Fear is sticky, like glue. The initial emotion of fear may only last a few minutes, but if we let it linger, it can get stuck in our system for days, months, or even a lifetime.
The sensation of fear is effective if it protects us from real threats. The fight-or-flight reaction has helped humans escape life-threatening dangers over the millennia. But in this era of thinking, creating, and problem solving, our fears are usually unfounded. And when fear sticks in our system, it becomes a toxic influence on our choices, emotions, and actions.
Here are a few tips for getting fear out of your system:
1. Label it.
The first step is to simply notice your fear. As soon as you feel that tightness in your chest, just say, “I’m feeling afraid.” By labeling the fear, you separate the feeling from who you are. It is just a sensation.
2. Accept it.
Once you notice your fear, don’t judge yourself for feeling this way. You’re human; to feel fear is part of our DNA. Instead, be proud of it–if you’re feeling fear, you’re likely pushing your comfort zone and fighting the good fight. Let the feeling flow through you.
3. Let it go.
This is the hardest part, because a part of our mind feels safer clinging to the fear. It feels productive, and we worry that if we let go of the fear, it’ll sneak up and catch us off-guard.
But there’s a difference between being aware of your risks and clinging to fear. Let your fear go, and like a passing rain shower it will soon dissipate.
4. Focus on the present.
Most people dwell on future outcomes (that will probably never happen) or past failures (that don’t define who we are). We can avoid useless fear by instead focusing on the present.
How do you get present? By stopping right here and now, and taking a breath. As soon as you feel that knot in your stomach, stop everything you’re doing and just sit with it. Turn off your phone, step away from your computer, and take three breaths. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.
In that pause, you can let the fear run its course. And once the storm has passed, you’ll move on, stronger and better equipped to face life’s challenges.