Everyone is aware of the “fight or flight” response,* the physical reaction to fear whereby your body prepares itself either for confrontation or to run away. This biochemical reaction has strong roots in human evolution; our ancestral world was teeming with life-or-death consequences. It’s easy to understand how such a system has been, and still is, vital to our survival. [*Typically now referred to as fight-flight-freeze.]
The biochemical signs that manifest, which include sweating, high adrenaline levels, and increased heart rate, are automatic and universal; however, the emotional response to fear is highly personalized, e.g. some may like the “fun” chemical reaction resulting from watching scary movies, and we’ve all heard of “thrill seekers.”
There are other factors involved in fear-beyond-instinct for us humans. We have the capacity to anticipate, so we predict or expect that horrible things might happen even if we haven’t had any personal experience around the situation (e.g. being afraid your plane will crash). Anxiety can trigger a strong response when we believe there is danger or an imminent threat even when there isn’t any. Managing fears in the present can be confusing when they don’t necessarily correspond to a clear, obvious danger.
The problem here, then, would seem to be F.E.A.R., or “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Certainly we want to be able to respond to unmistakable hazards, but the repercussions of perpetually activating one’s sympathetic nervous system can be both physically and emotionally debilitating. For example, chronic fear can lead to a significantly impaired immune response; persistent epinephrine (adrenaline) surges can damage blood vessels and arteries, increasing both blood pressure and the risk of heart attacks/strokes. Higher levels of cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) inadvertently contribute to the build-up of fat tissue and weight gain, as it increases appetite to encourage eating more for extra energy. It also increases storage of unused nutrients as fat. Okay, what about how unfulfilling it is to lead a life where you avoid fun activities or social interactions because you are afraid of…?
What can been done to lessen the impact of the chronic fear that even you, yourself, may be experiencing? One of the best ways is to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike the sympathetic “fight or flight,” the parasympathetic is “rest and digest.” Be mindful of your breathing, do it from the diaphragm (belly breathing); visualise yourself in a beautiful, peaceful place and be sure to engage all of your senses; practice meditation; here’s an interesting one – lightly run 1 or 2 fingers over your lips (parasympathetic fibres are spread throughout them).
An even better strategy is to be mindful of your thoughts, since your body responds to the way you think and feel, as well as act. We can assist with this: our social media posts are designed to help you by giving you something to focus on for 1 minute – a simple way to begin to gain control of your thoughts:
Still, overcoming fear is not always easy…if you see this as your main stumbling block, The Neural Alignment Method® could be a great way for you to move beyond it: