It is amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for the mind, body and soul. Quality sleep gives us the best chance to cope with whatever our day may bring. This time of rest is meant to help keep our brains focused on positive thoughts and minimize the challenges we face on a daily basis. Included in the laundry list of challenges is overcoming fear, which is difficult to conquer even after a good night’s sleep.
Hardly a day passes in our house when the subject of fear is not addressed in one form or another. Not only do my wife and I fight anxiety, but three out of four of our kids also struggle with it. Worry and fear go hand in hand. I have a front row seat for witnessing the devastating effects of living a fear based life.
In a perfect world, its sole purpose is to protect us from perceived threats. Fight or flight response is a chemical process in our brain that indicates when we are in danger. It is an innate biological reaction that happens when unsafe situations arise. As humans, living a fear free life would be dangerous and completely insane. How else would know to run from a bear or move out of the way of moving traffic?
Our reaction to scary things may be encoded in our DNA, but it can also be a learned behavior. In fact, most is learned. Ouch. I know. Our reactions to everyday life can inadvertently teach our kids to be afraid. Many irrational fears are just moments when our brain over corrects, invents, or inflates a perceived threat. Learned fears are what stop us cold and prevent us from achieving inner peace and happiness.
The short list includes the fear of rejection, abandonment, failure, inadequacy, commitment, intimacy, or even success. How many times does the fear of hurting others stop us from acting in our own best interests? How often do we feel like our efforts are not enough? Being afraid is an action that is contagious and is found at the heart of so much chaos in our relationships, families, and lives.
Years of self-introspection and analysis, hundreds of self-help books, and mountains of research on the topic has enlightened me about what fear is, what it is not, and what things I can do to keep it from running the show. Yay me. However knowing about it and learning how to overcome it are two totally different things. Boo me. Determination, faith, and most importantly mindfulness, are prerequisites for the task.
Even on a good day, successfully drawing on these three skills simultaneously can be a feat. Although there is no simple solution or pill that will instantly evict fear from our hearts and minds, I can offer some suggestions to help move past what keeps us from living a peace filled life. The climb may be steep, but well worth the view from the top of the mountain.
I am a fan of lists. Making lists can help expose the roots of the weed so that it can be pulled from the ground. Some prefer to avoid their fears as a coping technique. This may work in the short term, but in the long term things often become worse. The act of writing out what troubles us is therapeutic on many levels.
What are you afraid of? You must to name it before you can do anything about it. This is the hardest part of the process. Naming it serves two purposes. First, it forces us to acknowledge its presence and the impact it has on our lives. Second, it puts our negative thoughts on notice and signals a willingness to begin the work involved. As we think so shall we be. Once named, we can begin the process of evaluating alternative responses or reactions to the things in life that create the most dread.
Another handy tip, one that I have a love hate relationship with, is to allow yourself to feel our fears. Our natural reaction is to run away from them, which ultimately feeds it. Feeling the fear strips it of its power and offer evidence that this too shall pass. It is not fun, but it is necessary and works. Sometimes we forget the mind is just as capable of removing fear as it is creating it.
Coming out was a crash course in facing my own fears. Writing my book Switching Teams would not have been possible without a willingness to face things head on. Everything caught up with me in very short order and no other choice remained but to finally start the process of thinking and feeling my way out of the avalanche. Realizing that my operating system was flawed helped me to find the courage to shift my thinking.
My life changed when I recognized fear was running the show. My come to Jesus moment happened when my desire to live authentically was greater than any of my fears. This process looks different for each of us and varies depending on the circumstance. Overcoming negative thoughts is a decision. There are few of us who have successfully mastered the art of wishing away worry and anxiety.
Fear is a liar that we seldom call out on its deception. Feeling uncomfortable is one of our least favorite emotions and fear tricks us in to believing the idea that discomfort is something to be avoided at all costs. Waging a war on the presence of fear in our minds is a frightening undertaking. Negotiating with the terrorist within our own thoughts is an exercise in futility however taking steps to loosen the stronghold in our lives is critical to our personal growth, happiness, and well-being.
Examining the impact that operating from a fearful mindset has on our lives jumps start the process of embracing our authentic selves and nurturing our ability to embrace fearless living. As I have mentioned many times, the single most helpful book I have read on this subject is called Fearless Living written by Rhonda Britten. If you are battling fear, this book will not disappoint.
As you take on your week, I encourage you to take one small step toward letting go of whatever may be blocking your path to peace. Be mindful of the fact that what we fear is often much worse in our heads than it will be in real life. If you are feeling especially bold and inspired, I highly recommend telling fear to fuck off as part of your plan of attack.