In this post we'll give you 5 quick ways to help cope with fear.
So, what is fear anyways? We throw that word “fear” around all the time.
- I’m afraid I forgot to turn off the stove
- I’m afraid you’re mistaken
- I am afraid they won’t accept me
- I am afraid of flying
- I’m a frayed knot (LOL)
Let's start by defining the terms used interchangeably surrounding fear so this discussion can be helpful.
These definitions hail from: Erasing Fears & Traumas Based on the Modern Neuroscience of Fear | Huberman Lab Podcast #49
- Stress - ”A physiological response such as increased heart rate or breathing rate”. Stress can exist without fear and we need stress to have fear (read that again until it clicks!).
- Anxiety - “Stress about some future event” (note the base unit of stress is included in anxiety).
- Fear - “Stress and anxiety are the building blocks of fear.” When you look at fear as a response, it has two elements:
- Physical element we experience in body.
- Cognitive element we experience as thoughts and memories in our mind.
- Phobia - “Extreme fear of something specific,” such as spiders, falling, flying etc.
- Trauma - First you have to know that “some fear took place. That fear gets activated at times when it is maladaptive … meaning it doesn’t serve you well.”
- Panic Attack - “Experience of extreme fear without any fear-inducing stimulus.”
Our Top 5 Strategies for Coping With Fear
#1: Jin Shin Jyutsu Thumb Technique
According to traditional Japanese medicine, the thumb and the stomach are connected. Some of us have a habit of saying we get "butterflies in the stomach" when we're nervous, right? Then here's how you can use your thumb to get rid of that.
You've probably heard about tapping and EFT before, so you know how powerful it is. Here's Mike's original 6-step tapping protocol for anxiety.
#3: Social Connection
Decrease tachykinin in the blood stream with social connection. You can either trust me, or you can read this article excerpted below
“Guided by our previous studies of aggression in Drosophila (Wang et al., 2008; Asahina et al., 2014), we have investigated a potential role for tachykinins in mediating social isolation stress (SIS)-induced aggression in mice (Maggio, 1988). Studies of Tac2/NkB in the central amygdala have implicated the peptide in fear memory consolidation (Andero et al., 2014; Andero et al., 2016)”
What this paper found was that tachykinin is a sort of “punishment” hormone that shows up when we are socially isolated. It increases aggression and irritability AND it is easy to fix! All you need to do is seek social connection.
This could be a conversation, a meal (even over zoom) or physical touch with another living being. These things all effectively decrease levels of tachykinin therefore clearing the irritability and aggression.
#4: Anticipate The Fear Response and Override It By Choice
If you accidentally stepped on a tack you would immediately retract your foot and also move your other leg into position to maintain your balance.
If I said you can have $1,000,000 if you walk on the tack without flinching or altering your walking pattern I am guessing, many of you would be able to do so!
What are your “tacks” and how can you use this million dollar idea to stabilize your next fear response?
Here are some inspiring words of wisdom from four people who understand how to look fear in the face and smile These examples are direct quotes from How The Best Overcome Fear | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)
How does Richard Branson face failure?
Richard Branson is a world-famous entrepreneur, adventurer, activist, and business icon. He tends to “go big or go home” creating explosive successes as well as crushing failures.
In his interview with Tim Ferris he notes that,
“I am so busy I can’t afford to let myself down.” Have you ever noticed that when your schedule has no wiggle room you are mentally incapable of ruminating about the mistakes of the past or the possible dangers of the future? This can be implemented with intention in such a way that fear has no seat at your table.
When Tim asked Sir Richard Branson what he would put on a giant billboard for millions to see. He answered, “nothing ventured, nothing gained. The people that stick their neck out have a lot more fun than the people who sit at home and watch other people do it.”
Haven’t you spent hours scrolling through the various feeds of social media with a keen interest in the people who are sticking their neck out. Perhaps you will keep this in mind next time you face fear!
How does Maria Sharapova face fear?
Maria Sharapova is the winner of five grand slam tennis titles and also Forbes highest paid female athlete of all time. When Tim asks her about rejection she says, “ I mean it’s a very tough word to believe in. It’s a very tough word to accept. I think one of the reasons is because I saw in many different scenarios where my father would say no because he would open up an opportunity to say yes.”
I wonder if you have ever thought of it this way? Pretend you are playing the card game black jack and you have 19 in your hand, what do you do if 21 points is the goal? Do you stay and possibly open up a better opportunity to say yes or do you think this is the right time to say yes right now?
A card game is a low stakes way to consider the application of Maria’s words but what about at an interview? What about any business partnership?
Worst case scenario you are crying and just faced the worst rejection only an hour ago, how might you reframe this rejection as a chance to open up an opportunity to say yes?
How does Vince Vaughn reduce rejection?
Movie star, director, and producer Vince Vaughn says, “One great thing about failure is you realize it’s not as bad as your mind makes it out to be. The fear is more crippling than the actual consequences.The consequences, a lot of time, feel almost relieving in a way because now you’ve faced it, you’ve gone through it, and that kind of takes that away from you.”
Maybe you can relate to this during the training phase at a new job? Often while training you might not have a chance to get your hands dirty and practice. This can give you plenty of time to wonder (or accumulate fear) if you will be able to do this when your turn comes. If you can relate, which one was worse, the waiting or the actual moment of truth?
Another example would be when someone had a biopsy and didn’t realize they would have to wait for a week to hear if they are fine? Or maybe you know someone who never makes the appointment at all?
Vince might say something like, “That’s what’s fascinating is how much of it is the woods that we’ve created versus the actual path to the destination?” When you avoid the appointment, you could be building a forest with no path.
You might be surprised that someone like Vince Vaughn estimates he gets 1,000 refusals for every one yes. He has an interesting approach to coping with this by training to become “un-deniable” and says,
“Well, I look at it mathematically. At a certain point I started just focusing my entire day on perfecting my craft. So I was either watching a movie, reading a book on stuff, doing monologues, taking classes…it gave me the confidence to feel like I belonged there. It gave me permission to perform in situations that didn’t feel comfortable because I felt good about what I had brought to the table.”
How does Caroline Paul face the fear of failure?
Caroline Paul is an author, a journalist, and exercises bravery daily in her work as a firefighter. She says, “what I learned, of course, is that you can be scared. That’s okay. But you still have to take action if it’s necessary.
I am not against fear, let me just say right up front. I think fear is definitely important. It’s there to keep us safe. But I do feel like some people give it too much priority. It’s one of the many things that we use to assess a situation. I’m not against fear, but I am pro bravery. So that’s my paradigm. Once I know that, fear is just one of many things that are going on.
So what I do in those situations is I look at all the emotions I’m feeling, which is anticipation, exhilaration, focus, confidence, fun, and fear.”
There is a LOT of value in those words-make sure you didn’t miss them! Here’s a way Maria might suggest you could say it to yourself next time you are afraid:
- I am scared and I can still take action.
- Maybe this is a chance to be brave?
- What other emotions am I experiencing? Maybe break it down as percentages or a mental pie chart of anticipation, exhilaration, focus, confidence, fun, and fear.
#5: Talk Through a Specific Memory 3-4 Times
*This often needs to be done with a trained therapist as many people will experience the emotions just as strongly as when it first occurred*
With that in mind, it is very interesting to note that you can intentionally articulate (or even write) each disturbing detail of a negative experience and you will notice a bad memory can quickly become a boring bad memory! It will lose its emotional charge and flatten.
We hope you have a better understanding of what fear is and what you might pull out of your toolkit next time you meet fear. In fact, if you know the situations that usually scare you, why not just decide right now what you will do next time you are there? That could be really useful, could it not?