Fear seems to creep in at the most interesting moments for me. It's not right before an important meeting--I have prepared for that. It's not when I am lying awake before I fall asleep--my brain is way too disconnected to let fear take over then. It's not when I am on stage--I have given too many speeches and grown quite confident in those situations.
My fear moments arrive when I am focused on something mundane (showering, driving, walking on the treadmill). This feels counter intuitive and illogical at its foundation but with years of experience under my belt (think age), I have figured out why my fears show up in these weird moments.
Before I share that insight, lets review the basics of fear.
There are the obvious fear producing moments (public speaking, critical meetings, confrontation with friends, family or workmates) that we are confronted with all the time. Fear is our brain's way of signaling to the rest of our body that there is danger. Our brain is trying to protect us from the big hairy animal that is ready to end our life as we run for cover into the cave. Those cell memories are still very much alive.
It turns out that we are not going to die from pubic speaking or that important meeting. Let me repeat myself--you are not going to die. As you find yourself in more and more of these situations, you begin to realize that the life-threatening outcome, which brought on the fear response, is a bit overdone.
That realization and a few well-known exercises are enough to get us on better track. Here are a few:
- Start Small--completing simple tasks builds momentum and confidence.
- Breathe--I still use this all the time, breathing means oxygen and oxygen is life.
- Write It Down--the very act of writing something down seems to accept that fear. Now throw the piece of paper away.
- Expose Yourself to the Fear--the more you do it, the more you realize that there are no hairy monsters and we will not die.
- Share with Others--one of my favorites but it takes some guts to reveal inner secrets.
- Focus on Positive Outcomes--this takes a little work to fight through the evil voice but identify those outcomes and remind yourself as often as you need.
There are many other tips and tricks but like any tool, you have to want to use them and be disciplined to bring them out often.
My fear moments creep in when my guard is down and my fear-reducing mechanisms are packed away. It's like on part of my brain tricks the other part.
However, my headline was to reveal an unusual yet powerful trick that I use every day. My go to tool--laughter. Laughing at the absurdity that my brain has conjured up enables me to quickly discard that fear. When I feel it coming and my breath quickens, I simply smile, and start laughing out loud. Bye bye fear.