This is a book excerpt from The Upside of Down. To read more about how Tamra Mercieca overcame depression the natural way, visit: www.theupsideofdown.com.au
We are taught fear at a very young age. It is a learned behaviour, so it can, if we wish, be educated out of us. Fear is a way of thinking that can hinder or help our life. What is important is to learn how to use fear to our advantage and not allow it to work against us.
I must begin by saying there is a place for fear. When fear shoots through our veins, constricting our blood flow, it puts the body in survival mode. It keeps us safe and stops us from taking unnecessary risks. It is a primal and basic instinct, to be honoured when it is needed and discarded when it is not.
Functional fear presents itself when you are in danger. Your house catches alight and it is fear that sends you running out the door, away from the scorching flames. This fear is a response to a real threat and keeps you careful and alert – it stops you from getting hurt. But as much as fear can stop you from getting burnt and even save your life, it can also stop you from moving forward.
When fear works against you, it can be paralysing. It can make you doubt yourself, forcing you to come up with lame excuses to avoid dealing with things that appear too scary. When you lose faith in yourself, the doubting begins and the fear moves right in.
Irrational fear often shows up as worrying, when you are afraid of something that might happen. You mull over something, without having any real proof that what you dread will actually eventuate. It could be out of your control, but you still worry.
When you suffer irrational fear, consider this definition:
Often it is the imagination that fuels fear. It is not the event itself that is frightening; it is your memories and assumptions that make it appear to be too much to handle. More times than not, when a depressed person is fearful of something it is based on false evidence. We believe it is real because our rational mind has gone to sleep and, therefore, cannot filter the misplaced anxiety. Fear is when you have not used your inflow of information to establish the facts.
When you feel fear kick in, repeat the above statement to yourself until your fear disappears. Before long, it will become automatic and, eventually, when your mind begins to realign itself, you will no longer need to repeat that phrase.
Decrease fear and self confidence grows: increase self confidence
and fear decreases.
It is vital you keep fear-fuelled worry under control. Not only will fear make you age quicker, it will cause undue anxiety, which triggers bouts of depression. Worrying is disabling and serves no one. You may have a toothache and be scared about the dentist’s drill; aren’t we all! Or you may be worried about how much it will cost if he finds something wrong. Fear could stop you from making that appointment, until the problem gets so bad you have to go because you cannot stand the pain anymore. Because you let fear stand in your way, you end up needing a much more complicated procedure that not only hurts you physically, but also leaves a hefty dent in your wallet.
When you catch yourself worrying, try working through this process:
- Identify the real issue: Find out what it is that is really getting to you.
- Do a reality check: Ask yourself, ‘How likely is it that what I fear will actually happen?’ and ‘How bad would it be if it did?’
- Decide whether action is needed: Ask yourself, ‘Is there something I can do to solve this problem?’
- Take action to solve it: If your answer was ‘yes’ to the last question, do what is needed to solve the problem.
- Let the worry go: You no longer need to hang onto the worry because you have either solved it or realised that it is beyond your control, so there is no benefit of carrying the worry.
We will never completely eliminate fear from our lives, but we can definitely get to the point where our fears do not stop us from daring to think new thoughts, try new things, take risks, fail, start again and be happy.
The more comfortable we are with the possibility of falling down, and the less worried we are of what people think of us, the more fearless we will be. Do not allow fear to get in the way of success and hold you back from your full potential. Choose to be brave. Ask yourself, what would I do if I knew I could not fail? Then start taking action on your answer. Remember that whatever it is that frightens you has frightened someone before you. Fear is universal. It touches everyone, but it clearly does not stop everyone.
Take the advice of the former US President’s wife Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, ‘Do something every day that scares you’. Step out of your comfort zone. The more you do it, the less fear you will feel the next time around.