The tension in the shoulders. Sweaty palms. A feeling of dread or anxiety. Being in a state of fear is generally not very pleasant. This is because we are designed to exist in a state of love. We are hard wired to be in our “rest and digest,’ parasympathetic nervous response most of the time.
The fear reaction was really only intended to be activated during times when we were in physical danger as a way of saving our lives. Fear, and all the physiological and psychological reactions that go along with it, are what used to give us the strength and clarity of mind to run away from a tiger or fight someone who was trying to eat our food. It was an evolutionary trick that allowed us to survive when we lived in a world that was not designed for our physical comfort of convenience.
The “fight or flight’ response that we now call fear was really only intended to be activated every once in a while, and we were meant to have long periods of recovery time after the threat was gone. Now, when we experience fear, often times it has its roots in our emotions/thoughts/feelings, rather than being rooted in an actual physical threat. Nowadays, one can pretty much exist in a state of fear almost all the time. Perhaps this sounds familiar? You wake up to an alarm, which automatically sets your nervous system to fear mode. You jump out of bed, grab a coffee which stimulates your adrenal glands as you dash out the door. You fight traffic, dealing with getting cut off, missing lights, and being honked at all the way to the office. You get to your computer only to see a million e-mails in your inbox, all with demands on your time and energy. You never know when your boss is going to snap at you, or when one of your co-workers is going to drop the ball leaving you to clean up the mess. You drag yourself through meetings with more coffee and maybe even a little sugar to help keep you going. You fight traffic all the way home, and once you arrive you plop down in front of the T.V, turn on the news and watch hundreds of images of war, poverty, crime and tragedy. You quickly throw a meal together, or order out, watch a sitcom, take a sleeping pill and get ready to do it all again tomorrow. Doesn’t sound all that love-based does it? Now, your life may not be quite this extreme, but most of us do deal with some variation of this go-go-go theme. It is possible to be in such a state of fear for so long that you don’t even notice that there is anything ‘off’ about how you are feeling on a regular basis. Perhaps you deal with chronic anxiety, chronic depression or a chronic sense that you just don’t feel happy.
These are all manifestations of prolonged fear. So, what can you do about it? Chances are you are not going to quit your job, move out of the city and go hang out at an ashram for a while to re-centre yourself.
The good news is that you really don’t need to go to such extreme measures to start shifting your internal balance away from fear and towards love. Here are my top five exercises that you can practice, right in the middle of your day whenever you become aware that you are in a fear state.
They are simple, practical and effective.
The more often you interrupt your fear cycle with one of these tools and shift yourself into love, the more you will find yourself naturally existing in a loving state. Which is a really nice place to be. This is the fastest way I know to kick your nervous system over from “fight or flight” into “rest and digest” – basically going from fear to love. When you take long, slow, deep breaths you automatically send a message to your brain and your body that you are safe. Because you are able to take those deep breaths, it means you are not running from or fighting a physical threat and thus your survival is not at stake. Slow your breath as many times as you can throughout your day and see how it shifts your mood and perception. Shifting your focus from all the things that are not going well in your life (fear) onto all those things that are going well in your life (love) is the second fastest way to shift your state. So much of the time we underestimate how powerful our state of focus and awareness is when it comes to our mood as well as our nervous response to life. You have the power to shift your perception of your world and your reality whenever you like. This is not about wearing rose coloured glasses and pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t. Acknowledging your true feelings is a very important thing to do! This is simply a tool you can use to help you create a more balanced perception, to help you clear your head and give you a better mind space to move forward with. Shift your focus off of yourself and off of your situation and send love to someone else. Due to your limbic system not being able to tell the difference between what you are doing to yourself and what you are doing to others, as you do this you will feel as though you were on the receiving end of that smile or compliment. So you get to feel the joy of lifting someone else up, as well as the joy of being lifted yourself. This can help you to step away from your own internal fears and help you see that the world is not all that bad.
The physical act of opening your chest – opening your heart – again sends a signal to your brain and body that you are safe. You may notice that whenever you get scared or stressed you naturally hunch your shoulders in and contract your chest. This is a self defence stance. This reaction can be used in reverse to help send the signal to your nervous system that you are okay. This will help you calm your brain, help you to breath deeper and help you to shift your focus from your fear out to the rest of your surroundings and environment which can often help dilute your fear and make you feel better. Lastly, utilize the power of laughter! Pleasure is so important, and deliberately adding some pleasure to your day will help you to let go of your fear and move you into a state of love. I like to watch funny animal videos or clips of comedians I enjoy. Any form of pleasure will do here as well – if you love reading or walking in nature or taking a bath do those things! – the idea is just to shift the energy in and around you so that you are more in alignment with love. What do you do when you are in fear mode? Do you practice any of the previously mentioned tips on a regular basis? If not, do you think you will give any of them a try? .
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