Fear is probably one of the largest motivating factors in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I am convinced it is in the top three. Some thrive on it and some are paralyzed by it. This blog is for those that are gripped by this natural and primal emotion. Fear has been unleashed upon the globe because of the novel corona virus also known as Covid-19, and SARS2 by the scientific community. Let’s look at a little science behind fear, shall we?
“Fear comes from the brain. When people encounter something that frightens them, the hypothalamus in the brain reacts by releasing a series of chemicals to the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system. In the sympathetic nervous system, signals are sent out to release ‘stress hormones’, like adrenaline. These kick the body into high gear, so it becomes tense and alert. At the same time, the adrenal-cortical system is also secreting hormones to other parts of the body, which instigates a series of remarkable changes to occur, almost instantaneously. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible, nonessential systems such as the immune system and digestion turn themselves off to allow more energy go towards emergency function, and veins in the skin constrict which keeps blood in the major muscle groups. It will become difficult to focus on small tasks since your brain is preoccupied with the fear. All together, this is known as the fight-or-flight response. A way to kick the body into high gear, putting all senses on high-alert, allowing for quick reactions.”
This is all well and good if you are being chased by a tiger, but not so good when you’re lying in bed at night being chased by mental predators. Thoughts of death and destruction that you might believe lie outside your front door. On top of that there is this damn quarantine, which further exacerbates the situation. Humans still haven’t been able to evolve out of the fight or flight kicking in when there is actually no real physical threat, but the thought in the mind has triggered it.
Knowing the why behind what happens when we experience fear can be a relief to some, but we cannot stop there. How do we tackle the fear? Have we gotten to the point where we are now afraid of fear? No, FDR. There are two things to address that will shine a light on this issue. Number one is the unpleasant feeling after the fear response. Number two is being afraid of this feeling, but the truth lies in between the two. You don’t want to experience pain. What could be more natural? “I don’t want to be afraid anymore.” I’ve said those words myself, and have heard them many times from family and friends.
This unpleasantness you feel is the best place to start. Don’t even worry about where it came from or why it occurred. The fact is that it is there at this moment, and it doesn’t need to be amplified by confusion. First thing you need to do is stop, and feel this feeling. What do I mean by this? Just take a minute to observe what is happening without judgement. If a thought pops in, fine, but go back to observing. Practicing this will give you some time to breathe, so take a deep breath. You will soon start to get a sense of relief come over you. The adrenaline has stopped pumping, and the cortisol (stress hormone) will no longer be produced by your body.
The second thing to do is to ask yourself this question: “Is everything OK at this moment?” Not what happened yesterday, or what you heard on the news today. If you are laying in your cozy bed at home, I am going to guess that everything is probably just fine. Calm starts to wash over you like the sun’s rays on a cold day. Go into this new feeling, and cultivate it with everything you can muster.
Now you’ve discovered the inner power of awareness, and you can put on this armor anytime you want. This is a skill like any other, and practice is the key to mastery.
I can’t describe fear as well as I can describe courage. Courage is when you overcome fear. -Shabana Azmi
Bravery is not the absence of fear, it is overcoming it. -Mellody Hobson
There are, I believe, three steps to overcoming fear: name it, normalise it, socialise it. -George Monbiot