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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

From Clowns to Heights: How to Effectively Overcome Your Fears

Oct 01, 2015 10:09PM ● By Kristine Centnere

With Halloween quickly approaching, a percentage of Americans are likely formulating a plan of how to avoid their worst fear – clowns. However, not every fear is easily avoidable, especially lunaedisophobia (fear of Mondays). It’s a fact, we’re all afraid of something. The question is, how can you stop the exhausting feeling of fear from taking over your life?

First, it is important to understand from where fears come. Fear is not an outside force which you cannot control. On the contrary, the culprit is right inside your head; it can be quite manageable.

We’ve all heard the inner voice that says things like, “That client is too big for you. You will fail and everyone will laugh at you. It’s better to stick with what you know. Don’t go outside of your comfort zone – there are snakes and spiders and everything you fear out there.” That voice comes from a part of the brain called the amygdala.

The amygdala is an almond-shaped mass of nuclei, located in the temporal lobes of the brain. Also known as the “lizard brain” for its primal function, the amygdala is responsible for your most basic instincts: hunger, arousal and fear. The amygdala receives sensory input first and gives it the initial judgment of fear or pleasure before the situation is then judged by the more “reasonable’ frontal lobe part of the brain.

It is easy to get frustrated with this little part of you that seems to rule your life. But the culprit that keeps you from speaking in front of a large crowd comfortably is the same one that keeps you from repeatedly burning yourself on a hot stove.

Now that you understand why you fear, you can overcome your “lizard brain” using the methods below.

Leave your comfort zone

When you are in your comfort zone, your lizard brain is happy because it is not challenged. In order to beat fear, you must leave comfort zone. Typically, you use that feeling of comfort as an indication that this is where you should remain. To move ahead, you must manually override this indicator. The feeling of discomfort must now be the compass of what you should continue doing until your comfort zone expands over it. For instance, if you fear public speaking – as 25.3 percent of Americans do – join a public speaking group and continue to face your fear until it becomes more comfortable.

Make a plan for what you can’t control

You may be fearful of things you can control, such as public speaking, as well as things you cannot, such as an economic downturn. Both can be great sources of anxiety; dealing with them is important. Facing fears you can control is a conscious decision which you are able to do on your own time. However, what do you do if the economy takes a nose dive? Rather than relying on your amygdala’s initial panic response, engage your frontal lobe by thinking more reasonably about a certain situation which may or may not happen. Writing out a plan for a possible circumstance will allow you to feel more comfortable with it; you may even realize that your worst fears are highly unlikely to happen.

Be kind to yourself

Above all else, it is crucial that you are kind to yourself throughout the process. Keep in mind that you are taking on the heroic task of rewiring the most primal of instincts in your brain; it takes work and time.

As ironic as it may read, fear is not something you should fear. By taking a proactive, patient approach to overcoming your fears – and asking for help when you need it – you are capable of reducing anxiety and enjoying things you may have not been able to before. Fear not!

Kristina Centnere, owner of Ekat Development and founder of Total Wellness Connect, works with top local health and wellness professionals. Connect with her at [email protected].