You think of having a crucial conversation and you freeze. Or you want to work on a big goal but find yourself procrastinating. Or you have to speak in front of a big group and you feel your palms start to sweat.
All of these types of experiences can induce fear. What can you do to overcome the fear quickly?
- Focus on your breathing. Why does this work? Your brain can really only focus on one thing at a time. If you direct your attention to your breathing, your thoughts about fear will replaced. Key points on technique: Use your diaphragm, not your chest to inhale. Focus on a long slow exhalation and possibly hold your breath for a few seconds after the exhale. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system which slows down heart rate, respiration, and secretion of stress hormones. There are many sites on the web that can teach relaxation breathing, but the BEST results occur when you practice daily before you get into the “heat of battle.”
- Replace Negative Self-talk with Positive programming. Why does this work? For the same reason as #1. And it reprograms your thoughts and emotions in a new direction instead of spiraling down old paths. Key points on technique: Choose one or two powerful programming statements that are in the present. Don’t make a future statement like, “I will do great.” Instead, affirm, “I’m already doing awesome!” or ,”Taking on challenges is what makes life rich and exciting!” Repeat these in your mind and aloud in a constant barrage so that no spaces exist for fearful negative thoughts to intrude. Another tool: Make a powerful picture in your mind of how successful you are when you are doing the feared activity. Constantly redirect your thoughts back to the image of success.
- Envision the Worst-Case Scenario and that you will survive and thrive. Why does this work? Because the fear of the horrible consequences is what is impacting you. If you can think of the worst way you can fail, and also how you would survive and thrive, your anxiety will dissipate greatly. What if your crucial conversation results in a divorce? Envision yourself growing stronger, more independent and doing well on your own. Other people survive the worst case, right? You can too. Or what if your audience starts booing and walks out? Envision yourself confiding with a professional coach, learning what to change and performing much better the next time. Key points on technique: This tactic works best when there is plenty of time to think this through. Although it works wonders quickly, I wouldn’t recommend doing this for the first time just before you start that important speech! Also, if you are literally afraid of death, then you need to think deeply about the existential questions about the purpose of your life, and how you survive in some form— either in an afterlife or in the memory or benefit to the living.
- This, Too, Shall Pass. The famous saying that gives hope in adversity and grants humility in prosperity is the adage, “This too, shall pass.” Remember that nothing in life lasts forever and most things are rather temporary.
- Be with Someone Supportive. Why does this work? When humans are distressed, being alone heightens our emotional pain. That’s why solitary confinement itself is often a form of mental torture. So, find a trusted friend or family member and keep them close. Key points on technique: Talk about what you are feeling but don’t overdramatizing it! Even if you really feel like you are going to faint, use qualifying language to diminish your angst. Ask them to talk you through your concerns, not just discount them. Better yet, get a hug or pat on the shoulder from your buddy. Physical contact can be very comforting.
Life will always present challenges to be met. When you can meet them with more confidence, your likelihood of success