Based on my 5 step process for letting go of negative emotions, this blog covers which of my 8 core learnings I find helpful for letting go of fear or anxiety as well as some other specific learning.
I’m dealing with fear and anxiety together as for me, the only meaningful difference between them is the timing and the reality of the trigger that causes them.
Fear is in the moment. It alerts me to a real and present danger that triggers my human survival response to fight, flee or freeze.
Anxiety is related to fear of the future. I feel fear now about something I THINK COULD happen…and these thoughts of the future will trigger my survival response now.
…and I’m not entirely sure that my mind can distinguish between them. It feels like there may be a second or two between them and my imagined threats feel as real as the real ones.
Applying my 8 core learnings to Fear and Anxiety
(using the same numbering from that blog)
1. Fear/Anxiety gets in the way of logical clear thought, so let it go. Choose clear thinking instead.
A dog went for me when I was on my bike recently. Having been bitten on the foot in a similar situation before, this previous learning kicked in and the choice of fleeing was instantaneous. That’s my survival response being useful.
But many of the things we fear in our world nowadays, are actually mainly imagined. And the freeze option of our survival mode is often the only realistic option.
And 'freeze' applies to your brain as well as your body!
You only have to think of the fear/anxiety in exams, driving tests or when your boss asks you an unexpected tricky question, and you’ll recognise how incapacitating brain freeze can be.
Focusing on this core learning persuades me to let go of the fear/anxiety so I can unfreeze my brain, do a reality check on the threat and use all the facts to assess risk and decide what to do.
2. Fear/Anxiety doesn't prove anything. What do I need to accept, say or do instead?
By doing the process, I realised I sometimes used fear or anxiety to prove how important something was. And partly for motivation.
My logic was...if I’m not afraid of something going wrong, it means that it’s not really important to me.
Which also meant that anything that was important had fear/anxiety attached to it.
Not terribly helpful for many reasons as you can probably imagine, including the fact it meant I was actually focusing on what I could do wrong…making that more likely to happen.
New learning from considering this one?
Something can be important without me having to be afraid or anxious about it,
and I can still be motivated to take action.
Far more helpful!
3. I can't control and I'm not responsible for everyone and everything.
This is a key one for me and fear/anxiety.
There is quite a lot in the world that can trigger these emotions for me.
This reminds me to let them go and refocus on what’s important and possible for me.
What I CAN control and what I CAN do right now.
Specific learning for Fear and Anxiety
Fear and anxiety can only exist if you really believe something bad is going to happen in the way you imagine it.
Normally the positive purpose of these emotions is protection.
We want to anticipate and plan for an uncertain future so we can feel secure now…but it can get out of hand.
If you’re really good at anxiety like I used to be,
every imagined worst-case scenario becomes 100% certain,
you can waste loads of time and energy planning for failure or your imagined grim future,
the joy gets sucked out of life, and
you may stop taking action (for example, what fear lies behind your procrastination?).
Having had a few of my imagined bad things happen in real life, here’s the learning I apply now to get rid of fear and anxiety:
Bad things happen, but rarely exactly as I imagine.
I’ll find a way to cope with whatever happens.
Focus on WHAT IS rather than WHAT IF
Do a proper risk assessment based on logical thought rather than fear
Assume the best case to be reality
Refocus on what’s real and important now
And here are a few reminders I keep handy to reinforce that learning...just in case I’m struggling to stay away from the dark side….
The worst case scenario only exists in my imagination but I’m treating it as if it’s real. As I’m making it all up anyway, imagining the best case scenario is an equally arbitrary choice, so choose that instead.
If I stop feeling fear and anxiety, it won’t make bad things more likely to happen, so it’s ok to let it go.
If something bad happens, I’ll have to deal with it then. So it's best to enjoy now, and then if something bad does happen, I won't be worn out and I'll have more energy to deal with it.
I’d rather have a go and fail than be frozen.
I’m going to feel a right chump if the worst thing doesn’t happen and I’ve spent loads of time feeling rubbish and acting as if it was 100% certain!
Optimism is healthier and leads to better results than pessimism. Choose optimism!
"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow, what a ride!’ " – Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentelmen, 1965-1967
"Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all. From now on, travel the road between who you think you are and who you can be. The key is to allow yourself to make the journey." – a quote from the film ‘The Princess Diaries’
If what I have learnt doesn’t work for you and you are still feeling fear or anxiety often, or as a result of a specific thing, and want to explore how coaching or therapy can help, please book a free call with me to discuss.
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