Friday, July 24, 2009

What is fear?

Fear comes up when we want to make changes. Why is that? What is fear?
Fear starts in your mind. Fear is a reaction to what you are thinking within your own mind. Fear is not outside of ourselves. Fear resides within us.

When you sense fear, your body must be alerted to it by your mind. So, to understand that fear begins in your mind is the first step to overcoming it.

As I have said before on this blog; our thoughts drive our actions. Therefore, fearful thoughts evoke fearful physical actions. Like tension, sweaty hands, nervous stomach, weak knees, the want to retreat. Along with these outer bodily actions our stress hormones are activated along with our fight or flight response.

Everyone has fears. I had a tremendous fear of water. What's important is not that you have fears, but how you handle them. Think of any champion athlete who competes in a tough sport like kayaking class 5 rapids in the Colorado River. Champions learn to master their fears well enough to get the job done. Champions don't let fear stand in their way!

As I mentioned earlier, I had a phobia of water. My fear was huge. How did I learn to overcome my fear? Here are 10 steps to master your fear.

1. Remember fear is in the mind. Recognize this. Awareness is the first step.
2. Fear is another way of saying, "I can't handle it." Ask yourself what you can't handle? My answer was, "I can't handle the thought that if I get tired while swimming, I'll be exhausted, noone will see me, and I'll drown." Dig into exactly what you are fearing will happen or won't happen.
3. Take small steps towards building your strength. For me it was learning to swim. I joined a swim group twice a week, in the safety of a pool, to increase the distance I could swim. Take small, safe steps. Fear can stop us dead in our tracks if we allow it to. Taking any action towards it...quiets it.
4. Get support. My fear was of open water. I got support by asking a friend who was a very strong swimmer to accompany me in a practice open water swim. He stayed right next to me while we swam in a lake together.
5. To control your fear try singing! Yes, sing to yourself. It helps to control your breathing and calms you down. It's a great distraction from your mind.
6. Stay in the NOW. Focus on what you need to do in the moment...right now. It will inch you forward towards overcoming the fear. When I swam my first open water race...I just focused on my stroke. I did not focus on the water, my thoughts, or anything other than putting my arms into the water and stroking.
7. Think positive. Review the steps you have taken and see your progress. Create positive affirmations you can repeat to yourself over and over.
8. Embrace fear. Recognize it. Without the experience of moving past fear, there is no growth. You can't be successful if your not moving forward.
9. Remember the Wizard in the "Wizard of Oz?" He said, "Pay no attention to the mad behind the curtain." Pay no attention to what you create in your mind!
10. JUST DO IT! The fear you feel is nothing compared to the growth, excitment and success you will feel in overcoming the fear. So, go for it!