What Fear Does to Your Body (and How to Beat It)
Maybe you’re afraid of heights or of clowns. Perhaps it’s the dark that sends shivers down your spine. Or could it be a fear spiders that makes you break out into a sweat?
For some of our brave colleagues, this is most definitely the case. And what to do when the office is filled with arachnophobes? Introduce them to Tina the Tarantula, of course!
If you have ever been scared, you’ll be familiar with the uncontrollable physical and psychological reactions that occur. Where does this come from? And why does it happen?
The science of fear
Although you can be afraid of many different things, it appears that all of these are rooted in one major fear. Its source derives from our intuition deep within our uncontrolled minds. There has been extensive research carried out on fear as an emotion; it is easy to study as it has a large measurable response. Scientists discovered that fear is, in fact, processed differently from other emotions, acting as a shortcut that lets threatening things bypass areas of the brain which are normally involved in sensory processing.
Fear as something useful
The original function of fear was to warn us against potential danger. Early humans that were quick to fear were more likely to survive as they reacted to the imminent risk. Most people have a basic knowledge of fight or flight mode—the body’s natural response when faced with danger. Without this instinct, we wouldn’t have evolved to be the species we are today. Many of us would have been hit by a bus or been killed in other silly ways had our intuition of fear not warned us. Thank you, fear! Why is it then, that these primal instincts can misfire, and prevent us from living a life of fulfillment?
As well as fear deriving from our basic human intuition, we are also conditioned from a young age to be afraid. Our elders continually reminded us of the potential dangers of the world, and of our need to take care and stay safe.
If you think back to your childhood, you probably had double or more as many fears as you hold now. Why? Because you outgrew them, and the great news is that it is possible to learn to cope with adult fears, too, despite established comfort zones.
Fear and courage go hand-in-hand
If you know anyone who you consider to be fearless, it is time you forgot that perception of them right away. In fact, there is no such thing as being fearless. These people are simply able to confront their fears and face them head on. In Susann Jeffers’ timeless book Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway, she explores dynamic techniques for turning fear on its head, and transforming it into power.
The first thing to accept is that fear simply cannot be avoided. And that the key to overcoming it, is to push through it. By confronting your fears and acting upon them, your quality of life will drastically improve. Jeffers’ top tips include being active and taking control of your life. Inactivity can lead to a state where you feel like a victim of your own life. By actively transforming your attitude, you’ll feel a strong sense of empowerment and you will be able to manage your fears with more ease. By tackling your fears, you are doing something highly courageous.
Get a daily dose of fear
It sounds simple. Do something that scares you every single day. That isn’t to say start living an extreme lifestyle and doing something crazy daily. The small things, such as talking to someone at a party or helping a stranger will push you out of your comfort zone enough to have an effect. Maybe the risk will pay off, or maybe it will backfire. One thing is certain that, the next time you do it, it will feel a little easier. Look for opportunities where you can expand your comfort zone.
Trust in yourself
Decisions can often seem like the scariest things to make. But why is this? Jeffers puts it down to the fact that we are all viewing them in a negative light. Focusing on what might happen if we make the ‘wrong’ decision is another avoidable fear. By accepting that there are in fact no wrong decisions, and trusting in your own ability you will find yourself more able to cope with whatever life throws at you.
By following this guidance, and committing yourself to live a fulfilling, positive life, you will discover that many of your anxieties will naturally ease. Fears are a natural part of living, but they don’t have to control your life.