By Lissa Rankin MD
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
You already know how fear can paralyze you personally and professionally, rob you of your joy, and keep you from going after your dreams. But did you know it can also make you sick? Whenever your mind feels fear, it triggers the “fight-or-flight” stress response in your body, which disables your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and makes you more susceptible to illness. But never fear (no pun intended). Here are a few tips for living a healthier, happier life by overcoming fear.
Understand that fear is primal.
It originates from the lizard brain of your amygdala and exists as an adaptive mechanism meant to save your life. But in modern society, fear is a warning signal gone haywire. Most of what you fear – losing a loved one, money, or a relationship, for example – isn’t actually threatening your life, though it may be threatening your sense of security. You may not be able to ditch the emotion of fear, but you can make the choice not to let it run the show anymore.
Assess your fears to determine whether they’re helpful or harmful
If you’re afraid of crashing on the rocks when you consider jumping off a cliff, your fear is probably valid. But if you’re afraid to write the book you dream of writing because you’re afraid of failure, fear is only getting the way. Sometimes fear shows up as a valuable intuition, but often, it’s just an agent of self-sabotage. Learning to tell the difference can make all the difference.
Recognize that fear often masquerades as protection
Consider how many times you make decisions because of the “just in case.” Remember that “just in case” is fear masquerading as self-preservation. But it’s still fear, and it’s still harmful to your health.
Consciously dissociate from fear
Once you realize that fear often hurts you more than it protects you, and once you realize that fear is a primal emotion originating from your lizard brain, it’s easier to notice your fear from a distance, rather than letting it have its way with you and dictate your decisions. Try giving your fear a name. (I call mine “The Gremlin” and Martha Beck calls it her “Inner Lizard.”) Visualize it as a beast separate from you. Then pat it on the head and reassure it that you’ve assessed the situation, all is well, and there’s no need to be frightened.
Identify the voice of your faith
Then invite your faith to beat the crap out of your fear. Once you can identify the voice of your fear, see if you can tap into the voice of your faith. (I call it your “Inner Pilot Light” , that always radiant, perpetually sparkly, totally authentic voice that’s always inside of you.)
Trust that, no matter what happens, you can handle it
Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, says that beneath all our other fears lies one root fear – “I can’t handle it.” But deep down, you know you can. Trust that deep knowing.
Ask for guidance
If you can’t identify who should win – your Gremlin or your Inner Pilot Light, seek Divine guidance. Ask for Signs from the Universe and learn to interpret the answers.
Surround yourself with courageous people
When you surround yourself with fearful people, they can’t help projecting their fears onto you, and you can get dragged down into the muck unwittingly. But when brave people who take risks surround you, you’ll feel inspired to be more brave yourself.
When you tap into your faith and find your courage, you’re likely to still feel fear, but you’ll no longer be ruled by it. When you tap into your faith and learn to overcome your fears, your brain halts the stress response and triggers the relaxation response. When the relaxation response is activated, the body can once again heal itself.
Are You Ready To Be Brave?
What fear is holding you back? What courageous action can you take today to show your fear to the door?
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About the author
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. She is on a grass roots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself. Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and also created two online communities – HealHealthCareNow.com and OwningPink.com. She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.