How to Face Your Fears


How to face your fears (with finesse).


I had my annual performance review at work recently.

Oh the fear was strong within me.

  • I hate talking about myself and/or having attention on me in a group.
  • I am quite aware of my own foibles and someone else pointing them out to me may make me cry.
  • Crying at work is ridiculous and unprofessional and leads to more attention.
  • I hate attention in a group. And so on.

I loved Wendy Tuohy’s recent article on the “Imposter Syndrome” and how a lot of us struggle to focus on our merits, including Natalie Portman.

But I digress.

Todays post is about facing our fears, calming the heck down and getting on with the job.

First of all, to really conquer our fears, we must face them.

Yep, sorry about that one.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that running away and hiding under your donna eating chocolate, will not make your fears disappear, in fact it will normally strengthen them. **

The greatest way to teach your brain that “you can do this”, is by doing it. (Fighting grizzly bears is an exception).

The role of relaxation exercise in facilitating this process cannot be underestimated. Research has repeatedly demonstrated the importance and usefulness of teaching our central nervous system to chill out. Practising mindfulness and learning a few great relaxation exercises that really work, are two really powerful ways of doing this.

The trick is to practise of course. So that when you start to feel worried or nervous or anxious, it is simple to calm down. Your brain knows the pathway and trusts it. The path to calm has been made an open road through practice, rather than a beaten track.

staying calm when facing your fears creates an open road

In my uni days when I first learnt  relaxation exercises I used to hate and despise them.

Back then it was all “Close your eyes. Imagine you are sitting on a riverbank beside a river.”

Except I was not that keen on sitting beside a river. The prospect of fishermen turning up was annoying. I couldn’t help wondering if maybe the wet grass was going to seep in through my clothes. Would I end up cold?

scary river

Yep that one did not work for me.

The other popular relaxation exercise I hated even more.

“Breathe in, 2, 3, 4. Breathe out 2, 3, 4.”

Trying to mimic someone else breathing cues is nearly impossible and I would normally end up feeling like I was about to hyperventilate.

Relaxation be gone!

These days there are many, many different ways that we can learn to relax and we now understand the importance of getting moving through exercise, as well as sitting still.

Most relaxation techniques now focus strongly on finding what works for you, and then repeatedly practising them until you get good at it.

So why don’t you try a few and see if you can find one that works for you?

You might want to look here.

There are a few keys to making relaxation useful

  1. Practise. If you really want to bring the calm when you need it most, you need to be confident that the method will work.
  2. Remember to do it. Okay this is obvious, but also not obvious.
  3. Find what works for you. No more going purple with the effort of holding my breath. Yay!
  4. Recognise the early warning signs of stress so you know when you need to calm yo self down!

So back to my performance review. It went fine, thanks for asking.

I may have closed my office door and done a little smiling mind meditation before it began. It meant that I was still nervous, but calm.

I did not cry. Whoot whoot!

Best of all, I faced my fears with finesse (I was wearing awesome ankle boots) and learnt a valuable lesson in mastering my nerves. So next time it will be a little easier.

Now I can go back to only hiding under my doona eating chocolate when I need to hide from the kids. Like a normal person.

My tried and trusted relaxation exercise is taking three deep (but comfortable) breaths. It really works, most of the time (lions or moths chasing me excluded). What do you find works well for you?

** by Scientific Studies, I may mean I tried it for you myself, without much success.

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One thought on “How to Face Your Fears

  1. I fine deep breaths the most effective, controlled at my own pace. I just gradually try yo lengthen each breath. Doing yoga forbMANY years has helped me to breathe more deeply and slowly just in the ordinary course of events and that helps to keep stress levels down. I’m not really a visualisation person either!

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