Don't panic - there's 'nothing to fear but fear itself'
Uncertain. That’s the word I am hearing again and again, and if I’m honest, that’s also how I’m feeling at the moment.
There are so many external and internal things going on right now that are truly overwhelming, potentially paralysing and anxiety inducing. Which rather than discuss all the awful and scary things that are happening, I really just want to dive straight in with how to help combat some of the fear.
1. Accept that SOME fear is good.
Fear has and always will be part of our survival DNA. By reminding us of danger it creates action to keep well away from sabertooth tigers, the car that jumped the red light and that funny smelling fish.
Charles Darwin believed that our instinctive tightening of muscles is triggered by our evolved response to fear. In Joanna Bourke’s, “Fear: A Cultural History” she explains that in order to demonstrate this, Darwin went to the reptile house at the London Zoo. His aim was to remain calm behind the safety of glass whilst a Puff Adder tried to strike and attack him from the other side. Despite knowing he was safe behind the glass, his body was unable to do anything other than automatically jump back. He therefore concluded that our fear response is an ancient instinct that prevails.
So let’s put this into a more modern context; I hate driving. I truly loathe it, because it scares me. Driving at night, in the rain, on a motorway and then doing a reverse parallel park is my idea of hell. And then this summer, I decided that this fear and hatred of driving was stopping me from doing things that I love. So I took some official driving school refresher lessons, asked some very kind friends to be my co-pilot on some test drives and then this summer I drove my first rental car by myself!
Am I no longer fearful of driving? NO WAY! It still terrifies me. However, I am now able to recognise that some fear is good, to keep me alert and focused. And the more I drive the less dread I feel when I put the keys in the ignition and the more proud I am when I nail (well OK, just succeed) a reverse parallel park.
It’s OK for us to just recognise, acknowledge and even thank fear for reminding us of a (potential) danger. But then, either let that fear go or accept it, and do it anyway.
2. Start to expose yourself to the fear (even just a little bit)
Uncertainty can create a genuine fear in some of us. We allow our imaginations to run wild when we don’t know what something is or could be. However, often when we start to learn about the thing we are scared of, it can really help to diminish that fear.
Let’s take changing jobs or moving to a new country. Both things in my opinion that might not officially qualify as fear creating, but they really feel like it at the time. And when you feel that fear, the recommendation from Julia Layton’s article “How fear works” is we need to demystify the fear.
Have you ever spoken to a future colleague about the team and felt better? Or done some research on your new country and not only felt better but perhaps even changed that fear to excitement? Learning even a little about the fear changes it from being this untouchable concept to something that is real and possible to comprehend and overcome.
Therefore the next time you come across something that starts to bring up the fear. Ask yourself, is there anything I can do to learn more about the thing that I perceive as scary?
3) Get curious
Imagine a baby or a toddler that you know and think about when you show them an object, almost any object, they are entranced. They are very curious and want to learn more about it (usually by putting it in their mouths!).
As we get older and increase our knowledge we start to lose this curiosity. We get stuck in our ways and our comfort zone; thus when we come across something or someone unknown, fear can kick in. But what if we encouraged the curiosity and had a child's mind?
“Curiosity and fear don’t like to co-exist. Once you let go of one, you invite the other in” according to Ashley Elizabeth a Resilience Mastery Coach. If we think about going on holiday and how excited we are about where we are going to be staying, what new foods we’re going to try and new people and things we are going to come across. This is curiosity overcoming the potential fear of not being able to speak the language or understand the culture of the place you are visiting.
Fear is a given, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept it for long. Recognise that it’s OK to feel fear and check if you’re in real danger, start to demystify the fear and encourage your learning with your curiosity.
Things are scary both outside and inside at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t still stretch and grow who you are and what you want to do. Once it’s accepted that there is “nothing to fear but fear itself”, you will be stronger, lighter and freer.
Go forth my friends and fly!
Want to keep learning and being curious? Then register for my free online workshop “From Motivation to Action” on Wednesday 14th October (replay available*). Save your virtual seat here and show your commitment to yourself that you’re not just going to talk the talk, but walk the walk.
*you MUST register for the event in order to have access to the replay video.