Fear is a natural response. Here’s how to not let it get the best of you.
No one is immune to fear. Whether it’s coronavirus, failure, putting ourselves out there… fear affects everyone from time to time.
Fear is the great equalizer. Even big-name billion-dollar business owners have confronted fear and anxiety about their business.
So if we’re all fighting the same battle, dealing with the same fears, what matters? The difference lies in how we choose to manage fear.
Managing the fear
Depending on where you fall on the fight/flight/freeze spectrum, you likely have a consistent reaction to fear. Though that reaction is our natural response, it’s not helpful to stay in that state.
Trying to avoid or outrun the fear doesn’t work. Neither does allowing the fear to sweep you up like a tornado. Fighting against the fear just creates more resistance.
To effectively manage fear, you need to be able to address it calmly and consciously. This may sound like an oxymoron: How can you manage fear calmly when you’re caught up in the wave of anxiety?
7 steps to calmly and consciously manage fear
No matter what fear you’re facing, there are ways to effectively manage it, even if you can’t make it go away immediately.
What you can do is take a step back, center yourself, and view your situation more objectively, so that you’re more likely to see the potential solutions in front of you.
Here are 7 steps you can use to calmly and consciously manage fear and uncertainty, in your business and beyond:
Step 1: Become aware of the fear.
Like anything, the first step in changing something is to become aware of it.
Awareness of fear usually starts with noticing body signals. Your heart starts to race. You feel a pang of anxiety in your stomach. You might struggle to take a breath. These are all clues that you’re in the midst of fear.
The key is to tune into your body on a regular basis so you can correctly identify the signs it gives you that you are in a fear response.
Step 2: Accept that fear is a natural, human response.
When you notice that you have a fear response, resist the urge to judge it or yourself. Nothing makes fear worse than feeling shame about it! Remind yourself that fear is a normal human reaction.
In fact, you can be grateful for this reaction, because it’s an important indicator of what’s going on. There’s also an opportunity for awareness — for you to check in and see what’s happening for you at that very moment.
Understanding that your fear is real and valid is necessary to find a solution and to feel better.
Step 3: Pause, literally.
After becoming aware of the fear, the second step is to PAUSE. Imagine you’re pausing a movie: all the characters are frozen, everything around you stops moving, and you’re simply there, noticing.
Pausing creates space and time to breathe. You can pause for as long as you need — a minute, an hour, a day, longer if needed. This is your choice.
(But, you’re saying, what if I need to respond immediately? What if I don’t have time to pause? Take two minutes to step outside or even to simply take a deep breath. Take more time later if needed.)
Step 4: Come back when you’re calm and be objective.
During the pause, you might take a long walk, call a friend, or do another activity that helps you get your mind totally off the fear. How do you know when you’re done with your pause? When you’ve returned to a calm state.
From this point, you can revisit fear from a broader perspective and get curious. What was your fear a response to? What kicked it off? What were you fearing to be true?
Revisit your responses like an independent observer. Think of this as an information-gathering mission.
Step 5: Question the assumptions behind your fears.
While your fears are valid and human, there are likely some assumptions underlying the fear. These assumptions sound like: “I’ll never…” or “It will always…” or “The world is ending…” or any other catastrophizing statement.
Consider what assumptions are underlying your fear. How true is that assumption really? How do you know? Many fears are simply unfounded future worries. In some cases, fears are founded in some sort of reality. In that case, what can you do now to help mitigate the possibility of this happening?
In some cases, it may help to consider the worst-case scenario (since you likely already are!), and see what you would need to feel confident that you could deal with it, should it come to pass.
Step 6: Consciously make a choice.
You have more clarity around your fear and what’s behind it now. You are hopefully still in a calm, collected state. (If not, go back Step #3.)
From this place, ask yourself: What are my options here? Brainstorm and list every conceivable option. You won’t like some, you’ll love others, and you’ll discover options you’ve never considered. [hint: this is creativity at play!]
When you get to a point where you have a list of several options, ask yourself: What option do I want to take right now?
The options are endless. But in order to see that, you need to get out of the spin cycle. Choose one option. If it doesn’t work for you, choose another. The goal is to make a conscious decision about how you want to proceed based on what you know now.
Step 7: Repeat as needed.
Managing fear is not a one-and-done thing. If something is very important to you — or feels very threatening to you — this fear likely will rear its head again. And again, you can use these steps to get through to the other side.
Eventually, you can train your brain to automatically hit the “pause” button when you feel fear.
And instead of spinning out of control, you can employ this new cycle of returning to calm, considering your options, and consciously choosing how you want to move forward.
Reset the fear cycle and reclaim your life
So next time you’re afraid — about your business, your life, the state of the world — try these 7 steps to manage fear and uncertainty.
Because, as you’ve heard before, we can’t control everything, but we can control the most important thing: how we respond.
And even beyond simply responding, you can put proactive strategies in place so you feel confident knowing you can handle anything that comes your way.
Have a tip for handling fear that works for you? Share it below!