Fear and Anxiety, Part 2: Avoid Stress and Burnout with this 2-Minute Practice
Adrenaline junky and fear expert Kristen Ulmer, who was the top extreme skier, notes conquering fear doesn’t work. She says approaching fear and anxiety as a problem to be overcome causes stress and burnout. She should know.
Instead of viewing fear as negative, consider that fear focuses intensity and motivates us. It can put you in the moment and block everything else out, taking you to a higher awareness. It’s a high vibration frequency where instinct lies.
Fear is not the problem. Resistance to fear is the problem. When we push it down, what comes out is worry, depression, PTSD, anxiety, insomnia.
Like a whiny child we shut up with a cookie, repressing fear makes it pop up elsewhere in our lives, often stronger than before.
Instead of duct-taping your fear and locking it in the basement, turn toward it and lean in.
What follows is Kristen’s method and daily practice.
1. Acknowledge fear is normal and natural, not a character flaw.
Life is full of scary experiences. Discomfort is normal. We evolved to fear the unknown. It’s protective. Wanting acceptance of others, hoarding resources and avoiding danger is human.
Fear helps us come alive and accompanies the most poignant times in our lives. When you think of the best memories and stories you have, they often include fear. If you learn to own and honor it, you can find wisdom there.
Just like we don’t want to be around someone who is happy all the time, being afraid is one of a spectrum of emotions necessary for a full and meaningful life.
2. Observe where and how you feel fear physically.
Awareness is power.
Fear is a sensation of discomfort in the body. Get out of your head. Slowly scan your body in your mind from head to toe. Find where you feel it right now.
Some feel it as tightness in their jaw/neck/shoulders/chest, others as a fluttering in their stomach, or pain in a place of previous injury. Some of us hold fear in our body for years.
Consider if it feels like a specific emotion, whether anger, disappointment, worry or something else. Rate its strength on a scale of 1-10.
Remember, fear isn’t the problem. Unwillingness to feel it is.
3. Ask yourself if you’re resisting feeling fear.
Notice if you’re wishing you weren’t afraid or if you don’t want to feel it. That’s attempting to push it away, control it, repress it.
Even trying to understand fear can be fighting it. Deconstructing our feelings so we can control them is resisting. That’s dealing with them intellectually instead of emotionally.
Rate on a scale of 1-10 how much do you not want to feel your fear.
Kristen says suffering is discomfort multiplied by resistance. It’s hard to get rid of discomfort, but you can lower your resistance to fear by being willing to feel it. This reduces suffering.
You may not have even been aware you were avoiding it. Becoming aware in itself can lower resistance.
4. Feel the discomfort of fear in your body without trying to get rid of it.
Become intimate with your fear, like holding and petting a kitten, or comforting a child in your lap.
Allow yourself to be present with fear and have acceptance of its existence in your life.
Instead of seeing it as a personal weakness or being embarrassed, make friends with it without trying to manage it.
Repressing fear is exhausting. We get stressed and burned out when we see fear as negative, sometimes leading to depression. Be willing to embrace it as part of being alive.
Ask yourself if you would you rather feel happy or alive. Happiness is limiting. We tend to want to get away from people who are happy all the time because it seems unreal or insincere.
Fear, as part of a range of emotions, makes each of us a dynamic person. Completely alive.
—Julie Ernst, CCJD
P.S. Visit www.julieernst.com to take my free course: Stop Overdrinking in 3 Steps.