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How to Shift Your Relationship with Fear

person jumping in the air above a grassy hillside

How to Shift Your Relationship with Fear

Confession: I chose being scared and staying stagnant for much of my life. Why? Fear. Another confession: When I forged past fear, I finally found what was on the other side: The life I always wanted.

It makes sense why I let fear control me. Succumbing to fear has its advantages. You can’t fail if you avoid risks, and you won’t hear the dreaded I told you so if you take a leap and fall short. To quote Edmund Burke, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

Fear plays an essential role in keeping us out of harm’s way. The fight-or-flight response is an integral part of our biology. That said, we often don’t know what to do when confronted with something new or scary. How can you know when to charge ahead and when to exercise caution?

Fear can leave us sitting on the fence all our lives as we weigh pros and cons. I know this well because it held me back for 15 years of my life.

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How I Left Fear Behind and Started My Own Company

The moment I loosened fear’s grip on me, I took the greatest leap of my life. I left a successful business, said goodbye to a long-term relationship, packed up the comfortable life I built and returned to my hometown to start from scratch.

I faced fear head on, choosing to pursue my passions and start my own business, Mediterranean Wanderer. At Mediterranean Wanderer, I inspire women to journey with me to the Greek islands, where I guide them on living fearlessly.

Take A Moment to Reflect

Where is fear showing up in your life? What does it stop you from experiencing? What decision would you love to make, but you’re clouded by overwhelming uncertainty? If you’re at the crossroads of change, remember this: You can follow one of two pathways.

Pathway one: You could remain in your comfort zone. Sure, it feels safe and secure, but gentle reminder: Nothing happens here. Staying in your comfort zone can leave you confined, heading cyclically in the same direction.

Then there’s pathway two: You could take a leap into the unknown, embark on a new adventure, and experience some of the greatest rewards of your life.

But, you might ask, what if just thinking about taking the leap terrifies me? What happens then? My answer: Take action.

How to Conquer Fear and Take Action

The greatest lesson I learned from letting go of fear was the importance of simply making the decision to do something towards change. The moment I stopped waiting for the perfect time was the moment what I wanted began to unfold.

That said, fear is daunting. Action isn’t always as easy as making the split-second decision to push through. In fact, fear can come with physical symptoms of anxiety — but there are ways to cope.

Answers arrive when you learn to manage fear and begin to take steps beyond it. Action creates a ripple effect of movement, and this movement invites new opportunities into your life.

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You Can’t Get Rid of Fear — But You Can Manage It

Make no mistake: Fear still surfaces in the midst of making important decisions — it always will — but the reason isn’t to scare us. Instead, fear alerts us. Nervousness or discomfort indicate a moment of immense importance.

View confronting the unknown as an opportunity to grow. Remind yourself this moment arrived because you’re ready to grow, even if you don’t feel ready. The act of reframing your thinking can steer your brain away from panic and fear. Inviting a positive mindset into your life elevates and empowers you.

Carol Dweck, PhD, psychology professor, mindset expert and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, speaks about the power of shifting our attitudes to embrace a growth mindset. “In a growth mindset, challenges are exciting rather than threatening,” says Dweck. “Rather than thinking, Oh, I’m going to reveal my weaknesses, you say, Wow, here’s a chance to grow.”

When I noticed changes happening as a result of taking action, I gained the confidence to face even more of my fears. I felt supported walking new paths, despite the fact I didn’t have all the answers.

You can do the same. Here are four ways to shift your relationship with fear:

Get Intimate With Your Fear

Think of one decision that terrifies you. Take a moment to invite that fear in. The more we push fear away or try to pretend it doesn’t exist, the bigger a beast it becomes. Grab a pen and paper and sit for five minutes with your fear.

Have a conversation with your fear and take a moment to write it out. In this five-minute exchange, what does fear say to you? What do you say to fear? By inviting this uncomfortable feeling in, examining it and choosing to face it, you are giving fear the chance to be heard and acknowledged. And then you realize: What we fear isn’t actually as scary as we think.

Recall Your Greatest Leaps of Faith

Think of past moments you’ve faced your fears and won. Make a list of those wins. What did you do? What did that experience teach you about yourself? When we draw from past experiences, we collect information that transforms our mindset and reminds us of our strengths.

Psychologist Susan Jeffers articulates this point in her book, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway.

“Every time you encounter something that forces you to ‘handle it,’ your self-esteem is raised considerably,” says Jeffers. “You learn to trust that you will survive no matter what happens. And in this way your fears are diminished immeasurably.”

Do Something That Makes You Feel Uncomfortable Every Day

Going outside your comfort zone is one of the most transformative ways to accelerate change. This doesn’t need to be monumental — simply walking out the front door and taking a different path than the one you’re used to has an effect.

“Putting your brain outside its comfort zone and developing the skills you know you struggle with can help the brain become more flexible and resilient to switching tasks and focus,” neuroscientist Tara Swart explains.

The more we do things that make us uncomfortable, the more we break away from the old layers of our identity. We begin to understand that our discomforts are far less threatening than we initially believed. This act rewires our old patterns and beliefs, inviting in a fresh flow of energy with new opportunities and ideas.

“When you learn new things, these tiny connections in the brain actually multiply and get stronger,” explains Dweck. “The more you challenge your mind to learn, the more your brain cells grow. Then things you once found very hard or even impossible seem to become easy. The result is a stronger, smarter brain.”

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Be Patient With Yourself

Change happens incrementally. It takes time. In Martha Beck’s book, The Way Of Integrity, she shares her own experience with confronting fear and stepping into change. “How did I get this job?” asks Beck. “By going through my own hellgates, burning my own falsehoods, and bringing my own life into alignment, one-degree turn by one-degree turn.”

When I’m overwhelmed or fearful, I journal. Putting a pen to paper is cathartic and brings clarity to the next step I need to take. Even just five minutes of journaling a day can be transformative.

Remember: Handling fear is a process, so guide yourself through it gently. Celebrate your successes and be patient with yourself when you’re anxious or overwhelmed. Our own personal experiences, circumstances and life choices influence our relationship with fear and how things unfold. This isn’t by chance, but by design. We are being handed exactly what we need to manifest great changes.

Developing a healthier relationship with fear allowed me to completely change the trajectory of my life. It gave me the chance to step with confidence towards what I really wanted to do, and you can too.

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ABOUT MEDITERRANEAN WANDERER

Paula Hagiefremidis is a published writer, speaker, mentor and creative facilitator. Her work empowers people facing a crossroads of change to realize the transformative effect of trusting your voice, pursuing your passion and the ripple effect this has in opening up our lives creatively, personally and professionally. Through her business, Mediterranean Wanderer, she runs transformational creative retreats, hosts workshops, presents as a guest speaker and mentors one-on-one.

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