How to manage fear
The ability to move through life with calm certainty is powerful. Here's how to manage fear so you can always take decisive steps.
Here’s how to manage fear so you can move through life with calm certainty in situations which would normally be challenging.
The question of managing fear is really important for anyone to ask themselves, especially in a year when the pandemic has created uncertainty about health, finances, relationships, the future.
There are a couple of myths that will get in the way.
The first is that some people don’t experience fear. That’s crazy. If anyone says they don’t feel afraid, they are telling a fib.
Fear is a part of who we are, and the only reason humans have evolved for so long is because of fear. Fear tells us what is going to kill us, hurt us, get in our way, and we move away from it.
In today’s world there is so much happening that can cause fear—worries about your kids’ safety, being late for work, not getting a promotion. Instead of it being hunted by prehistoric predators, it’s modern things that could create the same biological fear responses.
Whatever our fears are, the key to managing them is to actually move towards fear.
This might be counter-intuitive for most people but it’s the only way to create a relationship with fear.
When someone’s relationship with fear is that they try to move away from it, to escape it, that person has what we call a low fear response.
They have a bad relationship with fear so that little things will freak them out and large problems like COVID-19 spark a phenomenal fear response.
Someone who has a better relationship with fear maybe still feels it but can keep moving on through life. They are able to make functional decisions and not let fear take over their life.
When we have a bad relationship with fear, fear takes us over. If you’ve ever been in a situation where that happens, you’ll know it takes over your thinking and powers of conscious decision making.
It’s the opposite when you have a positive relationship with fear: you feel the fear and do it anyway (which is the name of Susan Jeffers’ great book.)
So how do we build up a relationship with fear?
We have to start with small things. It starts with consciously choosing to do things we feel fear around.
It could be anything—you’ll know. Maybe it’s running five kms in a fun run. Maybe it’s telling someone you love them or that you’ve stopped loving them. Whatever it is, step into it and start to breathe deeply while you feel the fear and take action.
The breath will calm you and give a fast rush of oxygen to your blood that goes around your body.
The aim is to be able to feel fear and not be afraid of it. I want to you read that again and understand it—as long as you are able to feel the fear and not be afraid of it, you are able to do the things you’re afraid of.
You can feel the fear and manage yourself and make really great decisions.
So a relationship with fear is by far one of the most important things we have to cultivate and evolve into. It’s outside our comfort zone, so it can mean uncertainty and we normally respond with anxiety, trepidation.
Acknowledge that then breathe and move towards it. Do things you normally wouldn’t do. One small step every day.
Then you can have a great relationship with fear because you can make decisions based not on moving away from your fear but towards your potential.
One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend