Fears can be debilitating and hold us back from the things we want to do. Going for that promotion at work, telling that person we like them, or speaking in front of a class full of people. Whatever makes you feel scared, sometimes it can just feel like too much to get past.
However, the old adage of facing your fears has science behind it. By leaning into your fears and fully experiencing them, you can train your body to respond differently to whatever situation makes you anxious.
Facing my fears
Last week I delivered my first corporate training day. In the past, the thought of delivering a presentation in front of 30+ people would have filled me with dread. My heart rate would have gone through the roof, my legs would have gone shaky, and my mind would have gone blank.
I know this because it often happened in my old job as a New Business Fundraiser. When I knew I had a pitch coming up, my mind would try to think of any way out of it. But what we resist persists, and what we accept can transform.
When we shy away from what scares us, our body falls into survival mode and generates cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones.Dr. Russell Kennedy, Neuroscientist.
These chemicals activate our fight, flight or freeze process, so when we actively avoid the things that scare us, our system supports that decision. They shut off our rational or thinking brains, and so we tend to believe our worries, those catastrophic thoughts we have because the part of our brain that would show our thoughts to be irrational has shut down.
However, when we can find it within ourselves to walk right into our fears and not give credence to the irrational thoughts, they dissolve into reality, and our bodies flood our system with the reward chemical dopamine – hence when I managed to deliver this training day, and it went well, I felt on top of the world.
Our system will support whatever decision we make.
By challenging our fears, we support the chemicals that help us stay in our right mind. But if we avoid everything that makes us feel anxious, then it can hold us back.Dr. Russell Kennedy, Neuroscientist.
Don’t believe the irrational thoughts.
In other words, if you believe the catastrophic thinking, that’s the result you will get. But when you can step back from those thoughts and gain clarity – knowing that these thoughts aren’t real, that’s when you can find your flow.
We feed what we focus on and get the result we expect.
Now, this isn’t easy, as we have to get past the uncomfortable feelings of fear in the first place. But with some active mental reprogramming and understanding that these thoughts aren’t real, I promise you you can face whatever makes you anxious and enjoy a good swim in the lovely dopamine once you’ve done it.