What’s your biggest fear? How does it make you feel, and what do you think it’s doing to you mentally, physically and emotionally? We don’t like to admit to our fears, so we’ve conveniently and collectively re-labeled the term. It’s okay to talk about your stress, right? Let’s dig in, and instead of making fear about stress, let’s dissolve that dreaded emotion entirely so that you can be the dynamic and determined super hero you were meant to be.
Can You Remember Your First Fear?
When was the first time you experienced stress and anxiety, aka fear? Put yourself back in your youth and remember how it felt. Where were you and who were you with? Was it daytime or night? Were you inside or outdoors? It could be difficult to find the actual feelings because negative experiences are easily buried by the brain, but with focus you can probably recall every detail.
Here’s a list of measurable physical symptoms to help jog your memory: tense muscles, hair raising on the back of your neck, shakiness, cold sweats, nausea, dry mouth, faster breathing, heart palpitations or heaviness, panic attacks, dizziness. Sound familiar? These conditions will escalate if you ignore them. It’s like your body is saying: “HEY! Wake up! You have an issue with something that happened in your past that you’re not dealing with.”
In early childhood, your brain absorbs everything because you haven’t lived long enough to develop any filters. These filters protect us, they give us perspective. We make decisions using knowledge from our previous experiences, but when you are under the age of seven, all you can do is believe everything you are learning. What does any of this have to do with your current situation? Everything. Read on…
Does Stress Cause Depression?
You bet it does. People are living with stress and anxiety almost every minute of their lives, they’re just not aware of it because their filters are active and deeply layered. Long term stress almost always leads to depression, another symptom that’s difficult to face and often buried. We don’t talk about it because it doesn’t seem real. What we notice is how it presents itself. You may not be claiming any “issues” but your body certainly is. You can help yourself heal when you learn more about the mind body connection.
Embedded Fear Steals Your Energy
Every thought you think triggers an emotion with a physical response. Every thought. Fearful thoughts have a boomerang effect, repeating and bouncing off of you only to return at the worst possible moment when you are vulnerable and drowning. That’s when we tend to self-medicate.
The brain has several resources or “sections” that it draws from. You have a primitive, instinctive Reptilian Brain, equipped with three strategies to help you deal with a perceived threat. This part of your brain has no ability to remember, learn or adapt, it just reacts. It’s very difficult to control how you feel when this defensive mode kicks into gear, you have to be prepared for it. You know it as the Fight or Flight Response. Here’s the problem, it’s switched on constantly by “perceived” threats, when you’re worrying about something that might never happen.
If you experience a specific incident, you realize after it’s all over: “Whoa! That was exhausting.” What’s happening today, chronic subtle fear-based stress fed by thousands of crazy ideas in your head, is doing just as much damage. According to the Mayo Clinic chronic stress can “wreak havoc” on your mind and body.
Your subconscious mind takes over and floods your system with everything it needs to survive in the moment. The source of the threat can be internal, as in a chronic illness, or external, as in strolling over to a stray golf ball, near a pond, and coming within a few feet of a twelve-foot gator. External threats take priority because who cares if you’re sick, you may just get eaten and then it really doesn’t matter, does it?
Physically, the body shuts down all unnecessary processes. These “unnecessary” processes are being put on hold because all of your blood is being diverted to your arms and legs so you can get out of harm’s way. Guess where the blood’s not going? To your vital organs. Your immune system plummets because the organs “stop doing their life-sustaining work of digestion, absorption, excretion and other functions that provide for the growth of the cells and the production of the body’s energy reserves.” That’s a quote from Dr Lipton, who wrote the book “The Biology of Belief.”
I know you’re not going to face a gator every day, but you can find plenty of other things in your life that cause you constant worry, like your finances, your relationships, fear of failure, fear of success. Yes, that fear of success is REAL because it means even though you could be successful, you’re worried you’re not worthy of it and can’t sustain that success. Am I right?
You May Not Think You’re Afraid, but Have You Noticed Yourself Defending Your Limiting Beliefs?
What’s a limiting belief? The things we say to our self which excuse our lack of activity.
- It’s too much work, forget it.
- I don’t have time.
- You don’t know what you’re talking about.
- I don’t care.
- I’m technologically challenged.
- I’ll never have enough money.
