Fear has the power to bring our life to a standstill. We are so afraid of what might go wrong that we are unable to move forward with our plans and dreams. Fear can become so overwhelming that even when something good is happening in our life we can sabotage it for fear that it will all go wrong. We can fail to hold onto a new romance because of a bad relationship in the past. We can fail to start a new business, apply for that new job or take that new promotion because we are afraid we are just not good enough. So, how do we let go of this very powerful emotion and set ourselves free to live and enjoy our life to the full?
1. Understand what it is you are really afraid of
Going back into the past is not normally something I would recommend but sometimes we need to go back to uncover what happened in the past that is making us so afraid to go forward with our life. It is important that we can understand what is causing the blockage, and what is it we are really afraid of. When we can shine a light on past events that are getting in the way of change, then we can begin to let the past go and see that just because X happened in the past does not mean it will happen again.
2. Stop asking what could go wrong and imagine what could go right
We can spend hours and hours of our life in contemplation of all the disasters that might befall our life if we do this or that. Why not try thinking about how wonderful your life will be if it all works out?
3. All emotions have a positive intention
Fear is the mind’s way of protecting us, it is doing its best to help us and guide us through life keeping us safe from danger. If a bus is hurtling towards you, then it is good to have fear, it moves us to action and to get out of the way. Sometimes though it does its job too well and we become paralysed with fear for which there is no rational need.
Understanding that fear is a normal emotion and accepting that it is nothing to be afraid of, helps us learn to let go of those fears that are no longer necessary and are holding us back.
4. Is your fear logical?
Most of our fear comes from our unconscious mind, and it is using past events to protect us from similar bad things happening in the future. Sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself if the fear you have is logical? What are the chances of the fear coming true? What if the fear doesn’t come true, how will your life change? What if you do something and it doesn’t work out, what is the worst that can happen? Is the worst as bad as you imagined? Doing this exercise allows you to use the logical part of your brain and get the fear into a realistic perspective. When we live in fear that has no logic to it, we are using only part of the brain. If we can use both parts of our brain then we are more likely to be able to make the changes we want and move forward with our life.
5. Talk to your Fear
Our fear is just like a thought that comes and goes all day long. It is just another type of thought that brings with it the emotion of fear. We can deal with it in the same way we deal with all our thoughts:
• We can let them go and float away
• We can chew on them and make them part of our reality
• We can talk to them; laugh at them; explain things to them
With a fear thought, as with all thoughts, if you can let it go then just let it go. If you can’t do this then have a logical conversation with it. Explain that you understand why it is bringing fear, but you are Ok, just because X happened in the past and you are trying to protect me by sending this thought, it is OK, I know bad things might happen and I know good things might happen. That is life, and I don’t want to let this opportunity go because of something that happened in my past. So, thank you for the thought, but I don’t need you to send me anymore on this subject.
6. Use your heart not your head
If fear is holding you back then it is time to get quiet and listen to your heart. What is it you really want in life? Go with what your heart tells you and don’t allow the mind to use unsubstantiated arguments to change your mind. When you want to get quiet just focus on your breathing, taking a few minutes to notice your breath and just follow the flow in and out. Then start to notice your breath flowing down to your heart putting your hand on your heart, ask yourself the question. What is it I am really afraid of? Allow the answer the come, you will know it is the right answer when it is very simple. You will know if it is coming from you mind as it will be shouting many different solutions and insisting that you have to control everyone and everything. Ignore the shouting and listen for the whisper from your heart. Even if is telling you to do nothing, then that is OK as well.
7. Is that the best you can do?
One of the best bits of advice I ever got regarding fear was to ask “Is that the best you can do?” “Is that as worrying as it gets”? “Can’t you try a little harder to make me more afraid?” I don’t know why but when I do this, I end up laughing and there is nothing like a good laugh to let the fears all float away.
8. Learn a good breathing technique
Learning a good breathing technique to use when you are having anxious thoughts is a must. There are many to choose from. Just keep it simple and begin by focusing on your breath, this alone will start to calm an anxious mind. The easiest one to remember is to simply breathe in for 3, hold for a beat and breath out for 5. Repeat as often as necessary until you feel more centred and able to see a way forward and can take the next step.
9. Visualise your happy place
Sit quietly and bring to your mind an image of a time or a place when you felt really peaceful and relaxed. A time that you wanted the world to stop, and you felt that you could remain there forever. Just get a really clear image and begin to notice anything you can see, what sounds can you hear, can you touch anything. Just relax and enjoy and stay in this moment for as long as possible.
10. Notice your self-talk
Start to notice when your voice is criticising, putting you down, judging you. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would say this to someone you love or to your best friend. If not, then let the words go. Then change the language and re-enforce all the positive things about you and your life, your achievements and how far you have come. How brave you have been. Be your own best friend. Learn how to love yourself and talk to yourself in a way that encourages and soothes.
“A boat is safe in the harbour. But this is not the purpose of a boat“.
Remember that when we are aware that fear is simply an emotion that is trying to protect us, we can shine a light of awareness on it and when we become aware of what is happening then we can let it go. Fear becomes frightening when we don’t understand what is happening and therefore we allow a string of thoughts to tumble along uncontrollably day in and day out, and even at night while we sleep. Turn on the light and stare and it, let it know enough is enough and you are back in control.