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We are all familiar with the term “fear.”
The feeling within your body when you heart beats a little quicker, you feel nervous butterflies in your stomach, the palms of your hands are sweaty, and your breathing is more forced.
You have activated the fight-or-flight response in your body—the system designed to protect us from danger. When activated, it heightens our senses and prepares our body for an attack, a modern-day attack.
Worryingly, so many people are activating this system themselves—feeling the signs of fear by thinking or predicting a future outcome. Which is perhaps unnecessary.
Let’s have a look further at this fearful predicament.
Sometimes an experience or adventure will occur in your life where something unexpected happens. As human beings, we intuitively, or using prior knowledge and experience, maneuver in the moment. Maybe wriggle out of a situation we don’t want to be in, or overcome a hurdle or roadblock—literally or metaphorically.
It could be like surviving a flight delay or an episode with some eager wild animals. Whatever made you become more alert would have activated your fight-or-flight system in the moment, and, thankfully, you survived. You survived and maneuvered the situation by considering your options, making an informed decision, and taking action.
You remain present, switch to assertive alert mode, and work through the drama. There may be effects on your life, but you handle this, while feeling slightly bemused as you weren’t expecting the bump in the road. It was likely a surprise, something you couldn’t predict. It could be a fluke—one of those “what are the chances” moments—or it could be something that was likely to happen but never made it onto your radar.
Whatever the reason, you survived! An unknown became known, and it all worked out. That is life when living in the present moment. You are a modern-day problem solver.
So let’s replay the scenario again if you were expecting the bump in the road. What would happen?
Thinking about the thing that you are now expecting will probably make you feel apprehensive or a little anxious as you aren’t in full control. The scenario we are discussing is likely to be a worse-case one, so it is hard to predict and will leave you with that “if that happens, I will do this. But then if that happens I will need to work it out as I’m not sure of my next step” thought. It can be mentally exhausting. Your mind is now operating in a “what if” loop.
And that’s the tricky part. If we are discussing a worse-case scenario, then there are too many variables to develop an action plan, just in case it happens. You are preparing for something that may or may not happen. You are trying to control the future—the unknown. Most of us know this is a recipe for mental exhaustion.
By trying to predict and control every part of your life and experiences, you create a bundle of “what if” scenarios. All these leave your mind expecting the worst. Also, you can remain stuck, with no clear action plan. You have triggered the fight-or-flight system and then end up walking about on eggshells. Fearing the fear that comes when a worse-case scenario is triggered.
How many people get stuck fearing the fear? They have spent so long overthinking the worse-case scenario that they can’t just enjoy the moment as they are anticipating the worst. Their whole body is on alert for the fearful event. The sweaty palms, nervous butterflies in the stomach, and the fake smile trying to mask the uneasy feeling.
From everything I’ve experienced in life, the worse-case scenario is never as bad as what we think. It’s definitely not as bad as we expect.
Let’s have a look:
1. That time my flight was cancelled in the Philippines as I tried to fly from Cebu city to the island of Palawan. What was the outcome? I had one less day on the island, but in the end this didn’t impact my trip. The airline provided compensation in the form of an overnight stay in a five-star hotel with an all inclusive dinner and breakfast. I felt refreshed and reinvigorated. A loss turned into a win!
2. On the way to Batu Cave, in Malaysia, I overcame the gauntlet of monkeys who live on the steps leading to the religious shrine. It was truly terrifying. If I knew this experience was coming, I’d have declined as it was mentally tiring trying to withstand the constant fear of a monkey attack. In the end, I would take a deep breath and scurry past, keeping my eye on them. Thankful to survive, now I look back and giggle.
So what I recommend to you:
1. Mentally consider what could happen. Everything. The small, the very likely, the obscure, and the big outlier—the catastrophe!
2. Write the main big scenarios and how you plan to overcome these if they were to happen. Think like a problem solver. Mentally prepare.
3. For all the other scenarios, pop them in a box that is labelled “we will deal with that as and when.” These are the ones that are impossible to plan for.
4. Control and prepare as best as you can for what you can. Even develop a mini action plan if necessary. Do what you need to do to ease the unknown, uncontrollable element that triggers the feeling of overwhelm and fear.
5. Then let it go knowing you are built and designed as a problem solver—someone who is a “what will be, will be” person. You are as prepared as you need to be. Don’t fixate on all the scenarios. You are ready.
6. Prepare some mantras, like “I am flexible and flow with life,” for when something might happen.
7. If something does happen:
>> Control your breathing first.
>> Smile—this will trigger the “you have got this” mindset.
>> Explain to yourself that you will figure it out.
>> Recall your action plan and take action or, literally, figure it out.
9. If required, know you can use your support and community to guide you if you get really stuck.
10. Remember that this too shall pass and it is all part of the process of living life
The fears we don’t face become our limits. So get out there and push beyond the fear of fear.