Imagine the scene. You step off public transport and begin the regular walk home. Its dark and no one else is around. You can hear the echo of your shoes crashing against the floor, only these are not the only footsteps you can hear. A short distance behind you can hear another set of footsteps taking a similar path to you. A reflection of the bus shelter show the footsteps belong to a man around 6ft wearing a dark hoodie covering his head. Suddenly you notice a strong tightening of your stomach, your heart begins to beat faster and your mouth dries up. You take a sharp left turn down an alley only to find its a dead end. Quickly turning back you find in your path the hooded man. Your breathing quickens as you experience tunnel vision and your muscles tighten in anticipation for your survival instinct to kick in.
Now imagine this. You are sitting at home on your comfortable chair and your mind wanders to what you are going to be doing in a weeks time. You have to do a presentation in front of a 100 people. As you imagine what is going to take place you start to have visions of your mouth moving but nothing coming out, the crowd getting restless and starting to walk out. Suddenly your mind comes back into the room and notice a tightening of your stomach, your heart begins to beat faster and your mouth dries up as your mind goes back to that day in the near future. A shortness of breath brings you back to the moment.
These two examples highlight the effect fear can have on your body, but the interesting factor is how you can experience fear whether it is real (the former) or imagined (the latter).
Fear is as necessary to humans as their eyes and arms. Back when we were marching across the savanna and either hunting or being hunted, fear kept our attention on red alert. Any rustle in the trees sent a signal to the brain for it to instantly decide whether to prepare to fight, to flee or to freeze. And yet a lot of that danger has been eradicated through modern day living, but what has enhanced is our ability to create Oscar winning movies in our mind about what bad things can happen in the immediate future. Even though these mind movies are not real, they can create a physiological response that makes your body think it needs to be on high alert.
So what can you do to ensure you are not fighting illusionary sabre tooth tigers every day? Here are 3 suggestions to explore:
Move! – Your body is designed to move, but the change in body positioning that occurs when moving can change our state to one that reduces the fear. If you find yourself feeling bad because you are imagining a catastrophe occurring the following week, stand up and start walking, ensuring your head is up, back straight and your shoulders pulled back.. This can take your mind off what you are imagining and onto what is now in your immediate environment.
Accept – Trying to resist an emotion is like fuel that makes it stronger. Pretending it is not happening is like a child that wants sweets in the shop but is being ignored; the child gets louder. By accepting the experience of fear you are beginning the process of understanding that just because you are feeling fear doesn’t mean it needs to paralyze you to the spot. The late Susan Jeffers coined the term ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. By accepting you are feeling fear you can decide how to react to it.
Give your internal dialogue an upgrade – Aside from making images in your mind that can create fear, your internal dialogue can provide an avenue for prolonging the fear. However there are many things you can do with your internal dialogue that can reduce the emotional response that is associated with it. You can change the actual dialogue, you can make it quieter, you can slow it down, you can speed it up. All of this can have an impact when you have an awareness of the emotional change that occurs when you make those tweaks.
Too many people get held back by a fear that has been created in their mind. Yet it doesn’t have to be like that and by applying these 3 suggestions you can work towards handling your fear instead of it handling you.
Aaron Morton is the creator of The Confidence Lounge. A platform where you can discover how to increase self-confidence from the inside out. Aaron works with individuals to unleash their creativity and not to play small when going for what they want. If you want to learn more about igniting that confidence inside you, go to www.theconfidencelounge.com