‘do.’ Sitting and overthinking does not reduce fear nor stress. And in many cases, this is the thing we do, sit inside our homes. Of course, it can be unattractive to go outside. I live in the Netherlands, and our winters are mostly grey, wet, and cold. Going out takes some effort, both mentally and physically.
Get your *** moving
Fear is an emotion. There is ‘motion’ in emotion. You are stirred, touched, moved. If your emotion is a negative one, you can answer it with countermotion. Hiking, running, chopping wood, cleaning up your garden (not with a leaf blower, please). Go outside, preferably in nature. Whenever I overcome my reluctance to go out, I feel much better when I get back home.
And if you want to or need to stay at home?
Then, use these tips:
- Reduce your exposure to news.
- Listen to music instead.
- Meditate or just sit and think.
What? You just told me that sitting and overthinking doesn’t work! True, most of the time, it does not work. However, if your coping-style is ‘avoidance,’ you should deliberately allow your thoughts for a limited time. Breathe deeply. Note down your thoughts. And after that: go do something.
‘No, we won’t fade into darkness
Nothing to fear but fear itself
We’ll be okay just keep the faith’
Fade Into Darkness
If all your certainties and safeguards are gone, what can you do?
You could drop into anxiety, of course. That’s only natural and useful. Will being fearful not help you stay safe?
Right. That is: if the danger is real and the fear helps you to respond well. If you are hiking down a narrow trail along a steep rockface, the fear will help you stay on track. However, if you are walking on a high rise walkway of an apartment building, and you feel so much fear you don’t dare to walk, something goes terribly wrong.
Where do you find certainty and safety?
Everything material disintegrates someday, even your body. That is the biggest fear for most of us: that you lose your material self. That’s why we trigger so hard on illness and death. People used to, and still are, looking for certainty in religion and spirituality. To keep it practical and universal, you can do this:
- Stay true to your values.
Get to know them. Acknowledge them. Celebrate them.
If ‘love’ is one of your values, be loving. If ‘honesty’ is one of your values, be honest.
- Prioritize your primary relationship, kids, and best friends.
- Choose a mission, a purpose. What is your legacy?
Living for your loved ones and for a higher goal makes it also worth dying for.
And that makes you courageous.
To fight fear, act. To increase fear – wait, put off, postpone.
David Joseph Schwartz
What can you do to reduce fear and stress?
If you are stressed or in fear, or both, what can you do about it? As I wrote early in this series, the best start is not ‘doing’; the best start is accepting. Boring! We are wired for action. Our fellow humans who stayed in the cave, shivering fearfully, they are not here anymore.
What practical steps can you take?
If you suffer from fear as a phobia, the therapy is: exposure. There are roughly two ways: slow (systematic desensitization) and fast (flooding). Anyhow the idea is not to move away from what causes fear; you move towards it. And you will discover nothing scary or dangerous happens.
If the stress of fear is not too bad, and still you would like to reduce it, do this:
- Think about what can go wrong and what you can do about it.
Plan for the worst; hope for the best.
- Decide what actions you are willing to take and which ones not.
Limit yourself to things you can influence.
- Choose courage above fear.
Take actions you know are helpful, even if they scare you. Exposure lowers your fears and stress levels.
It helps to talk to someone who genuinely listens. To re-see things in perspective. To relax and activate you to continue with renewed courage. If you are looking for a professional coach feel free to contact us.
Be courageous and feel free.
I wish you inner peace.