In my last blog, I introduced you to the concept that fear and excitement are experienced very similarly within our bodies. It’s often called the ‘stress reflex’ and in addition to cropping up when we feel threatened, it relates to the way we respond to exciting events too.
About to walk on stage? Heart beats faster, sweat flows, butterflies, throat feels dry
Ready to ask that guy out? Heart beats faster, sweat flows, butterflies, throat feels dry, tummy rumbles
Preparing for your wedding day? Heart beats faster, sweat flows, butterflies, throat feels dry, tummy rumbles, possibly vomit
Last week I asked you to recall a time when you felt fear. Bring this memory to mind again now, what physical symptoms appeared for you? Anything similar to the stress reflex reactions listed above?
Same, same. Right?
This means that we have control over our experience of fear – and whether it becomes a difficult, distressing experience or just a little frustration. We can choose to attach a different meaning to the experience.
We can label it differently.
A recent series of psychological experiments conducted by Alison Brooks (2014) focused on how to transform dysfunctional fear into something more constructive. Note, we are talking about the type of fear that does not serve you, rather than the useful fear that appears when we are faced by a legitimate threat (this type of fear is there for a good reason, it keeps you safe).
Brooks’ studies have provided empirical proof that dysfunctional fears can be mastered. Her work shows some pretty awesome fear-reducing results! It turns out that if you are feeling those fear-related physical sensations, a simple and effective way of taking control of your mental state is as simple as saying out loud:
“I’m feeling excited”
“I’m getting excited about . . . (fill in the blank with the formerly fear-inducing event).”
Sounds simple. And it is. Simple, but not necessarily easy.
Before you can master the linguistic reprogramming mentioned above, it helps to have a strategy in place to take the sting out of your fear first.
One way is to let the worst-case-scenario movie play out in your mind (to its full conclusion)
Give yourself some time and space to get comfortable, without distractions. Take 3 deep, slow, intentional breaths and close your eyes. Allow yourself to feel comfortable and safe. Now, play out the movie in your mind – imagine the thing you are fearful of happening. Let it play out, allow all the variables to come into play, let the consequences evolve. Just let it happen.
Don’t hit ‘pause’ at the most difficult part, let it play until you are safe.
This is about pushing past the worst-case-scenario to a safe conclusion. You can try this process a few times until you are comfortable that the situation is not as bad as you first thought.
When you feel more at ease with the situation, next try saying out loud “I’m excited about ….” Say it to other people, post it on social media, talk openly and often about your experience of excitedly anticipating the event. Notice how different this feels.
Let me know how this plays out for you.