Are you painting a picture of the outcome? Are you defeating yourself before you even begin without knowing for sure that what you fear most is actually going to happen? This is your future we’re talking about, and you have the power to change your mind, setting the expectation that everything’s going to be okay. All you have to do is imagine the best possible outcome.
All you have to do is imagine the best possible outcome.
— Judy J Lutz (@judyjlutz) October 19, 2019
Aside from more legitimate fears, like death by cancer, let’s lighten it up a bit and discuss the kind of fear that floats around under the radar.
Back in The Day…
I used to be a paid actor, earning my way of living by singing and dancing. What fun, right? Wrong! I was incredibly insecure. Let me tell you a story about one of my favorite places in the world, Beef and Boards Dinner Theater. It was April 1988, and we were putting on the show “Singing in the Rain.” This was quite the big production because my friend Ed, the stage manager, had to figure out how to rig up live rain without electrocuting everyone involved. Here’s a photo of the cast.
That’s me on the far left. I played Dora Bailey, a character part because I really could act well and was quite the comedienne. However, this role was a devastating demotion for me personally. You see, I wanted to be a singer/dancer, they were so much more beautiful! I had this crazy ugly red wig and a fat suit. Ugh.
My insecurity, self-doubt and chronic fear cost me big time. I could have been a singer/dancer, which was my true calling. I minored in dance in college and I had the voice, but my mind would not allow me to memorize. That’s a biological response too, remember the blood flow? Processing information, your conscious mind, takes a back seat in threatening circumstances. To be perfectly blunt, fear makes you stupid. I was a novice surrounded by professionals and I had zero confidence. All I could think about was everyone watching me.
Just so you can share in my experience, I want you to imagine yourself sitting in a large audience as the lights are dimming. The show is about to start and the excitement in the air is electric. Everyone quiets down as the announcer says: “Good evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to our show. Please note that any recording of this performance, either through video or photograph is strictly prohibited…” A hush comes over the crowd in anticipation. Spotlight, Dora. Yes me, all alone, opening the show. We had rehearsed this moment many times, and in every attempt to repeat my lines I always left something out. It was a 3-minute intro, you can see the original version here. Well, the poor director finally gave up and was forced to change the script, deleting most of my lines. Everyone was totally frustrated with me and there was nothing I could do. Needless to say, I didn’t get hired for the next show.
What were my conscious limiting beliefs? “I can’t remember the line. I’m so embarrassed. This is terrible. Get me out of here.” My subconscious mind intervened on my behalf, saying:”Yay! This is what you wanted.” Fear took over and removed me from the threatening situation. You see, your mind must respond to the directions you give it, and most of us have no idea how powerful their words can be. Be careful my friends, when your subconscious is calling the shots it will always prove that it’s not what you say, it’s what you believe. Your beliefs create your reality.
How Do You Make Fear Fun?
We do it all the time! Why do you think people wait in line for hours to ride the scariest roller coaster? Or keep going back for more Halloween movies? I remember participating in multiple scare pranks, we thought it was hilarious! You Tube is filled with them, and they attract millions of viewers. Laughter is the best medicine, it erases all fear.
We were recently were threatened by a Category 5 hurricane. I’ve never lived in an evacuation zone before, and I was selfish enough to stay put during the onset of the storm. Dorian stalled and our high alert status was sustained over a period of five days. What did we do? We gathered with our friends and had a party, after all it may have been our last day on earth. My normal routine of abstaining from alcohol went right out the window, I simply could not take it any longer. As I was rapidly re-filling my wine glass I offered up dramatic interpretations of “we’re all gonna die!” as we passed that very tense time together playing cards. It’s not a good sign when the ultimate optimist loses control, but all in good fun.
Here’s the Trick
Something you may not have realized yet: all of the sensations you feel in fear are exactly the same as the ones you feel in excitement. So instead of saying “I’m really scared,” try swapping it out for “I’m really excited.” Repeat these words a few times so your brain has a chance to develop a solid belief. It has an entirely different effect. You can read more about that in a great article by Helaina Hovitz here.
Before you go, be sure to check out these two “quick tip” videos below. I broke them down, addressing the emotions of fear and stress separately, but now you know they are exactly the same thing. They cover quite a bit more than what I discussed in this article, so be sure to watch. Thanks!