When it comes to getting the things that we want and doing the things that we need to do, fear can often get in the way. Even to the point of paralyzing us to where we don’t know what to do at all. Thankfully, there is a way of overcoming fear, and it’s through mindfulness. Fear is a terrifying emotion, in fact, it is terror-inducing. When we know how to process it correctly, we can move away from it taking over our lives the way that it does. Thankfully, we can turn to medicine to help us move through this emotion and come out the other side. We interviewed Dr. Gail Gazelle MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Master Certified Coach, to provide her top five tips on how to manage fear through mindfulness and gratitude. Mindfulness is a powerful practice that reduces stress, high-functioning anxiety, depression, and can make us over all more grateful for our lives and the way that we lead them. Keep reading for more!
Here Are Five Mindfulness Tips to Help Overcome Fear In Our Lives
1) Recognize that we all experience fear and that it is part of our shared humanity
When we’re experiencing fear, our brain goes into survival mode and we feel isolated and alone. But we are not alone. Everyone experiences fear, not just us. Remembering that can move us from that painful sense of isolation into a more expansive sense that we are all in this together. Fear is such a terrible emotion to experience because it makes you freeze in your place. You have gut-wrenching anxiety that persists inside and outside of you. You can’t describe it to anyone else because it is part of your inner world. One thing that you can feel better about is that we all, as humans, experience fear. It is a part of what makes us human and can keep us away from potentially dangerous situations.
2) Fear is generated in a part of the brain that responds to threats in the environment
Oftentimes, our brain interprets difficulties in our lives as a threat and “pushes the buttons” of our brain’s fear and defense system. We can find our heart beating fast, our breathing becoming shallow, our face flushing. With mindful awareness, we can remind ourselves that our fear alert system has been activated. Simply doing so, begins a process of reversing this activation. You can tell yourself that you are safe, recognize that you are experiencing a bodily reaction, and use anxiety reduction techniques like a wellness trend like tapping to start to calm yourself down. Tapping is the practice of finger tapping different parts of your head and body to allow your mind to focus elsewhere and reduce your nervous system’s response to stress and anxiety.
3) When fear is present, take a moment to say to yourself “fear is here”
When our primitive brain is activated, we can be swept away by uncomfortable emotions and physical sensations. Saying something as simple as “fear is here” or “I’m experiencing fear” brings our prefrontal cortex online. It’s like pressing the brakes instead of the gas. If you try this, you will know how it can help you when you’re having unnecessary fear.
4) One of the best antidotes to fear is compassion.
It can be helpful to think about how many children have a nighttime fear of “the bogeyman in the closet.” When we imagine this, we typically find ourselves wanting to comfort and reassure the child. In many ways, it is exactly the same for us as adults as we also need comfort. In times of fear, we can bring ourselves that comfort by being kind and gentle with ourselves. Compassion can help you if you are experiencing fear. Talk to friends, family, and those who are ready and willing to be there for you in a moment of fear to talk through the pain of this emotion. If you are able to, you can also contact a therapist who may be able to get you through your fear through a form of treatment.
5) Mindfulness can help us manage times of fear.
Oftentimes, our fear stems from imagining something bad that has not actually occurred. Our mind gets stuck in an imagined future that may never actually occur. Mindfulness helps us return to the present, where we are 99% likely to be safe and not in harm’s way. It helps ground us in the here and now, away from the catastrophic place our minds can so often take us to.