What To Do When You Find Yourself Living In Fear

As I fell asleep last night, a sudden thought occurred to me. My son had come home from his late shift at work, heated pizza in the oven and marched off to his room, and that was the last I saw of him for the night. The thought that had occurred to me was: ‘What if he had forgotten to switch off the oven? What if we all got charred to death in our sleep as a result of the oven exploding?’ I managed to calm myself to sleep by remembering that he was sensible, and we also had smoke alarms everywhere. I am here writing this piece, so my fears were unfounded!

 

Fear holds a lot of us hostage, and most of the time, it’s the fear of something that has not even happened yet and might never happen. Fear ensures that you are either regretting the past or dreading the future which means you are never in the present. It robs you of enjoying your present moments, and life is only in the present. And yet how many of us live in groundless fear of the oven exploding? It’s like if we are not afraid or worried, we are slacking off in some way like we didn’t care enough.

 

So why do a lot of people indulge in fear as a pastime? Have you ever stopped to examine your thoughts? Do it for a laugh and you will be surprised at the trend that you notice. That you are simply recycling past fears and projecting them into the future. All the ‘what ifs’ are just past fears. The insanity about this, is we take conditions from the past, and project them unto the future, where we don’t know of the exact condition; but somehow, we choose to predict the same outcome. It is like thinking, I choked on a piece of meat in a restaurant once, and I will be going to a vegan restaurant, so I’m going to choke on a piece of meat. It is simply absurd! There is no meat in a vegan restaurant for a start.

 

Apart from the absurdity, it is emotionally draining to be running on fear all the time. It also dials down your immunity as your physical resources are marshalled into the fight or flight response. Can you imagine an army of soldiers always in the combat stance, ready to fight someone? How many hours can they stay in that stance before their limbs start seizing up? You can’t keep doing that to your body.

 

From the neuroscience perspective, our brain’s primary function is to keep us alive. Its priority is survival and safety, not peace and happiness. It means it is constantly scanning for threats, it has to, hence, those thoughts of the oven exploding. Your work is to leave the ‘army’ to worry about defence, and for you to concentrate on the business of enjoying your life.

 

To enjoy your life and not be held hostage by fear, you need to be able to do two things:

 

  1. Switch from fear into excitement
  2. Turn fear into fuel

 

That’s because fear and excitement are both aroused emotions. In those states, the heart beats faster, cortisol levels increase, and the body prepares for some type of action. The only difference is one is positive, and the other negative. 

 

The good thing is that it is easier to cross over from one aroused emotion into another than to go from aroused emotion into a calm one. Think about it. The body has already got the chemicals ready, and it is up to you to either use it for fear or excitement. On the other hand, if you are trying to go from fear to calm, the body has to go and produce a whole new set of chemicals, and it’s not as easy. That is why going from fear to calm is not the fastest route. I don’t know about you, but I will choose excitement over fear any day if I had a choice, and now you do. It is as simple as changing your language to change your emotional state.

 

Once you have switched from fear to excitement, the next thing is to use that excitement to go after what you want. Use it to fuel your dreams. It is easier to go full throttle at something that excites you than something that scares the wits out of you.

 


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