We are all feeling it- FEAR. Read the news, listen to a report, read a social media post and it is not just a read or a listen- it is a trigger. A trigger to your brain that your life is at stake. For some of us, or all of us, some of the time, that fear is crippling. It has us not be effective at our work, be short-tempered and interferes with our rest and it can be debilitating. What can you do about it?
First, recognize it. Most of us have grown up thinking if I feel fear, I should stop or run. Fear is telling me I am not safe, that my life is in danger. In reality, it IS a protective mechanism that is designed to keep you from harm. It is responsible for the “fight, flight, freeze or appease others” response. That response is useful if your life is truly in danger- like a moving car coming at you or some other physical threat. However, that fear and its accompanying reaction in your brain is not useful when there is no real immediate threat to your life.
Reading or listening to the news, reading social media is like that. It is triggering a brain response to a threat that is not real RIGHT NOW. Think about it- I wake up in the morning and I feel fine, I have food, I am in a warm comfortable domicile. Everything is ok. Then, I look at a news source or social media. I read about death tolls, I read stories about people I know (or know about through media) being ill, I read the economy is going to collapse and on and on. I now feel fear and my state of being from waking up safe is gone. However, nothing has really changed. You are still in a safe place with food and are feeling fine. Fear can take a normal person and paralyze them. So, recognize the feeling and name it- I feel fear.
Next get in reality about what is happening in this moment. In reality, is your life in this moment threatened? Likely not, but your brain has released the neurochemicals of fear into your body and you are likely on automatic reaction mode. I want to give you a way to shift that mode.
I recommend you do this simple and effective exercise and shift that fear state into a powerful state.
- Make a list. Write down all the things you are afraid of in a list. Get detailed.
- I am afraid I will get coronavirus
- I am afraid I will run out of toilet paper
- I am afraid my daughter will fail this year due to online school
- I am afraid people I know will get depressed
- Next to each item on the list, write down what is true and real right now in this moment.
- I am afraid I will get coronavirus: Real- I have no symptoms and have not been exposed that I know of
- I am afraid I will run out of toilet paper: Real- I went to Costco and have enough for a month
- I am afraid my daughter will fail this year due to online school: Real- My daughter is passing, and we have a plan for her to do her online schoolwork
- I am afraid people I know will get depressed: Real- I am talking to my friends and family and right now they are doing well and have strong support structures
- Next to what you just wrote about what is real, write out what action you can take to either change the situation, prevent the future you are afraid of from happening or to have the situation continue as it is.
- I am afraid I will get coronavirus: Real- I have no symptoms and have not been exposed that I know of. Action: Continue physical distancing, frequent hand washing, cleaning of everything coming in my home.
- I am afraid I will run out of toilet paper: Real- I went to Costco and have enough for a month. Action: None needed at this time.
- I am afraid my daughter will fail this year due to online school: Real- My daughter is passing, and we have a plan for her to do her online schoolwork. Action: Execute on our plan and adjust as needed.
- I am afraid people I know will get depressed: Real- I am talking to my friends and family and right now they are doing well and have strong support structures. Action: Make sure I am talking to the people in my life more often than I am used to and checking on their wellbeing.
When you do this type of activity, you interrupt the automatic brain-generated fear response and get grounded in reality. That allows your brain to calm down so you can be rational, connected and productive.
To master this takes repetition but you can, in fact, interrupt and alter this crippling brain pattern over time with practice.
When you get paralyzed when you feel fear, you will sacrifice a lot in your life and in your career. It will cost you money, it will cost you power and productivity AND it will cost you the one commodity you can never get back… TIME.
This is not a theoretical exercise. This is really happening all the time to many of us. I challenge you to look for yourself and be brutally honest with yourself about what you are not doing or not doing well, right now, as we face this unprecedented time in our lives, because you let fear stop you.
Giving fear that kind of power over your future is too costly to have it continue. I invite you to write down what it has cost you personally in your career or business.
I invite you to do this exercise every time you are stopped by fear.
We will get through this together.
If you want other strategies to retrain your brain, talk to me. As a certified coach in the Neuroscience of Conversations®, I have ways to help you quickly and effectively.