Your pulse quickens, breathing gets short, shallow and muscles tighten. This is our typical response to fear. Most of the time, it happens in response to a legitimate stimulus: a car suddenly pulls in front of you on the highway and slams on its brakes, emergency sirens blare a tornado warning; and etc.
There are other times when our fear response is triggered for other reasons, maybe it’s spiders (one of my fears), speaking in front of a group of people, or looking for a new job. The first type of response makes sense. There’s something happening that may be dangerous and your body is preparing to fight or fly to keep you safe. The second type of fear, though, has no real threat associated with it. This type of fear can stop you in your tracks and keep you from doing the things you want to do and living the kind of life you want to life. If you let it.
When it’s needed, fear is helpful. When it stops you from accomplishing something, you have to address it and overcome it. I feel the fear response when I know it’s time for me to write an article. Each time, I have to address this fear response and push past it to reach my goal. With support and direction from my coaches, I’ve learned how to push past this fear and write. Mind you, I haven’t always enjoyed the process, but I’ve tackled it and I continue to tackle it. Sometimes I still need support but the process is getting easier and more comfortable with repetition. Each time I complete an article, I’ve achieved freedom from fear.
So, what do you do to gain freedom from fears? You meet them head on. Take it in baby steps. You don’t want to feel overwhelmed and stop before you get going. You just want to give yourself repeated exposure to the thing that causes your fear response to appear. Start out small. If it’s public speaking, for example, don’t book a speaking gig in front of a thousand people, start with a Toastmasters or similar speaking group where you’re challenged to speak every meeting. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t climb to the rooftop of the tallest building in your city. Start off by climbing a small stepladder in the safety and comfort of your own home.
Once you’ve approached the object of your fear and triggered your fear response, pay attention. Notice all the signs in your body then, breathe. Just breathe. Breathe and focus on relaxing your muscles and lowering your heart rate. Repeat the word, “Relax” to yourself as a reminder to your body.
You’ll start to notice your body responding to your thoughts and the influx of oxygen. Eventually you’ll overcome that first small step and be ready for your next step. Don’t get discouraged if it takes you several attempts to relax. If you’re up on that ladder for the first time and you can take even one breath before getting back down, you’ve won! Time to celebrate. Celebration and acknowledgement is critical to developing a sustained movement forward. If you reward yourself with a little celebration now at this baby step, you’ll feel more inclined to take the next baby step and then the next. Eventually, you’ll be at the top of that stepladder ready to take on something bigger. Always keep safety in mind, of course.
This process may sound simple, and it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It may take you several attempts to get up on the first rung of that stepladder, or to actually show up at that Toastmaster’s meeting, but each small step you take gets you closer and closer to freedom, to living your life the way you really want to live it.
If you have a fear that’s been stopping you from living fully, take a small step toward freedom today. Do it. You will thank yourself afterwards. If you’ve faced your fears in the past and broken through, or have a fear you want to face, drop a note in the comments section below.
If you need help breaking through a fear, let me know. I’m here to help. Email me, here.
Note: sometimes a fear grows into a full-blown phobia and turns from fear to terror. This level of fear can be overwhelming and probably needs support from professionals to discuss it and achieve the freedom you desire. If this is you, please reach out to a local mental health professional. You owe it to yourself.