Learn to befriend your fears (and make the most of it)

Author: Vasco Gaspar

Fear is perhaps the most… scary emotion! In fact, there are even some people who develop the “queen of phobias”: fear of having fear.

Normally, nobody likes to feel the fear but it is an undeniable fact that this emotion has played a key role in our survival since time immemorial. Ever wondered what if your “great great grandfather” would have been afraid of that lion in the Savanna? Maybe you would not have been here today, reading this article right  now …

Fear allows us to respond automatically to a threat, without giving a second thought. This response usually leads to one of the three ways of action: to flee, fight or paralyze.

The real problem with fear arises when it is created by our mind without any real basis . Thus, it becomes dysfunctional, protecting us from “excessiveness” and preventing  us, for example, to quickly take a decision before a challenge at hand. In such a situation, we may have several kinds of fears: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being alone, fear of being criticized, etc… Now since our “body” does not distinguish whether the threat is a real one or imagined, it develops the same kind of physiological in response to the stress situation which leads to the activation of a set of mechanisms that reduce creativity, responsiveness, flexibility, learning ability and disease resistance.

So what can be done in situations that triggers fear? First of all you have to accept fear as a normal emotion and a friend to your body which has the function to warn you against potential threats. I suggest that you try to be present, as much as you can during that particular moment and try out the following:

- Take note how  the fear manifests in your body: Do you feel the blood gushing  to the hands, as if preparing you to fight? Or does the same goes for the legs, literally preparing  you to “run away” ? Or do you stand still, almost breathless, expecting to suddenly become almost “invisible”?

- Swiftly, shift your attention to your thoughts: What images, feelings or words pop-up  in your head? Quickly review  them and ask yourself this simple question:  “Are they real or is it just  my mind playing imaginary scenarios”. You know, Americans tend to joke that the word FEAR can be decomposed into False Evidence Apparently Real.

If you find your thoughts to be baseless, without any real evidence and just fictional productions of your mind, then have the courage to move forward, because often the ‘imaginary fears’  are pointing towards what we need to explore in our lives. Furthermore, we can grow only if we leave our comfort zone because then we are forced to develop new skills to face new challenges, as it’s been said that “It’s not the brave one who is not afraid, but the one who progresses despite of being afraid”.

By learning to manage your fears, you unconsciously set an example to your children on how to manage their own fears. Children’s worlds are yet to expand; they will meet new and unfamiliar situations as they grow and by being their model now, you can give them a lasting gift.

So next time you feel that “tightness” in your stomach, accept it and be grateful because it can be a great opportunity for you to grow a little more as a person.

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