Fears. We all have ‘em. Fear of public speaking is the most common. Fear of missing out is the newest I’ve heard, with a handy acronym: FOMO. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of spiders. Fear of being alone. Fear of flying. Fear of messing up as a mother. You name it. Facing our fears is the basic human condition, as pointed out in one of my favorite films, Defending Your Life.
When the clock radio turned on this morning, the DJ announced that now, to address this most basic human state of anxiety, we have a day dedicated to facing those fears. Face Your Fears Day. Today’s the day, the second annual to be exact. In that spirit, I’d like to toss out my favorite mantras for doing just that.
And the corollary: Don’t believe every thought you think.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
It’s just anxiety, not reality.
Self-compassion is a good place to start, loving yourself, fears and all. Giving yourself that validation, rather than chastising yourself for being fearful, aka for being human, means you can drop the ‘second dart’ of self-criticism. The first dart is the visceral fear; the second dart, unnecessary, is that judgment you impose upon yourself. I don’t know that many people who don’t have a few, steering their lives, even if the fear is lurking deep below the surface. And the fact that we’ve dedicated a day to the concept is further proof that fear is a pretty universal condition.
And my second favorite way to cope: exhale. Everyone touts deep breathing as a way to calm yourself. Even these supposedly simple directions can add stress: fear of breathing wrong! Or not finding time! The bottom line, in terms of the nervous system, is that taking a great big deep breath IN actually activates the alarm system of the body, telling your body to prepare to fight or flee. Let out a big deep EXHALE instead, and you send a message to your nervous system that there is no danger, and it’s safe to relax. That’s it. One move. Repeat as needed. Simple. Practice it just like blowing out birthday candles; we all conquered that skill when we were three.
What are your fears? What’s your favorite way to conquer them?