The other side of fear
Walking towards the edge of the Avon viaduct, my easy stroll along the canal has just changed its tune into gripping fear.
Last time I walked over here my fear of heights hit me like a sledgehammer and my sister had to take my arm to walk to the other side. I made the mistake of looking down the 100ft drop and my head swam at the vast gap between me and the ground.
This time I have a bouncy labradoodle and I know from experience she'll sense if I become anxious.
Do I turn back?
No. I can do this.
Taking a deep breath, I focus on the path ahead and notice how solid the stone feels below my feet. I think about the techniques I've learned to help me connect with a resourceful state and focus on the outcome of reaching the other side smoothly and calmly.
I continue with the deep breaths. One foot in front of the other. Strong, solid, and calm. I repeat these words with each out-breath: strong, solid, and calm. And it has a transformative effect to the extent that I feel meditative and uplifted by cool clear breaths, with a slow, steady rhythm to my movement. I even cheerfully say hello to a man walking a sheepdog coming the other way.
As I reach the other side and step off the viaduct I experience a feeling of celebration and courage, as if on a voyage of discovery, and I’m overflowing with positivity. I’m excited by what I’ve discovered on the other side of my fear. No big deal in the whole scheme of things, but I feel like I’ve proved something to myself.
I find life is like that too, and I feel enriched through personal growth each time I step out of the other side of challenges which may initially have brought fear. I take time to reflect on what I’ve learned and this case I have the ideal opportunity to test and integrate the learning as I have to make it back the other way across the viaduct again!
Same as before, I bring myself into a resourceful state by focusing on the outcome (not the problem!) and saying the positive mantra in my head. I glide across with ease and grace. What could have been a fight-or-flight adrenaline rush has instead become a confidence boost.
And I’m reminded how much our thoughts and beliefs shape our experiences, something I’ve learned through NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and it has opened up my world to infinite possibilities. My connection to real-life experiences of building resilience, mindful living, connecting with creativity, and living with purpose have helped to deepen my experiences and my relationships.
If you want to feel more calm and confident when you're experiencing fear, here are four simple steps for you to try:
Pause. Slow down your thoughts and body movements and pause in-the-moment so you can take a step back.
Notice where your attention is going. Are you focusing on the fear and what could go wrong? Observe with curiosity, a 'beginner's mind'. Simply acknowledge what comes up and how you're experiencing it just now, without judgement or telling yourself off. You might have a mental image, or sounds, or physical feelings and emotions. This is natural and we're wired to respond to what our subconscious perceives as a threat. When we understand this, and acknowledge it, we then have a choice in how to respond.
Breathe. When we are having these natural, unconscious reactions to fear, all sorts of things can happen which are not helpful to how we would consciously choose to be. We might notice an increased heart rate, breathing is shallow and faster, we may start to sweat, or have cold hands.
The first thing to do to ease this is take a deep breath. Notice how the cool, clean air feels as you breathe all the way in through your nostrils.... and the warm air as you release a relaxing breath all the way out. As you focus on your breathing, notice how your body softens, allow yourself to let go, and the tension starts to drift away. Ideally do this for at least 2-3 minutes, regularly, for lasting results. Contact me if you'd like a recorded meditation to guide you through it.
And if you find it a challenge to be still, moving around can help. Go for a walk, run, dance, do exercise of any kind that suits your fitness level. The main thing is to change state to a more resourceful way of being.
Focus. Now you've cleared some head-space and calmed the fight-or-flight reactions you can choose what you want to focus on, in line with the outcome you want. And your brain has more capacity for thinking, now that you have more oxygen and less stress hormones running around!
And now vividly imagine your outcome as if it's already happening, for example....
See a picture in your mind's eye, the colours, shapes, light and shade. What can you see happening around you, and in the distance?
Hear any sounds, and their tone, pitch, rhythm.
And what are you saying to yourself?
Notice sensations in your body, what success feels like, any emotions that you're experiencing now you've achieved your outcome.
What you focus on you get more of. What do you want to create more of in your life?
Would you like to step through to the other side of fear with a supportive partner by your side?
I’m here when you’re ready.
The next NLP Practitioner Programme is running in Spring 2020. Register interest now for a deep dive into self-discovery, learn ways to build awareness and choice, and gain wonderful skills to use in all aspects of life.