Fear by definition is an emotional response induced by a perceived threat, which causes a change in the brain and organ function, as well as in behavior.
When we experience fear, we may run from it, hide from it, or just freeze! Fear may emerge from a threatening situation, avoidance of confrontation, or in a form of discovery.
Eight years ago when I was diagnosed with Lyme disease I had a deep-seated fear of never walking again; that I would never be able to take long aimless walks like the days before. Chained by a swollen, numbed out limb that refused to operate as usual. During the months of incapacitation, being on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds, the ‘Fear’ became my teacher. It allowed me to be reflective and acknowledge that it could’ve been much worse. I came to the understanding of adjusting to the change, as fear slapped me in the face in accepting help from others, and not just depending on myself. I was so used to relying only on myself and being everybody’s caretaker. I was just existing and not living.
I found it necessary to ‘befriend’ fear to help me feel I was alive, and not just existing. During this time, I came to realize it is an impossible feat to eliminate fear from my life entirely. Therefore, I’m allowing myself to accept the validity of this emotion, seeing that it builds character, and teaching me what I have within me; possessing the strength and courage!
Ways To Befriend Your Fear:
Because the brain is actually designed to thwart our conscious efforts to override the fear response, changing our relationship to fear isn’t easy, but it can be done by becoming more mindful, getting comfortable with uncertainty, and even welcoming and leaning into fear.
Here are some proven methods to relate better to our fears, stress, and worried minds:
· Breathe – Consciously take slow, deep breaths into your abdomen to inform the parasympathetic nervous system that things are OK.
· Put your feelings into words – Labeling an emotion, by talking or writing, helps the brain process and diffuses it.
· Train, practice, and prepare – Through repetition and experience, you can program yourself to perform and make better decisions under stress as the procedure becomes routine and automatic in the brain.
· Redirect your focus – Instead of turning your attention inward, growing preoccupied with worries, concentrate on the present moment and on the task at hand.
· Mindfully disentangle from worries and thoughts – Learn to observe your thoughts and worries, distance yourself from them, and let them pass without getting hooked into them.
· Expose yourself to your fears – To hit the mute button on fear, you have to allow yourself to feel afraid and expose yourself to it. Clark writes: “Moving through a fear is the only way out of it.”
· Learn to accept uncertainty and lack of control – By actually facing your fears of the future, accepting reality, and basking in your uncertainty, for instance, by repeating and exploring a distressing worry, without resisting the anxious emotional reaction, you and your amygdalae habituate to the idea, and calm down. With exposure and acceptance, a fear loses its power.
· Reframe the situation – When anxious biases appear about a situation, we can learn to consciously change our perspective by looking for the good, speculating possible positive outcomes, and not buying into the negative thoughts.
· Joke around – Research shows that humor helps a person break out of a negative point of view and see things differently.
When you face your fear and you keep going, you become stronger and less afraid. Going through this experience helps you become much wiser. In essence fear is your teacher, where it enables you to go through tremendous growth and survive. The fear we face is often the beginning of wonderful change in our lives.
Now I'm able to enjoy those long walks in nature and am extremely thankful!