This past year has been a year of change (some good, some very bad), continuous uncertainty and a whole lot of fear.
We have been in protection mode for so long now, thinking and planning to protect ourselves and our loved ones from economic, career, financial, social, mental health and physical health risks.
Re-integration requires even more risk as we start to mingle with large groups, travel and as we tentatively plan for the year ahead.
With so long in the mindset of protection, we need to be careful to understand how to change our relationship with fear so we can re-engage successfully.
Fear and doubt are designed to protect us, to keep us screening our world to look out for things could hurt us. We may avoid the feared thing or defend and attack against it in some way if we feel under threat.
Thank goodness fear is there as it keeps us safe and drives us to betterment. If we understand how to use it before it uses us.
Sometimes fear, doubt, anxiety, stress can lead to all sorts of avoidant (flight) or defending and attacking (fight) behaviours, which actually stop us getting the thing we want.
We get in our own way, or to put it more specifically, our fear gets in our way.
It’s looking for a short term solution to avoid the fear thing, rather than being focused on the longer term goals, which often require a little bit of discomfort.
Sometimes the fear voice is so loud it dominates our choices and this very loud guest we host in our minds takes control.
As we re-integrate it is crucial we change our relationship with fear. Fear is here to stay and we must learn to control it.
You may notice yourself getting caught in indecision, procrastination, irritation, defensive behaviours, avoidance, FOMO, impostor syndrome or overwhelm. All of these are caused by our loud guest of fear.
Here are some things which we can do to change and control our relationship with fear so that these things don’t throw us off the things that really matter.
- Recognise how fear is interrupting your choices and whether this serves you in the long term;
- Self-compassion for ourselves, our wellbeing, our boundaries and even our fears is crucial at any time. And right now, it is essential for us to move forward with re-integration. It is okay to feel nervous, worried, fearful given the year we have had. Don’t block these feelings they need processing not ignoring;
- Remember that your guest of fear is only one of many in your head. You have the guest of excitement, joy, pleasure, all the emotions. Which one you let lead your party is up to you. But never forget you are the host of your party, not any of your guests, even the loudest one!
- Evaluate the key message your fear guest is wanting to warn you about. We want to be able to turn towards this guest and hear the message but not the drama;
- Decide about the best way forward for you after you have evaluated the message of fear. If your longer-term goal is inhibited by what fear wants, perhaps think of a simple way you could build towards your goal whilst calming your fear; and
- Create a graded hierarchy to step yourself towards your goals without letting fear take back control. Each step should be progress and perhaps a little uncomfortable, but safe enough that you are not going to pull back to avoidance. Learn some simple grounding techniques to calm your biological system should you experience any spike in anxiety.
We can give ourselves the tools to get closer to our fear.
When we understand the patterns our fear guest has we can start to unpick whether it is stopping us from being as courageous as our goals require.
Using these tools you will take actions that will get you closer to your full potential.
This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.