Managing Your Fears
Fear can be an opportunity buster. It can confine your dreams to a wish list. Fear can poison your
social life and cripple your business. Leaders, often, feel comfortable managing everything except their inner fears: fears of market changes, fears of globalization, fears of competition, fear of supply chain uncertainty, fears of turnover, fears of expanding into new markets or products, fears of succession, and panic of losing their business.
Fear has found fertile ground in the hearts of millions during these difficult pandemic times. I have seen many individuals alone wearing a mask in their car as they drive down the road. I hope that by unmasking and demystifying fear we can get a better grasp on managing it, so that we're not paralyzed by it.
The world is currently poised to give-in to fear. The threat of being exposed or infected with COVID-19 is driving many to their doctor and/or therapist for help with mental health issues.
The incidence of depression in the US has increased 4 hundred percent since the COVID19 threat began. People are concerned about how COVID-19 could affect the economy—they are afraid of another COVID19 lock down. And the emergence of new Covid19 variants isn't comforting. There is so much fear in the world it’s almost palpable. But how helpful is it to be fearful?
by unmasking and demystifying fear we can get a better grasp on managing it, so that we're not paralyzed by it.
In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Roosevelt made this declaration almost 90 years ago. But many continue to be frozen by fear. Despite its reputation, we need to acknowledge that fear is a good and necessary emotional
response. You may be thinking: are you kidding me? After all you have said about fear you are suggesting it is good? If fear is good, why does it feel so bad? Wouldn’t we be better-off if we did not experience fear?
Fear is good so long as it doesn't become your master
Humans are better-off with the ability to fear than without it. Fear prompts us to exercise caution and to spring into defensive and offensive action against perceived foes. Fear is akin to pain: they both are essential for human survival on this imperfect earth. However, when poorly managed, fear can wreak havoc emotionally and physically. So the key is to learn to properly manage it.
Fear has kept a lot of people from realizing their true potential. Many spend years thinking-up a great business concept or invention but their idea never moves beyond the gestation stage because of their fear of failure. Others are missing-out on all the benefits of a great relationship because of their fear of rejection. Even others are stuck in a dead-end job or relationship and remain in it because they are afraid of the unknowns associated with new beginnings. Fair is good so long as it doesn’t become your master.
So, what is fear? Why do we feel fear? What happens in the human brain when we experience fear? Fear begins with a sensory stimuli that leads to a mental perception which the amygdala (the fight/flight/stay trigger in your brain) interprets as a threat. The amygdala then alerts the nervous system, which activate many physiological reactions: Your body releases stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol), your heart begin racing, and your blood pressure increases—to mention a few. Your system is preparing to battle the fear producing foe!
The human brain does not differentiate what is imagine from what is real.
Fear takes advantage of the fact that the brain can't tell the difference between imagination or reality. So, when you imagine the worse, the brain treats your imagination as if it were actually happening and prompts your nervous system to react accordingly, triggering debilitating emotional and physiological outcomes. When a person cycles through fear-induced emotions all day, it is easy to understand why people under constant fear become depressed.
Fear is strongly driven by perception. Therefore, distorted perceptions can lead us to fear certain people, things, or circumstances without cause.
Ignorance also can be a formidable catalyst of fear. That’s why many people experience apprehension or fear when entering a dark room, when exposed to new cultures, new relationships, new careers, a job interview, or even a new job—they do not know what to expect. And, when we encounter the unknown, we often anticipate the worse without evidence to do so. That’s when fears start to reproduce like rabbits on steroids and Viagra.
So, what can we do to overcome our fears?
First, remember to think—fear does not exist, it is just a thought. It is literally a figment of
Second, commit to making decisions and acting based on evidence rather than just emotions. Practice critical thinking at all times. Facts can be very reassuring in uncertain times.
Third, cultivate a positive attitude and, when faced with the unknown, your tendency will be to imagine the best outcome, rather than catastrophizing.
Fourth, keep in mind that fear is a good emotional response, so long as it is well managed. Uncontrolled fear can be debilitating and inhibiting.
Remember, fear is a human emotional response that is unlikely to go away. It can be good and and it's necessary for our survival. However, if we do not manage it, it will possess and consume us. Since your brain doesn't differentiate what you imagine from what is real, it is wise to cultivate a positive imagination and your brain will reward you with "feel good" dopamine instead of stress-inducing Cortisol or adrenaline. Managing fear effectively will likely advantage you over your fearful competitors in business and in relationships. So, in the words of Marie Curie "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."