Do you remember the last time you felt real fear?
I was talking with a client the other day and she said “I can’t make a decision, I’m just so scared!”
It got me thinking about how fear can rule our lives. Our bodies have been programmed since the beginning, with a “fight or flight” response to keep us alive. There were REAL dangers: being eaten by wild animals, invading armies, disease and sickness. Here’s the crazy thing – our bodies don’t really know the difference between staring down a wild animal and being afraid of losing a job or a boyfriend when our brains view the threat in the same way.
We, as human beings, are hardwired to live. Unfortunately, however, far too often we become fearful of situations in our modern every day lives the way our ancestors did about being eaten, over situations that are far less life threatening, and, instead of it moving us to action the way it should, it paralyzes us. We get so caught up in the scenarios and outcomes and we let the fear of those possibilities prevent us from taking necessary next steps. We let the “what if’s” overwhelm us and get in our way.
It is absolutely appropriate to respond to the fear of surviving being hunted down by a mountain lion. It is not appropriate to apply the same fear response to surviving tax season or a big break-up. You’ve got to live in the here and now.
One morning a few weeks ago, I got a call that a neighbor’s daughter had been in a freak car accident that sent the truck she was in into a creek, where she was swept away and died. I was in shock. Horrified. My very first response was “Where’s my daughter.” She wasn’t in the house. I panicked – my heart started pounding out of my chest, all my muscles were tight and I couldn’t think straight. I was simultaneously grieving for my friend’s horrible loss and terrified that the same was happening to me. It was totally irrational to think that way but that’s exactly how your body is supposed to react in “fight or flight.” I found Madeline about ten minutes later playing in the bushes in the backyard. It took me another hour to recover from the panic.
A week later I couldn’t find my wallet. I panicked – my heart started pounding out of my chest, all my muscles were tight and I couldn’t think straight. My body reacted the same exact way to the fear that my daughter was missing, as it did to the fear that my wallet was missing.
Get this – If I can’t find my wallet, sure, it’s going to be a pain in the butt to get my cards replaced, but no one is going to die. But my body doesn’t know the difference.
When your brain decides ‘this is scary’, your body is going to react.
Fear lives within each one of us but we have a choice whether to let it rule us. I’m not saying that dangers don’t exist. But getting lost in the ‘what ifs’ over situations that are a far cry from life threatening, in a future you can’t predict, is a waste of energy.
Here are a few ideas on how to combat fear if you find it residing inside of you:
1). STAY PRESENT
The future does not exist yet. Your thoughts and projections into a future aren’t real. Stay in the present, tuned in to your senses and use your mind. You are hard-wired to survive. There is an unconscious aspect of your being that inherently knows what to do.
2). TAKE A DEEP BREATH – MAYBE TWO!
Even self defense instructors teach their students to take a breath when they are faced with a physical threat. By reminding yourself to breathe (sounds silly, but you CAN forget to breathe when you’re completely freaking out), you are not only ensuring that your brain gets the oxygen it needs to function properly, but deep, deliberate, slow breaths, slow your heart rate which calms your body, making it easier to think more clearly. When you are in a calm state of mind, you are better prepared physically to choose how you are going to react to your situation.
3). BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
So much of our fear has to do with how we perceive ourselves and our strengths. If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything. If you doubt yourself, you will not succeed. You are what you believe, so even if it seems crazy to believe you can outrun a mountain lion, survive a flood, a devastating divorce or a run in with the IRS, believe it.
I have just given you three outstanding tips to overcome fear. What are you afraid of? How have you overcome fear? I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments in the box below.
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Hayley Hobson is an author, speaker, business coach, yogi, Pilates instructor, and holistic nutritional expert based in Boulder, CO. Her unique and intelligent style promotes strengthening while softening—empowering her clients to heal not only their physical bodies but their hearts and minds as well. To learn more about her nutritional courses, events, and custom programs, visit hayleyhobson.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.