For many of us fear is something we deal with on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s a huge, impending threat (like death or tax time), or something relatively small. While fear itself is not necessarily a bad thing (in fact it is an important survival mechanism), the cumulative effects and repercussions can be enormous, and extremely destructive to ourselves and those around us. With this in mind, learning to control and conquer our fears is an essential skill, we should all have, in order to lead richer, fuller lives.
For that reason, we’ve crafted a quick and easy challenge to help you identify, and overcome all your fears like a true Super hero. Take the challenge here!
Before we can really conquer our fears though, we need to know what we’re dealing with. Fear is a feeling of distress that arises from a sense of an impending threat. What’s really interesting about this, is that the threat needn’t necessarily be a real, tangible danger. Indeed an indirect or imagined threat is often much more powerful and debilitating. A prime example of this phenomenon is in horror movies, where the suspense and the looming sense of danger is often much more terrifying than the confrontation itself. Real or imagined though, the phenomenon is in fact an important evolutionary survival mechanism, which serves to protect us from harm. In the presence of fear, our adrenal glands kick into overdrive, flooding our system with adrenaline, stimulating our blood and oxygen flow, which heightens our physical functions of strength and speed, and dilates our pupils, enhancing our ability to see, detect and therefore avoid danger. While this is without doubt an amazing and remarkable function, it is not without it’s drawbacks.
In the modern world we live in, where mankind has taken dominion over most of the planet, this acute system of ours, honed over millennia, is no longer as imperative to our survival as it once was, and adverse effects are a natural by-product when not dealt with appropriately.
Today the vast majority of the fear we experience is of a non-physical nature; fear of failure, humiliation, public speaking, etc, and without a direct threat to respond to, or an appropriate outlet, this fear and the physiological effects it brings, result in impaired mental capacity, and reduced logical and rational information processing. When therefore, fear begins to drive our thoughts and actions, our reactionary ability is compromised and we often find ourselves scrambling to protect our illusions of security and safety, thereby inhibiting ourselves from ever really learning from the experience, growing as people and blocking our ability to reach a place of courage, joy, peace or acceptance.
The implications of fear left unchecked are far reaching and incredibly damaging. Because fear is to us a position of vulnerability, our tendency is to turn this fear into anger – a much more powerful and less vulnerable emotion.
Given that our minds are the Captains of our vessels and the interactions we have with the world, the presence of fear can be a poisonous influence.
Physiologically speaking, it threatens to weaken our immune system, cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems (ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, decreased fertility, etc), impair brain functions (particularly causing damage to the hippocampus), and our ability to regulate emotion; making us more susceptible to react to future stimuli with fear or anger and ultimately can lead to clinical depression, accelerated ageing, and even premature death.
It’s clear then how damaging the influence of fear can be, therefore it’s all the more important to realise that you can never truly run from your fear. You can keep on running, but sooner or later, you will find yourself backed into a corner. Therefore, one of the most valuable skills for both our mental and physical health that we can teach ourselves and others is how to control, and conquer our fears.
The truth is, there is no “easy way”, or side-stepping this process; the way to conquering fear is to tackle them head on, not to run around them. Start small and progressively shatter your limits. With each little victory, you will gain the courage to tackle the next, and will find yourself empowered in the process.
The truly courageous are not those without fear, but those who stand up and face that fear head on. In doing so, they unlock perhaps the greatest super power that we as a species can wield; by harnessing the adrenaline fuelled, hyper-sensitivity of their fear – all senses functioning at optimal capacity, and clear-headed focus and mental acumen. It’s a phenomenon well known to adventure sports athletes, simply referred to as “the zone”. More importantly though, by squaring up to your fears, and tackling them face to face, you “flex the muscle” of courage, gain a new sense of freedom, inner confidence, and faith in your own power and potential.
With this in mind, we’ve created a five step process to help you master your fear, and push your own limits, through much trial and error. Check it out.
Identify your fear
Make sure you’ve identified the true root cause – the dirty, brutal, uncomfortable truth; acknowledge and accept it. By doing so, it will begin to lose it’s power. Mental game is half the battle.
Visualise yourself overcoming that fear in a real-time scenario, make it as vivid as possible in the details as possible. Break it down step by step. Repeat regularly and it will start to feel normal, or at least more comfortable.
Quick, shallow breathing is often a catalyst of anxiety, and other symptoms often follow. If you can control your breathing, you can keep your mind focused and in control.
Breathe in through your nose, and out through the mouth. Exhale for roughly twice the amount of time as the inhale. This is a proven method to lower your heart rate.
Find someone to join you in the journey and help you along the way. Having someone beside you takes the onus off just your own shoulders, and provides the extra push to get it done. This is universally applicable, whether you want to hit the gym more, conquer fears, or anything that takes some pattern-forming.
It’s time – you’re ready. Stay focused, stay calm and go. You’ve got this!!
To wrap this up, remember, fear in itself is just an elegant survival mechanism that we ourselves can master. By conquering your fears and pushing your own limits, you will empower yourself for a richer life.
If you’re struggling to overcome your fears, or you could use another hand, check out the Dream of Flight Challenge! for that extra little push, and to help you on the way!!