Fear is a natural human response to perceived threats – we’ve been hard wired to protect ourselves since ancient times.
In many areas of today’s modern world, though, we as humans are more protected from imminent harm and the body’s naturally programmed physiological response to stress (fight, flight, freeze) is something we need to be aware of when it’s happening so we can manage and limit the damaging health effects of chronic fear.
Instead of fighting, fleeing or freezing from our fears, Dr. Ronald Siegel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School and Mindfulness Meditation expert, proposes a healthier option of befriending our fears with Mindfulness.
Dr. Siegel suggests (and Foundations Counseling agrees!) that practicing Mindfulness is a great way to help you deal with your worries or fears in a healthy way. Begin by noticing three things when something arises that you worry about:
- Your physiological response to stress. Become aware of the sensations in your body – what are they telling you? Racing heart? Shallow breath? Clammy hands? Headache? Stomachache? ‘Lump’ in your throat? When you notice a physiological response to stress, take a few deep breaths (inhale through your nose & exhale out through your mouth) to slow the body’s response down.
- Your thoughts & emotions. What are you thinking or imagining in your head? Are you thinking best case scenario or are you judging what is happening as total catastrophe on the spot? What you think leads to how you feel which determines how you behave. If you are open to different ways of thinking and can learn to process your thoughts from a wise-minded perspective (balance of right brain emotion & left brain logic), then you have a new, perhaps more hopeful situation before you.
- Your behavior. What you think & feel leads to how you will behave. Notice how your body is reacting to stress and become aware of your thoughts & feelings. Ask yourself if there is another way you can look at things (and there always is if we can be open & flexible) – different thoughts & emotions = different behavior. Perhaps when you worried more & only saw the negative outcomes then your behavior became avoidant of the situation as opposed to radically accepting that you are worried about it, so recognize your fear as the normal physiological response that it is and take a few deep breaths to slow down the mind & body’s fight, flight, freeze response.