Five Steps from Fear & Anxiety to Freedom, Love, Happiness & Peace
This morning I sat in the sun with my bulletproof coffee and started writing in my journal and the first thing I always write is the date. As I wrote the date I realised it was the last day of winter so I thought that I would reflect on the last three months and the strangest thing happened; the thing that I realised had happened during this winter was that I had stepped into many of my fears and my feelings of anxiety, apprehension, tension and frustration. These were my normal three months ago and now they were no longer there.
My coach said to me a few times over the last 3 months that the time just before the light are the darkest but I guess because I was ‘in it’, I just couldn’t see.
This got me thinking, what is fear really? And because I can’t help but be scientific about these things I thought I would look into fear and the effect it has on our brains. Lets start with identifying when we are in fear. There are different levels of fear. There is the full flight or fight response when you have perceived something to be immediately life threatening or there are less intense fear response that is more focused into the future or the past like anxiety, tension and worry. Anxiety is a fear of something that hasn’t happened yet and worry is a fear that you have made a wrong choice about something in the past.
“Frightening stimulus can trigger emotions and fears unconsciously—without our even realizing it.”1 Fear is a basic human response to a perceived threat. Threats don’t necessarily have to come from life threatening sources; a fear response can be felt before events such as exams, public speaking or even going to an event where you have to mingle with a new crowd.
In the research I have done, there are big distinctive lines drawn between fear and anxiety and worry however, any time I have been coached around feeling anxiety or worry, the underlying emotion has always come back to fear, fear of failure, fear of rejection or fear of abandonment. So when these fears are driving my behaviors’, I want to call them for what they are and deal with them and not get caught up in semantics.
I think that the worst thing about these ‘hidden’ fears is that the thing that I fear the most is the thing that was I creating with the feeling. For example, when I was experiencing anxiety because of a fear of failure, I would be sabotaging any chance of success resulting in failing which then brings forward feelings of shame.
I recently read Brene’ Browns book, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings on Authenticity, Connection, and Courage and wow, I had some really deep insights into my own psyche. This book really ‘normalised’ my feelings of shame and I felt free to drop that emotion for a much better one, vulnerability.
With hindsight, I can now see how my feelings of fear and shame influenced my life particularly in situations where I was triggered by wounds from my childhood. I often used my identification with being an introvert to avoid situations with crowds, parties and events where I felt I had to mingle with lots of people. Coming up to these situations, I would become tense, apprehensive and anxious then when I was there I would often find myself being very judgmental of the people there (in my own internal dialogue) and after the event I would experience regret and shame that I wasn’t funny enough, relaxed enough, that I wasn’t enough.
Many times after events like this, I would feel exhausted and I would want to retreat from the world for a while so I could recover. None of this was fun so then next time, I would react worse as another event loomed closer.
With the letting go of my shame, I was recently at a personal development workshop where I was on crew. I have been on crew on this workshop before and had previously experienced all of those negative emotions in the lead up, experienced the judgment during and experienced the exhaustion after and I would seriously question myself why I was putting myself through it.
This time when the opportunity came up to be on crew, I barely hesitated. Leading up I felt light, free and excited to get into the workshop. During the workshop I felt free of judgment and felt what it was like to truly be in service to other people. After the workshop, I felt like I had done a great job. There was no experience of shame or regret, only joy, fulfilment and peace.
As I reflected on that change this morning, it felt so significant; I wanted to share it with you all because I know that these changes in my mental state have a big impact on my physical state.
“Anxiety plays a role in somatic symptom disorder, which is characterised by physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, weakness, or dizziness that have no apparent physical cause. Anxiety has been implicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions. When people with these disorders have untreated anxiety, the disease itself is more difficult to treat, their physical symptoms often become worse, and in some cases they die sooner.”2
These are pretty serious consequences. So below I have listed the top 5 things I have done over the last 3 months to reduce my feelings of anxiety and worry and to let go of my feelings of shame and regret:
- Read and learn – Brene’ Brown’s book was just one of many that I have read. Some others are “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)” by Chade-Meng Tan, “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tolle and “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.
- Get a coach – No matter how good you think you are, your ability to see your own shit is limited. All of the top performers in the world whether in sports or business use coaches to improve their performance. My coach is Sarah McCrum, an energy coach with 22 years training with Chinese masters. Sarah has a free facebook group where she does daily live energy activations. Join the group and listen whenever suits you to get your daily dose of energy.
- Recognise Your Current Coping Mechanisms – for me having an alcoholic drink as I am cooking dinner and eating our evening meal each night has been how I have learned how to cope with my stress on an every day basis. Awareness is the first step towards change so now I am bringing in new routines at night so I can replace this unhealthy behaviour with a healthier one. For example, I have started dancing lessons twice per week. This is pattern interrupting the drinking without trying to use discipline to stop.
- Journal Every Day – I love to journal in the morning. Like this morning, I never really know what is going to come up and out, today it was a realisation around my levels of daily fear, anxiety and stress and as a result I felt compelled to share my journey from a place of honesty and vulnerability. It is quite cathartic allowing thoughts, feelings and emotions to flow out of my body onto the pages of my journal.
- Laugh & Smile – Stress can’t live in a world of laughter. I remember one morning doing one of Sarah’s meditation’s and during this meditation I had to keep a smile on my face for the whole 20 mins. To start with I felt stupid and awkward and I had to really force the smile to stay then that stupid, awkward feeling spontaneously turned into laughter. I was laughing so much at myself trying to keep this smile plastered to my face! That day, I laughed every time I thought about my smile, I still laugh when I think about that meditation. If you’re not sure how to make yourself laugh, try keeping a smile on your face for 20 minutes.
Goodbye winter, I thank you for the transformation. If you have any experiences of moving through feelings of fear and anxiety to feelings of happiness and peace that you would like to share, please connect with me on socials or join our Juzcit community Facebook group. Until next week, Love Michelle
Credit for Podcast intro: http://www.purple-planet.com