Dont Let Fear Run Your Life

Your heart pounds. Palms sweat. Mouth is dry. Your stomach may feel sick or your thoughts race. You are experiencing fear.

Fear can be both ally and foe. It can inform us of imminent danger and help keep us safe. Or, it can paralyze us and make it impossible to live life fully and realize our potential.

So, how can we tell the difference between fear that is reasonable and valid and fear that stifles?

One effective strategy involves checking the facts. Fear thrives in the limbo of the unknown and unexperienced. Gathering information can reduce fear or eliminate it. For example, someone facing a divorce may be in a constant state of worry about their future until they see an attorney and gather the information they need to understand how divorce will really affect their finances and living situation. With that information they can take the steps necessary to protect themselves. Having facts doesn’t always eliminate fear, but it can make it more bearable by pointing us towards solutions.

Once we have facts, we can make more informed decisions. We can discern what is in our power to change and take action. And, we also understand what we must release because it is outside our sphere of influence. Letting go of things we have no power to control offers freedom.

Fear comes naturally to us all. Our ancestors relied on fear to keep them alive and so this trait has been passed down. Fear is generated in the oldest part of the brain where other instinctual behavior such as sex and anger are initiated. When we are stuck there it can be impossible to access logic. It is the part of us built to act quickly and think about it later.

Taking deep, mindful breaths, changing body temperature quickly, or doing something relaxing can move us out of the old brain and into the pre-frontal cortex where we can think more clearly and make more rational decisions. When experiencing fear, worry or anxiety, first, work to calm yourself.

To Manage Fear:

1. Breathe slowly and deeply. Take a hot shower or use a progressive relaxation exercise or yoga to calm the mind.

2. Face the fear. Avoiding what we are afraid of can reinforce the fear and paralyze us.

3. Check the facts. Gather information. Is your fear justified? In other words, is your life, health or well-being threatened in some real way. If so, take steps to keep yourself safe.

3. Decide what is within your power to change and, if possible, take action to improve the situation.

4. Choose to let go of things that are not within your power to change. Trying to control the actions or reactions of other people is often fruitless. If you are fearful about the consequences of another’s behavior, do what you can to protect yourself and then accept that we often cannot solve problems for those we love.

5. Letting go is not something we do once. It is a process that must be repeated over and over. Fear will return. Begin again by breathing deeply and slowly.

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