How many important, potentially life changing, actions or decisions have you avoided over the course of your life because of fear?
Fear is unavoidable; it’s part of our human experience. It helps protect us from danger – real or imagined.
Fear confronts us in many guises, including the fear of:
- being judged
- physical harm
Fear is basically a defence mechanism that serves to help us safely navigate through the uncertain, unpredictable, and at times, dangerous situations life can throw at us. When in danger we need to act quickly. Any deliberation can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
Anxiety is fear aroused in response to potential danger. It ensures we remain vigilant and take care when faced with uncertainty or threat. A certain level of anxiety is useful, but when this kind of fear becomes overwhelming our response to it can be both debilitating and limiting. So it’s important that we have some strategies for keeping our fear under control.
Here are six strategies to help you remain in control when experiencing irrational fear.
1. Change Your Breathing
By using a breathing technique such as the 7/11-breathing-technique you can immediately calm yourself down. And when you focus on the breath you focus on the present moment. And as you focus on your breath in the present moment, there is no anxiety, because anxiety is a product of worrying about the outcome of a future event. When your focus is on the present, there is just calmness. You may find that 7/11 breathing is all you need to let go of the fear and calm yourself.
2. Change Your Physiology
Mind and body are one system. Our physiology is intricately tied to our emotions. In fact, our physiology is the external reflection and manifestation of our emotions. It is therefore very important that in the moment we are struck by fear we become aware of the changes in our body, noticing how we are moving, and positioning our body.
When in a state of fear or panic, the body moves differently than when calm, cool and collected. An awareness of how we are holding and moving our body enables us to consciously take control of our physiological responses to help relieve the symptoms we are experiencing. For example we can adopt the Power Pose.
Two minutes of Power Posing leads to hormonal changes that configure your brain to be assertive, confident and comfortable and can reduce your cortisol (stress hormone) level by up to 25-percent. (Watch Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy delivering her TED Talk Your body language shapes who you are).
Another good way to change your physiology is through exercise such as a powerwalk, run, swim or cycle ride. As I discussed in last week’s Blog, exercise helps us to release the adrenalin that builds up inside when we trigger the stress response. The act of moving your body with purpose can be exactly what we need to help us regain control and begin to think with a little more clarity.
3. Change Your Self Talk
Most people exacerbate their fears with the language they use and the pictures they form in their heads. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we tell ourselves frightening stories on a daily basis about what the future holds for us.
Once we tune into our self-talk and become aware of it, it puts us back in the driving seat. We can take conscious control of what we’re saying/thinking and replace those negative messages with positive, optimistic self-talk. This immediately shifts our focus and what we focus on we get more of, which means that our self-talk needs to focus on:
- a positive outcome
- all the resources we have at our disposal to achieve that outcome
- all the benefits that achieving that outcome will deliver
When we talk to ourselves in a positive, optimistic, empowering way it can help push us forward past our fear.
4. Change Your Mind-set – reframe your fear
Sometimes all it takes to gain control of our fear is to reframe our experience (a mind-set change). For example we can do this by telling ourselves that:
- we are not under stress but are in fact being challenged.
- the feelings we are experiencing are not stress but in fact signs that we are feeling excited, courageous, motivated.
Another way we can reframe our fear is to see it as the fuel we need for motivation and proactive action.
Reframing is a great tool for quickly gaining control over negative emotions, and is one of the key life skills I teach clients seeking help with overcoming their anxiety and stress.
5. Change Your Beliefs
We’ve all heard the expression ‘seeing is believing’. To see your fears for what they truly are, it helps to get them out of your head and down onto paper. Grab a sheet of paper and write down your fears. Take a look at your list. Now you have exposed your fears, and they are out in the open, you are in a position to do something about overcoming them.
Take each fear on your list and challenge its validity.
* What evidence is there that proves this fear is real?
* What evidence is there that proves otherwise?
Your answers to these questions will help you to loosen the grip on the belief that underpins the fear.
Now ask yourself:
* What must I believe to overcome this fear successfully?
* What must I believe to live fearlessly?
The answers to these questions will weaken that old belief a little more.
It's important to invest some time in developing one or more new empowering beliefs to replace the old belief that used to trigger your fear. Write this empowering belief down on a piece of card or type it into your phone. Make a point of reading this new empowering belief out loud, three or more times a day.
We associate words with specific emotional experiences and as you verbalise your new empowering belief you generate a corresponding positive emotion. The emotion becomes associated with the words. And as you say the belief, imagine yourself behaving in accordance with this new belief.
Here are some examples of empowering beliefs:
* I am being more and more courageous…
* The sensations I'm feeling are excitement. My body id telling me it's ready for action …
* I've been here before and faced my fear. It only made me stronger…
When you say your new belief out loud it will put you in a more positive frame-of-mind and help you push past your fear.
6. Expand your Comfort Zone
Fear keeps us locked inside our comfort zone (read my post Are you stuck within your comfort zone?).
To conquer our fears we often need to take some risks and be open to change, open to new experiences and perspectives. We have to step out of our comfort zone and into the unknown, to do something that we might never have done before. Taking this step into the unknown is uncomfortable but discomfort is a good thing. It’s a signal that we are learning, growing and moving forward in life.
In order to expand your comfort zone it’s important to do things you fear as often as possible when you don’t have a great deal on the line. This might include simple things such as speaking to strangers, standing up for yourself by expressing your opinion or desires aloud, or it might mean simply challenging yourself in a new way that helps push you outside your comfort zone.
The more you expand your comfort zone, the more your self-confidence and courage will grow. By expanding your comfort zone you are rewiring your brain which means you'll become better equipped to overcome your fears in future. In fact, once you've confronted a fear a few times it starts to lose its power over you.
If one or more fears are holding you back from living the life you want and achieving the successes you desire, then solution focused coaching could be the key that sets you free from the prison that fear has been holding you in. If you'd like to explore how I can help you overcome your fear, contact me on 021 056 8389, email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Book Now button to arrange a no-obligation 30 minute consulation.
Wishing you a safe, happy week.
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).