What to do when fear strikes!
What to do when fear strikes and hijacks your ability to find solutions.
This past week I have had the same conversation with 3 people, some of them more panicked than others. Fear can really grip you in the guts and make you believe pretty much anything is true, panic sets in and our mind gets “out of control”. We lose our ability to think creatively and react instinctively and focus our attention on the “here and now” and how to save the sinking boat.
Most of us can recognize when fear strikes that our life is not in “danger” (unless we are being chased by a bear, in which case, fear is our best friend).
We can differentiate from a temporary setback to a real life threatening situation and re-calibrate our nervous system, reset our fear gauge to a normal place and get back into business after the initial shock of whatever happens.
For others like me, who had to deal with what is called “adverse childhood experiences”, our nervous system is always in a state of “high alert” which translates into a chronic state of stress that eventually causes wears and tears in our body and mind. We lose our ability to self-regulate; moving from “hyper alert” to a state of numbness that makes us lack “balanced” responses when responses are needed.
In life and business, it translates into apathy (feeling stuck) to hyper alert (shining in a crisis) where we move from one crisis to another or create crisis when there are none in order to feel more alive.
This shows up when we set unrealistic expectations, deadlines, and promises. We rush to make things happen or flip into procrastination, anxiety, forgetfulness and resistance which makes us not show up for ourselves in the places where we say we would.
The reality is that neither of those responses are sustainable long-term.
The 10 point practice
I attended a great session at the local Sangha (Buddhist get together) last week. The presenting teacher studied with Reggie Ray, who is a Western Buddhist teacher who practices a body centered (somatic) form of meditation.
She led a great mindfulness relaxation that made a huge impression on me. I felt more relaxed being led into that experience than I have felt in months. You can download this practice for free on www.dharmaocean.org, titled ”The 10 points practice.” This very slow, mindful relaxation practice is meant to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Most of us Westerners are not able to relax enough when we meditate to enter a space of complete quiet. At best, we calm our mind down, become aware of our thoughts and hopefully create the space necessary between our thoughts and breath to become fully present in the moment.
For some of us, the stress held in our body is so predominant that sitting still for more than 5 minutes resembles torture, at least it was like this for me for years until I had to deal with chronic fatigue and “knew” that my way of life was no longer sustainable.
Our body holds the story of our life. At 24 years old I already “knew” that. I searched for a more relaxed way of living when I began practicing yoga.
I had a sense that my body held a deeper knowledge and memory than my mind when I began studying expressive arts and movement therapy 17 years ago. I intuitively “knew” when I used methodologies such as movement and arts that my body gave me information that my conscious mind didn’t know existed. I would gain access and release stresses and traumas from the past that I wasn’t aware of despite my knowledge of the “facts” aka the history of my life.
Are you suffering from adverse childhood experiences?
It is now recognized in the field of psychology that most of our emotional/psychological imprints happen before the age of 7. Our deepest beliefs systems are imprinted without us ever having a conscious memory of how we came about those beliefs. They happened sometimes before we ever have words to describe what we were feeling. From a psychological level it is called “trauma”, from a Buddhist perspective it is called “karma”.
At the end of the day, the result is the same, by holding chronic tension in our body, our body “locks in” deeper places of knowing. They are places where our consciousness “seals” painful memories, sensations, emotional or physical pain as a protection mechanism. As a result, we find ourselves unable to fully manifest the life, business and relationships that we want or that are fully satisfying. We settle for less than we know is possible because we are afraid.
Our creativity, knowledge and ability to manifest is “locked” into our body and the only true way to enter who we are at a deeper level is is to enter our body with compassion and mindfulness and release the stresses held there.
Unfortunately, in my case I fought a good fight to keep things “intact”. I forever kept pushing hard despite the signs of wears and tears and consequently ended up with chronic fatigue and eventually breast cancer. Those illnesses didn’t happen due to a poor lifestyle. Since I was 16 years old, I have always been conscious of eating an excellent diet and have exercised daily my entire life. I, simply because of my adverse childhood experiences, had chronic stress lodged in my body that created habits of thinking and being that would not let go until I got sick. It is at that point that I decided to enter a deeper place of healing.
Interestingly enough most of my clients qualify on the ACE score (Adverse Childhood Experience) which means that they deal with the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences which means that their chronic stress load is higher than the average people and their coping mechanisms lower.
Because the effect of childhood stress doesn’t show up sometimes until 20 or 30 years later, most people do not make the correlation between their current state of stress and what happened to them in their childhood.
for more information on the Adverse Childhood Experience study or to take the test, you can visit https://acestoohigh.com/got-your-ace-score/
9 Questions to get back on track
In the meantime, know that all is not lost.
We human beings are very resilient. The field of neuroscience has proven that we can create new neuro-pathways despite whatever has happened to us in our life so YES we can overcome the effect of chronic stress in our business and in our lives.
A lot of modalities these days exist to help us alleviate the effect of stress but for now I would simply invite you to notice what your state of stress is currently.
Do you sleep well? (at least 6-8 hours/night)
Do you eat well? (at least 2 balanced meals/day, eaten in a relaxed atmosphere?)
Do you spend meaningful time with people you love?
Do you feel fulfilled by your work?
Do you make time for yourself? (Replenishing time to relax; read, walk in nature, move in an enjoyable way, go on adventure etc.?)
Do you feel that your life force is “well spent”?
If you had only a few months left to live, are you focusing on what truly matters to you now?
Do you include a practice that nurtures your heart and soul (spiritual practice, time in nature, creative time, etc?)
Do you surround yourself with supportive people?
These and many other habits create the foundation for stress resiliency.
If you are in business for yourself, this can make or break your ability to have a successful business.
In the short-term stress gives us the ability to face crisis and respond quickly. In the long-term, it depletes our ability to be truly resourceful and build a sustainable business.