We have all heard it. Heck, I've said it: Fear is the enemy. Mahatma Gandhi put it this way: "The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is fear."
We know in corporate America that one of the biggest challenges facing us is our seeping, creeping fear of the unknown:
Will I lose my job?
Will I ever find a career that makes me happy?
What will that new boss be like?
What if my new business fails?
Will I ever make enough money to pay my employees? Myself?
How do I save enough for my bills, house mortgage, kids' education, retirement?
The list goes on and on. And sadly, even though we may try to read all the self-help books, chant reaffirming mantras, and listen to the best logic that trusted friends and respected colleagues can offer, it often doesn't stop the acid from continuing to drip onto our stomach linings.
Fear happens in the brain, but it's manifested in your body. It is caused by a chain reaction that starts when an external stimulus signals to your brain that something is stressful. It ends with a release of chemicals that causes your heart to beat faster, palms to become sweaty, and stomach to feel queasy and nauseated.
So what is the antidote for your fear? Here are five scientifically proven steps to get rid of the monsters looming in laptop bags and briefcases.
1. Take Two Minutes to Do This
When you start to get anxious, you may not know it, but your breath becomes quick and shallow. The best way to quickly calm yourself is to take longer, deeper breaths. I use the "7-11" method. It's as simple as it sounds. Breathe in for a count of seven and then breathe out for a count of 11. I try to do this for two minutes. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel.
2. Step Away
Sometimes escaping the situation is a good way to get much needed perspective. Going to see a movie with an uplifting message (think The Blind Side, Forrest Gump or The Lion King) can be incredibly powerful. Movies are the ultimate escape, a chance to get immersed in a story that helps you forget about day-to-day worries. Other ways to escape include getting a good night's sleep, taking a long walk, or running.
3. Uncork the Bottle
Sometimes the best way to address fear is to let it out. Speaking to a friend or even writing about it in a journal are great tools. I personally use the journal method. When I am feeling anxious, I will write--sometimes pages and pages. I let every negative thought and irrational fear out on paper, and I always end up at a better, more positive place.
4. Get Real by Asking the Extreme Question
Ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen? If you lose your job, will you be unable to eat? Will your spouse leave you? The reality is this: Many working professionals I meet can live on less than what they make without the threat of sleeping in their car. I realize that is not true for everyone, and I don't mean to make light of desperate situations, but much of the fear we carry with us does not involve a live-or-die situation. Addressing this question and honestly answering it is a great way to see the big picture and begin to feel better.
5. Get Perspective
Earlier this week, I was feeling more than a sense of fear and dread as contractors cut a large (I mean a very, very large) hole in my living room ceiling to find the source of a water leak. As my mind raced thinking about potential mold and the large check I would be writing that was originally earmarked for a sunny vacation next spring, the phone rang. It was a friend of mine, who recounted a story about a 17-year-old who was staying at the Ronald McDonald house because he needed a new heart. That was a reminder of what a genuine life-or-death scenario looks like.
That heavy dose of perspective made the five pounds of drywall and plaster ceiling on my living room floor seem trivial. Actually going out and helping others who are less fortunate is a great way to get perspective on a situation.
Bonus! 6. Take Action
One of the main reasons we get fearful about our work is because we sometimes don't feel in control. One of the best ways to conquer anxiety is by taking action. If you don't like your job, identify new possibilities. If you aren't making enough money to make ends meet, resolve to identify skills you could learn to become more marketable (and valuable). The point is this: Action can help you get into a head space full of possibilities. To that end, I think Dale Carnegie said it best:
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."