By Mia Redrick, The Mom Strategist
Fear causes a multitude of reactions in our bodies. It causes physical, emotional, and psychological reactions. When our fight or flight response is tripped, suddenly our bodies kick into overdrive, and we feel the need to run away. On a physical level, we don’t want anything to do with our fear, so we naturally avoid all instances that have anything to do with it. On an emotional level, we feel an enormous amount of stress that would not exist if we did not have this fear. On a psychological level, we have a mental block that we can’t seem to get past. All of these reactions have an impact on how we respond to our fears. They tell us whether we are going to keep moving forward or turn the other way.
However, it’s important to remember that our instinctual response to fear has two components: fight or flight. The flight response seems much easier in many cases because we have the ability to avoid our fears most of the time, but this two-pronged instinct means that we have the ability to choose the other response. We must choose to face and then fight our fear if we want to get past it.
On a human level, there are three possible reactions to fear. You can face it, avoid it, or just kind of address it, which basically means you don’t entirely take it on with all the force that it needs. This is a partial fight that we don’t put our whole hearts into. But we must fight back against our fears ferociously if we want them to dissipate.
I’ve been training for a triathlon. I have to bike, swim, and run, and just the thought of swimming for a long distance strikes fear into my heart. I am not a great swimmer. In fact, water creates a lot of anxiety for me, but I am facing this fear head-on in order to quench it. As I’ve been working on this fear, I’ve seen three important steps to facing it.
- Rate your standards of living. The very first step in facing your fear is to look at your life as a whole. What are you missing out on? Fears are self-limiting beliefs that keep us from experiencing everything life has to offer. Our standard of living is lower when we harbor these fears because we miss a lot of experiences we would have enjoyed otherwise. If you want to face your fear, the first thing you have to do is come to grips with what you are missing out on. When you see what you could be doing, then you know that it’s time to move and face this fear. I see how much most people enjoy spending time in the water, and I know that this is something I’m missing out on. Swimming is a great form of exercise, and my fear has kept me from enjoying this wonderful way to get in shape. But I have to be aware that this is the effect that fear is having on my life before I can change it.
- Change your belief system. Once you realize what you’ve been missing in your life, then it is time to start working on that belief system. The problem with fears is that they cause us to see things that aren’t real. Instead of telling ourselves things that are true, we’re filling our minds up with falsehoods. What you believe has a drastic effect on your life and your standard of living. Your belief system is what’s responsible for your fear, and when you change what you believe, you then have the power to start moving to overcome that fear. I could choose to believe that I won’t be able to finish the swimming portion of my triathlon because I’m afraid, but the only way I will be able to finish it is if I believe that I can and I know that fear does not control me.
- Take action. The final step is to actually take action against that fear. You have to find a way to shift your perspective when you are dealing with fear. Find something else to look at. When I’m swimming and I look at the bottom of the pool, all I want to do is get out, but when I look ahead toward the end of the pool, I see a finish line—a milestone that marks something I have never accomplished before. I have never competed in a triathlon before, and I have certainly never chosen to swim in any kind of competition before, but when I see the end of that pool, I see an accomplishment I can be proud of, and this drives me to the finish line. I no longer want to get out of the pool because I can see the goal and the benefit of staying in the water.
Fear is something that can creep in and take over our lives if we let it, but we always have the power to fight back against it. By simply changing the way we think, we have the ability to face our fears head-on and fight back against them. When we choose the fight response instead of the flight one, we are making a conscious choice to improve our lives. We are acknowledging that things need to change and that we have the power to change them. Fear can be a paralyzing feeling, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s all in the way you view it and how you think.
Mia Redrick, Mom Strategist is a mom of three, author and speaker empowering one million mothers to practice better self-care. Redrick is the author of Time for mom-Me: 5 Essential Strategies for A Mother’s Self-Care. For tips from The Mom Strategist visit www.findingdefinitions.com.