Dealing with fear is a natural part of the process of making changes. That’s because our survival instinct automatically treats everything we experienced as something safe for us. Even a trauma, a life-threatening situation… It thinks: if we are alive now, everything that had happened before let us survive! Understanding of this mechanism and learning how to handle its reactions is a way to deal with stress, anxiety, and resistance to change! Today I am going to share with you 10 tips that I feel useful!
1. UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR SURVIVAL INSTINCT WORKS
Yeah… It thinks that what you’ve experienced is safe for you, and everything new could be dangerous for your life. It was a good system for early people who made decisions like ‘ Get out of the cave when it is dark or not’. But now, let’s be honest… Would changing a job kill you? Would moving to another country put you in danger? Would starting a business put you in a life-threatening situation (unless you are a member of mafia)?
When you try to do something new, your survival instinct triggers fear to stop you. The form of this fear could be also anxiety and resistance that makes you procrastinate. The instinct tries to save your life. The emotions you feel are the response to the subconscious judgment that something bad is happening. And thoughts appear in your head to convince you that rationally it is better to not make the change. You start creating negative scenarios about what can happen.
This is a universal human mechanism. You can’t change it or turn it off. It is a part of our nature. But you can understand the waves of emotions and thoughts you have and not believe that they represent the objective truth you should follow.
You can understand that the thing is there is no choice between something safe and dangerous. Every scenario you create can also happen if you don’t make the change you are considering. Life is unpredictable and (after Heraclitus) ‘The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change’. So you choose between the illusion of safety and something unknown. And first of all – there is no real danger no matter which path you decide to pick.
2. ACCEPT YOUR FEAR
That’s the survival instinct that tries to protect you is speaking. There is no way to turn it off. And the more you try to stop it or distract from it, the more often and intense you will feel the fear. What you can do is to listen to its message like you listen to a child sharing something important with you. Imagine what the child could do when you deny listening – they could become angry and start screaming, don’t you think?
To let your fear go, stay with the emotion, feel it and observe it with distance – don’t believe your fear that you are in danger!
I like talking to my fear to become more distant, for example: ‘Dear fear, I am grateful that you try to protect me but I am safe. I know what’s good for me. I am listening to you but we have different opinions about my situation. I am sure I am safe and I can do it”.
3. GROUND IN THE PRESENT SITUATION
Give your subconsciousness a clear message that you are not in the jungle surrounded by predators. You feel fear because it thinks that you are in danger. When your conscious and subconscious mind has this kind of difference of opinions what you can do is to focus on the present moment and your surrounding with all your senses.
Look around and say loudly (if you can’t, just whisper, or talk in your thoughts) what you see and feel around. For example: I am in my flat, I stay on a wooden floor, I feel my feet on the ground. The door to the kitchen is open and I feel the smell of dinner still in the air. I see a flower on my desk and I touch its rough leaves.
4. GROUND IN YOUR BODY
Do the same with your body a part after a part. You feel fear so naturally your body is uptight. Try to relax. You can do scan body meditation. There are a lot of guided videos on youtube. You can also use ‘A safe place technique’.
5. TAKE YOUR EMOTIONS OUT
Write them down or draw. It is a way to connect with them by self-expression but also a clear message to your subconsciousness that they are not an integral part of you, but something outside – a piece of paper. It naturally makes you distant from what you feel. And more and more distant you are, more and more you feel able to think clearly and take action to make the change possible!
6. SHARE WITH A FRIEND
Text, call or meet a friend to talk about what you feel. There are a lot of benefits to this! It is a way to receive support and understanding. A method to express your emotions and release the tension in your body. An opportunity to hear yourself verbalizing what’s going on in your life and get clearer insight into your situation. You can intensify it asking your friend for repeating in their words what they heard from you!
And the last thing, a very important one… What you are going through is a big deal for you but not such a big deal for anyone who doesn’t share this experience with you. Share with a friend to internalize their distance to your situation!
7. VISUALIZE WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Your mind is the most scared of what is unknown. That’s the space to fill with negative scenarios that make you feel your fear even more! But look how powerful those scenarios are although they are imaginary… The thing is your subconscious mind doesn’t differentiate between reality and your imagination. You can reduce your fears by visualizing how good your life is after you make the change. Be creative and think about details to not leave any space for negative thoughts there!
8. MAKE A PLAN FULL OF BABY STEPS
To make transformation happen you need to take action now. Get out of the vicious circle of repeating what you would like to change and doing nothing in the present moment to get there because it leads to no change in the future. Create a plan and do at least one small thing every day to get to the point you would like to be.
Baby steps don’t cause strong reactions to your survival instinct. It means less resistance, and waves of fears, anxiety and procrastinating easier to handle. Plus when you do tasks to achieve your goal regularly, you adjust to doing the bigger steps, and your motivation, and satisfaction of being closer to the goal grows.
9. TREAT YOURSELF
By treating yourself every time you do a task, you achieve another baby step to reach your goal, you regulate the level of dopamine in your brain. It is a neurotransmitter responsible for motivation! We all are very good at punishing ourselves for what we perceive as our failures…, don’t you think?
Let’s try to reverse the process and connect the brain’s pleasure center responses with our work! Treat yourself every time and you will feel more and more motivated and ready to do bigger and bigger step on your journey to make a change!
10. LEARN ABOUT YOUR FEARS
Observe yourself, try different methods to deal with your emotions, combine them and check what works best for you. Be understanding and empathetic for yourself – it needs cleverness and persistence to fox automatic reactions of your brain. Making a change happen is a process of dealing with human survival instincts. It takes time. But it is possible and brings a lot of satisfaction! It is worth your effort!