I never realized how pervasive my fear and anxiety was until I finally broke free of it. Looking back I can see it had a silent grip on me in so many areas of my life. Like a ball and chain, it gave me just enough room to move whereby I could manoeuvre day-to-day within my comfort zone, but not enough room where I felt able to go any further. Thankfully, over the last few years that’s all changed. Below are 5 key insights that helped me to break free, along with a simple 4-step process you can implement right now to interrupt fear and anxiety in the same way I did, spring-boarding yourself in a whole new positive direction.
Unless a large animal with sharp teeth, or an angry person with a weapon, is chasing you (whereby you should turn and run for your life), then fear is just an “feeling messenger” signalling that you’re entering uncertain territory and that something amazing is available to you – expansion beyond your comfort zone. In this way, fear is healthy and normal.
To realise that fear is healthy and normal is liberating, because it means you don’t have to wait to have “no fear” before you act, and it means you can feel the fullness of your fear while taking action and know that nothing is wrong with you or with the situation!
Quite simply, you are not designed to be fearless. And everyone has the inbuilt capacity to use their fear to fuel them forward, to be fear-conquering in each moment, to aid their personal growth.
In my own experience, and in working with many people over the years, I see that most fear and anxiety (not all) is generated by thoughts you are having about “X” (person, thing, event, circumstance, possibility).
The fear and anxiety is not based on something happening before your eyes in this present moment, but rather it’s an emotional reaction to an internal dialogue in your mind.
Further, most fear and anxiety (not all) is generated specifically by thoughts that are future projected – you are fearful and anxious about something that might happen (in the next second, hour, day, week, month or year).
If you logically understand that thoughts are the root cause of your fear and anxiety, and specifically thoughts that are future projected, then you have found your Point of Power… because your thoughts can be changed, and the future has not occurred yet, so it not “reality” in your current experience.
The reason this is your Point of Power is because if you consciously get out of that thought process (by interrupting it, see the process below) and become present in the now moment, you are immediately released from the fear and anxiety. It is instantaneous in that moment. The challenge, of course, is how to remain out of that negative thought process consistently, and how to remain present consistently, as the mind tends to wander back to it’s habitual thought patterns and future projected negativity. This will happen until you retrain it to do something else.
Own your mind or it will own you. You have control over your mind, you can manage and redirect your thoughts, but it takes practise. The more you practise, the better you become at it.
Your “reality” is entirely what you make it, experienced through your thoughts. Those thoughts are based on your paradigm – the lens through which you individually and uniquely perceive, filter and interpret EVERYTHING in life.
Always remember that fear and anxiety do not arise because of the “thing” that you fear or are anxious about. They occur because of your mind’s distortion of that thing. So, fear and anxiety are not happening to you (circumstance), but they are happening through you (paradigm), and you have all the power to alter yourself from the inside-out to interrupt this negative cycle, irrespective of circumstances, and reorient yourself in a whole new positive direction.
Essential to that reorientation in a new positive direction is to know that you are not your mind, and you are not your thoughts. You are the conscious awareness that can observe your thoughts. This is your way out! Fear and anxiety will continue to grip you until you get this vital distinction and therefore get some “distance” and detachment from that noise in your mind.
A simple way to experience yourself as conscious awareness right now, and to know you are not your mind/thoughts, is as follows:
- Close your eyes and for 2 minutes pay close attention to your thoughts. Watch them.
- At the end of 2 minutes, you will be able to open your eyes and relay to me what your thoughts were. e.g “I was thinking about whether this blog is really going to help me. I was thinking about what I’m going to eat for dinner. I was remembering that I forgot to put the trash out this morning” and so on.
- Now answer this question, “What or who was watching your thoughts?”
- Thoughts cannot watch themselves. The mind cannot observe itself. There was some other part of you present that was able to observe the thoughts and then relay them. There are two distinct aspects of yourself at play here.
- That “other part” that observed your thoughts is your conscious awareness.
If you believe that all the noise that goes on inside your head is (a) who you are and (b) is real, then you get caught in a closed loop and it feels like there is no way out, right?! Like a CD with a scratch, you get stuck repeating the same thing over and over again. Luckily, something else is available to you…
In the moment you realise that you are not your mind, you are not your thoughts, and you are instead the conscious awareness that can watch the thoughts, then you have power to interrupt those thoughts and rewrite the situation. You use your conscious awareness to do so. Here’s how…
4 Steps to Interrupt Fear & Anxiety
This is called the “Fact vs Fiction Exercise”. It applies and strengthens your conscious awareness, and interrupts future-projected thoughts, reorienting your mind in a new direction that works better for you.
For this to be effective, practise it every time you experience fear and anxiety. Consistent and repetitive interruption of those thoughts will pay dividends, by diminishing their momentum.
Carry a notepad or journal with you at all times. Watch for fearful or anxious dialogue in your mind. As soon as you notice it, follow these steps:
- Complete the sentence, “What I am specifically fearful of / anxious about is _____________”. When filling in the blank, name the exact scenario that is the focus of your fearful or anxious thoughts. What are you rehearsing in your head? What is your imagination conjuring up that is causing this upset? Be as detailed as possible in your response with everything cycling in your head.
- Now, let’s dissect it. Write down what is absolute fact about that statement. Focus only on pure, proven, factual evidence in “reality” right now. Be brutally honest with yourself. Here is an example… If your statement above was “What I am specifically anxious about is being unemployed and I’m afraid I won’t be able to find a good job that I enjoy because they are hard to come by. And I’m worried that if I don’t get a job soon then it’s going to look bad on my resume and I may not be able to pay my bills.” Then the absolute facts about this statement would be, “I am unemployed at this present moment”. There are no other facts.
- Next, write down what interpretation you have layered on top of the facts (i.e. Everything else you said. What is your projection of what you think might happen, or what is your “story” about the facts. What has your mind locked and loaded on that is generating the fear and anxiety.)
- Having separated fact from fiction, you can see what is real and what is your mind’s projection. You will notice your mind’s default projection doesn’t work for you. It generates the fear and anxiety. That projection might feel valid to you. You might argue that it’s highly probable that those negative things will happen, even though it’s not absolute fact in this moment. And that is the issue. There are an endless array of possibilities in any given moment, so many that it would blow you away! However, your mind is currently conditioned to zone in on scenarios that keep you small and stuck, and thus repeating the fear and anxiety cycle. Your mind sees negative, where you could choose positive. This drags you down, adversely impacting any sense of possibility available to you, and likely drastically impacting the types of action you take. So it’s time to teach your mind something new, to provide leadership to it to generate thought patterns that make you powerful, not powerless. Therefore, in this Point of Power, use your conscious awareness to write down ALL the other possible perspectives you could choose in this situation as alternative positive interpretations. You are creating new thoughts, new future projections, that are more empowering for you. This becomes your new story to replace the fearful and anxious one.
The more regularly you dissect old thought patterns that drag you down, the less power they have. The more you overwrite them with alternative positive viewpoints, the more your paradigm shifts into alignment with empowering possibilities, the freer you become. You are literally changing the lens through which you see life.
If you would like related resources, click here to watch a free online class “Overcoming Fear”, filled with other practical solutions to interrupt fear and anxiety cycles, with a bonus 14-page Action Guide to implement the tools in your life and break free no matter what your situation.