Fear it is one of the most powerful human emotions.
As negative as it is, there is an upside to it. If you are in the woods and you see a bear, you should be fearful. If you are in your home and a fire starts, your sense of fear should propel you to get to safety.
But in our competitive, status-driven world, many people are subservient to this powerful emotion that prevents them from achieving their highest potential.
We have all probably experienced the feeling of ‘the fear’. It’s a commonly used phrase. You feel nausea, your stomach is in knots. Your mind is racing, unable to concentrate on one thing, but constantly returning to the dread of the upcoming event. You feel sweaty and on edge.
The emotion of fear doesn’t just work when faced with actual physical dangers like fire or wild animals. That may have been the case in ancient times. However, our bodies and minds still work in the same way as our ancestors, it’s just that the things we react to with fear are bills, money problems and relationships!
Fearful feelings work against us when we are faced with situations that we feel are threat to your current status, regardless of whether our current status is beneficial to us. Fear can strike us in a variety of situations, it could be at a job interview or when we are are required to give a speech. Fear could take over when we go on a date or when sitting an exam.
The emotion of fear does not work alone though. It works in conjunction with anxiety. Fear and anxiety are emotional cousins. They go together like peanut butter and jelly.
Anxiety is essentially the fear of the future. It is the fear of would could go wrong, when we convince ourselves that; “it’ll never work” or “I’m never going to get that job”
Fear and anxiety are formidable emotions that everyone experiences. However, some allow these emotions to take over their lives and become restrained by them.
As the author Katherine Paterson once said: “To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another”.
Here are some hints and tips to deal with situations if you feel overcome with fear and anxiety;
1) Don’t run from the fear.
Accept the inevitability of negative thoughts — don’t try to repress or control them. Everyone has negative thoughts at one point or another. It’s how we deal with them that matters.
2) Recognise that thoughts are just that, they are thoughts, they are not a reality.
Anxiety brought on by negative thinking can be combated by simply taking a moment to oneself, and reflecting.
Through our (negative) thinking we often make mountains out of molehills. If you are fearful of an upcoming event, think to yourself; “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Is that ‘really’ going to happen? Or am I just thinking the worst?
3) Accept the uncertainty of life.
You may be one of these people who experience anxiety due to not knowing what the future holds. You could be the type of person who is constantly struck down with the “what ifs?” and always thinking of the worst case scenario.
Simply put, life is uncertain. We can’t control it, and trying to do so only leaves us frustrated and exasperated. Life is easier if we accept its uncertainties and live in the present.
4) Feeling anxious about that upcoming report for work? The one that requires speaking to a bunch of your superiors? Go for a run.
Exercise doesn’t cure all, but it is a wonderful way to reduce stress levels.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America advises that those who regularly undertake vigorous exercise are 25% less likely to develop an anxiety disorder.
Feeling stressed and anxious not only affects your mind, it also affects the rest of your body. Stress depletes your energy levels, your concentration and your overall ability and willingness to get things done. When exercising your body produces endorphins, chemicals produced in the brain which act as natural painkillers. Scientists have discovered that these endorphins help reduce levels of stress by ensuring sounder sleep patterns, which in turn helps reduce tension in the body, elevate mood levels and help with overall feelings of self-esteem.
5) Remember to do one thing properly; remember to breath.
When you feel anxious and fearful, your body responds. When you are anxious the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide are not set at the correct levels. These levels can be corrected and regulated through specific breathing exercises.
One such exercise is known as the 7/11 technique. It can be used in a variety of situations. It can be used to calm panic attacks. It can be used to relax at the end of a particularly stressful day or to aid in concentration before a potentially stressful exam or meeting.
How does it work?
The 7/11 breathing technique works on the body’s autonomic nervous system. When we breathe in, receptors are stimulated to quicken our heartbeat, increase our breathing rate and increase our adrenalin production. When we breathe out our receptors are stimulated to slow our heartbeat, reduce our breathing rate and decrease adrenaline production.
In short, when we breathe in we get excited and when we breathe out we relax.
2) Sit in a chair, shoulders relaxed with your hands folded over your tummy.
3) Take a controlled breath and count to 7 as you inhale. Breathe out and count to 11 as you exhale. Repeat this 10 times.
4) When you are taking these breathes be aware of your diaphragm. As you breath in your tummy will get bigger and be pushed out.
5) If you cannot breathe in to the count of 7 and out to the count of 11 reduce the number being counted. Count to 3 and 6 respectively to start and then build up. Just as long as the out-breath is longer than the in-breath.
6) The out breathes decrease your blood pressure, dilates your pupils and slows your heart rate. All these things lower emotional arousal in the body, thus reducing your stress levels.
7) Perform this practice 3-4 times a day or specifically when you are feeling stressed and anxious. After just two weeks you should see a difference in your overall management of your stress levels.