An unwanted ‘Wake-Up’ call
It’s 3:30 am in the morning. Fear strikes! I’ve been awake for at least 30 minutes. Tossing and turning. Typical “mind racing” that can occur when sleep evades you. I finally had to scream at my Monkey Mind…
‘Stop! Can You PLEASE just shut off the chatter and go back to sleep?’
Suddenly, this very uncomfortable feeling swells up inside me. Feels like a freaking foreign invasion. An enormous gripping sensation taking over my entire body. Uh Oh! NO! NO! NO!
My heart rate increased. I started to sweat. My breathing became more erratic. I could feel my body’s “flight or fight” response trying to kick in.
Have you been gripped by that feeling before?
If yes, well, you’re not alone. Everyone, at some point, is gripped by FEAR or a panic attack. More than we all care to admit. If we let it get the best of us – we can just “Forget Everything And Run” – or we can see for what it really is as “False Evidence Appearing Real”.
Fear takes many forms. Fear of failure, criticism, inadequacy, rejection, you name it. Fear is just a state of mind conjured up by our lower self – the voice of our ego.
So, in case you’re wondering, why did fear grip me like that?
Well, it was over a year ago. I remember it vividly. I had been working on a new idea for months and months. It was a big project and I decided to stop thinking, analyzing, and talking about it and just do it. And boy did I take the plunge – headfirst.
And a few weeks later, I started feeling this enormous pressure to perform. It was a BIG undertaking. I was thinking about the humongous amount of work still to do to bring this idea to a reality.
Ok, the idea was a new biz idea called “Hearts Rise Up” and the decision was to go full-on with developing the website, content, and product.
Yeah, and maybe you’re thinking, “No big deal. It’s just a website!” especially if you’re technically oriented, or perhaps you’re not technically oriented and maybe you’re thinking, “Yep, I feel your pain and the gripping fear.”
The truth is, it was a big deal to me. And, it’s more than just a website, because not only did I have to create content regularly, I must make it stand out from the zillion other websites on the internet. Plus, I was starting a podcast and had never done one before. And of course, the whole project couldn’t be anything less than wildly successful!
To be wildly successful, I believed that I had to ‘wow’ readers with great content, add huge value to their lives, and develop products that are worth investing in. Not to mention figure out the back-end technical part of the site, build a community for sharing and learning and create an avid fan base that craves for more, and it goes on.
A false state of mind – can conjure so many self-defeating and limiting thoughts.
The thoughts running through my mind during this episode of fear were:
- What if I fail?
- What if I’m laughed at?
- What if I’m a fraud?
- What if I can’t I write worth a flip let alone great content?
- What if I can’t produce a decent podcast?
- How am I going to learn the ins and outs of Word Press?
- It’s too freaking hard! Why don’t I just stop now, not even bother?’
I literally got myself tied up into a “false state of mind”.
Ugh!! Sound familiar?
To be utterly crippling and all-consuming.
Fear can be a downright nuisance I say. Yet it’s perfectly normal because it’s a freaking part of being human.
Usually, what happens when you have a fear or panic attack of this nature, your breathing changes like mine did. It can become shallow and sporadic and you can develop shortness of breath or you might find yourself holding your breath.
What’s happening is that the body goes into fight or flight mode. It’s an emotional trigger to protect us that forms in our Limbic Brain (Mid-Brain or emotional brain) that regulates chemicals in our body. When fight or flight is activated, our breathing changes and usually becomes erratic. We tend to take in shorter breaths and only through the chest.
The question for all of us is this. Do we let the fear consume us or do we tackle it head-on? Or, better yet. Can we squash it in its tracks before it takes hold?
New brain research on facing fear.
Recent brain research shows why we should face our fears. Exposure Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Studies help to arrest fears and phobias. In an earlier Hearts Rise Up post by Ann Serrie, Fear Undone (Part 1) – Beware to Bee-Aware, she shares how exposing herself to the nature of bees, understanding them and their importance to our eco-system, and using meditation as a tool, she learned to eliminate her fear of them. Ann was using a form of exposure therapy to ease the fear over time.
How do you stop and squash fear in its tracks?
That’s the million-dollar question. Let me share with you what I did, and what I do most of the time to keep fear at bay and from crippling me.
I knew it was important to regulate my body’s response to the fear and get myself back to a state of homeostasis – taking in the right amount of needed oxygen and eliminating the carbon dioxide from my body – getting myself back into internal balance.
Here’s the process that works for me. It a simple breathing process to center and ground me.
Breathing carries a frequency of energy called “qi” or “ch’i” or vital life force energy. It helps to realign your energy flow with the energy of the Universe when things get out of whack. I like to refer to it as to “call you back to your Self”.
STEP 1: Breathe in slowly and gently through the nose taking in air all the way down into your lungs and deep into your belly for about 5 seconds. As you do this, imagine filling yourself up with a soft golden, white light.
STEP 2: Hold the breath for a count of 3-5. While doing so, visualize the light warming your belly, creating a peaceful, calming experience.
STEP 3: Breathe out slowly through the mouth for 10 seconds. As you do this, visualize the fear releasing from your body.
STEP 4: Repeat the process until the physical sensations of fear subside. This will get your body back into a state of homeostasis.
When you get back into a state of homeostasis it’s like pressing a reset button that recalibrates your nervous system so the fight or flight mechanism that was triggered is arrested. Irrational thinking then shifts back to rational, logical patterns of thought, and then the body and mind are stabilized.
Step 5: Once your body and mind are recalibrated to normal, set some time aside to work on actions to move you forward.
Reduce the feeling that stirs up the fear
In my case, I reduced the feeling of “overwhelm”. I laid out an action plan to build the website, develop a rhythm and schedule for creating content, and put a game plan together in bite-size pieces to make steady progress over. Allowing myself to tweak things as go.
I kept in mind the word I chose for the year which was “Simplify”. When things get complicated, I feel overwhelmed and fears arise. To arrest it, I just fall back on my breathing practice to get me back on track and remember to keep things simple.
There are probably lots of other ways to squashing fear in its tracks such as repeating a mantra to focus on, center and ground yourself. Just like the breath, a mantra carries a frequency of energy to bring you back into alignment.
Or you could begin to reframe and retrain your brain to break the pattern such as popping a rubber band on your wrist to stop and replace the thoughts you’re experiencing with more positive thoughts. Another is simply rewriting the story of your fear from a place of courage and confidence – on a piece of paper.
If you have another approach or method that works well for you, have a question or would like to comment on this post, I’d love for you to please share your thoughts below.