Fear can be a good thing. It’s what ensures your survival and keeps you safe. Yet, we often think of fear as something negative… an unpleasant feeling that we prefer not to feel.
But what is fear? It’s a normal response to a real or perceived threat to yourself or someone you care about. You may think of fear as a reaction to a certain situation – for example coming face to face with a huge spider or panicking when your child gets sick and you are not sure what to do. But fear can take many forms in everyday life, including anxiety and stress.
The body can easily bounce back from short-term fear, chronic fear has a lasting impact. When fear is excessive, prolonged, or even repressed, this can cause disharmony and disease. And not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
How fear affects the body
When you experience fear, your body goes into fight or flight mode and your adrenals secrete the stress hormone cortisol. In a life-threatening situation, this is extremely helpful and necessary as the cortisol raises your heart rate and helps you to react to the threat. But continued high cortisol production due to chronic stress depletes your adrenals and can cause anxiety, overwhelm, insomnia, weight gain, increased urination, hormonal imbalances, heartburn and even stomach ulcers.
The problem is that, while your mind may know that you are safe, your body goes into fight or flight mode if it perceives any type of fear. This needn’t be a spider right in front of you, but could be something as simple running late for an appointment or having a to do list a mile long.
How natural therapies can help
Naturopathy offers many herbs and nutrients which help to lower cortisol and calm the nervous system.
Passionflower, chamomile, valerian and lemon balm are soothing herbs which promote relaxation. B vitamins can increase your resilience to stress and combat the fatigue that often accompanies fear and anxiety. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant which also boosts energy levels and promotes good sleep. Calcium works together with magnesium to regulate muscle contraction.
Diet also plays an important role in managing stress and fear. Avoiding caffeine is essential, as is following a wholefoods diet that is based on vegetables, fruit, high-quality protein and healthy fats.
In Chinese medicine, emotions are linked to organs. The organs that are associated and most impacted by fear are the kidneys. When the kidneys are imbalanced, there can be feelings of isolation, loss of will power, inability to focus on the present moment, low libido, lower back pain, knee pain, tinnitus, urinary changes, night sweats and sensitivity to cold.
To rebalance the kidneys, Chinese medicine offers acupuncture as well as lifestyle, diet and exercise changes. Activities such as yoga, meditation, tai chi and qi gong are recommended to support the nervous system and reduce cortisol levels over time.
Drinking at least 2 litres of room-temperature water, eating a well-balanced diet with cooked seasonal foods, and getting 6-8 hours good quality sleep also support to the adrenals and increase your resilience.
Remedial massage is very effective at relieving tense muscles, which are often a symptom of chronic fear. Tense muscles can manifest as tight shoulders, jaw and lower back. We don’t tend to notice the accumulation of tension in the body until after the fact, when our muscles ache and we feel burned out. Fear is one of our most powerful instincts and driving forces. It is a tool to recognise a threat to our survival and to avoid pain, but it’s important to be mindful of how it can affect the body. Even anticipation of emotional or physical pain can change the way we behave and can contribute to tension in the tissues.
Here is a great way 3-step breathing technique you can use to release physical tension when you become aware of it:
- Close your eyes and notice where you feel tense.
- Inhale for a count of 4 and exhale for a count of 6. Continue this until you feel a positive change in your body and mind. You can increase the length of the breaths; the main thing to remember is to exhale longer than your inhale.
- Check in with your body again and notice the difference from when you began. Continue breathing mindfully.
Life coaching can help you see fear for what it is and develop strategies to help you deal with it positively.
When you hear that inner voice of fear, it’s helpful to acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you. Feeling fear does not make you a failure or weak-willed. It is a normal, natural and necessary part of being human.
Our brain’s job is to keep us safe from being hurt physically or emotionally, so when it senses a threat it gives us a message to stay away from the danger. The problem is that fear is a master of disguise, so the messages that we receive from our brain are not as simple as “Stop” or “Caution”. What we hear instead are stories like “You don’t know what you’re doing”, “You’ll embarrass yourself” or “You should just give up now”.
Although fear can be overwhelming and can hold us back from trying new things or sharing our opinions and ideas, fighting against it is a sure way to make it even louder and more persistent. As the saying goes, “What you resist persists”.
Click here for a video on how to embrace fear. Next time you feel fear, instead of fighting against it, try this simple technique:
- Acknowledge that it’s there (try saying something like “Ah there’s my fear showing up”)
- Exhale slowly
- Say “Thanks for coming” to your fear (it was just doing its job after all)
- Tell your fear and yourself “I’ve got this”
- Go forward bravely!
Look after yourself
If you experience ongoing fear, stress or anxiety, get in touch to find out how Ascot Vale Natural Therapies can support you. Click here to meet our team and contact us.