In this edition of the Mindfulness series, Vicki Flaherty and Patrick Kozakiewicz takes us through a step by step approach to overcome fear.
Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real
“Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat…which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events”……. Wikipedia
Fear shows up in our lives in so many big and little ways, real and imagined from the paralyzing fear of a life-threatening event or a phobia to inane fears and fears that may be so subtle that we may hardly discern them. It is one of our most powerful emotional and physiological reactions, and we frequently rationalize our experience of it, and it often underlies the stories we tell ourselves.
The beginning of overcoming any fear, big or small, is awareness. First, we must notice our experience, observing what is happening or has happened. Then, we can be curious, reviewing the event and asking ourselves “What was I feeling?”, “Where did I feel the fear?”, “How did I react?” It’s helpful to identify what triggered our fear: was it something someone said, something we did, something we thought?
Notice that throughout your life you will encounter a variety of situations, many stressful and difficult, and if you want to flourish, there is an opportunity to realize that fear is not real. Fear is created by our thoughts. Do not misunderstand us, danger is very real, but fear is a choice and below we show you how you can choose to not choose fear 🙂
Once we are aware that we are afraid, we can use techniques to move us to a place of calm and alleviate our fear:
- Notice our breath. It’s natural for our breath to become fast and shallow when we are anxious. We can begin to calm ourselves down by purposefully breathing out longer than breathing in (e.g., breathe in to a count of 6 and breathe out to a count of 10). Breathing in this way engages our parasympathetic nervous system which conserves energy by slowing down our heart rate.
- Rate our level of fear(e.g., on a scale from 1 to 10). This engages the thinking mind and moderates our emotional response.
- Practice being AWARE: Accept the anxiety. Watch the anxiety. [You can take longer out breaths and rate it.] Act normally, behaving as if nothing is different. Repeat the prior steps in your mind if needed. Expect the best. (Learn more about the AWARE Technique.)
- Respect – Gradually and respectfully expose yourself to the feared situationand your inner dialogue by doing things that more and more closely approximate what you fear. Respecting yourself and your fear connects you with your emotions more deeply and allows you to better understand yourself and your reactions to the world.
Taking small steps that move us in the direction we want to go is key to stepping out of our fear. Focus just on the first step, rather than determining all of the steps needed, which can paralyze us into inaction. When your ego tries to tell you that your steps are too small, fight back by intentionally celebrating the power of your little victories.
“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” -Chinese Proverb
For more on working and living more mindfully, visit our mindfulness series.
We hope you find these suggested mindfulness approaches useful for creating greater awareness in your life and work. Please feel free to add a comment below to let us know how you have got on.
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Content authored by Vicki Flaherty and Patrick Kozakiewicz.
Vicki Flaherty is the Global Mindfulness@IBM Leader and helps IBMers lead with clarity, intention, and authenticity. You’ll find her on LinkedIn and Twitter and over at her Leading with Intention blog.
Patrick Kozakiewicz – IT Security Health Check Process Owner, Agile Champion, Global Mindfulness@IBM Online Community Leader and a Mindfulness Coach@IBM Poland. Patrick believes that mindfulness is the foundation for awareness, emotional intelligence, innovation and stress management and fundamental to bringing IBM to the next level. You’ll find him on LinkedIn.