Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote in one of his poems,
“It is better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”

In this poem, Tennyson tells us to live life without consideration of failure, as if failure does not exist. We must strive to live in love by conquering our fears, pushing past them, and continuing on in spite of them. Life is a game to be played fully and Tennyson was not one to watch from the sidelines.

In its simplest form, life is a chess game between fear and love. Choose love over fear every time. Love will never steer you wrong.

As I go through my day, I constantly fight fear. I am currently faced with the prospect of finishing up a book, tentatively entitled Meaning: The Will to a Purpose Life, while preparing to start a radio show on KDIA 1640 AM in less than 3 weeks. In addition, my wife and I are expecting our fourth child.

My approach to life used to be to attack every one of my fears. Now it has changed to a pursuit of love.

Check back in here daily. I will be sharing excerpts of the book I’m working on.

Here is some information on fear and the specific antidote, courage, from the book…

The Physiology of Fear
Fear follows a perception of immediate, concrete and overwhelming physical danger. It occurs when you believe that you are not in control, either physically or emotionally. When you are afraid, your blood gathers in the large skeletal muscles such as those in your arms and legs, preparing your body to flee. Blood leaves your face thereby making you appear paler and in some cases blotchy. Your body freezes for a moment to gauge your possible reactions such what is the quickest escape route.

Then, the brain sends in a bunch of hormones that put your body on alert which makes it edgy and ready for action, and your attention fixates on the threat at hand to allow you to better evaluate the threat and your response.

The physiological cues of fear include a quickening of breathing, a tightening of the throat, tightness in the chest, perspiration, difficulty breathing, quickened heart rate, a feeling of wanting to flee (or freeze), and reduced blood flow to the brain. Blood leaves your face thereby making it appear paler. Your body freezes for a moment to gauge your possible reactions such what is the quickest escape route. Then, the brain sends in a bunch of hormones that put your body on alert which makes it edgy and ready for action, and your attention fixates on the threat at hand to allow you to evaluate the threat and your response better.

You need to be aware of these cues in order to increase your awareness. The goal is to identify the emotion, honor it, breathe through it and eventually release it as quickly as possible.

Accompanying this is an overwhelming flood of anxious thoughts which are seemingly uncontrollable. This intense cycle of fear and worry often paralyzes the individual in a figurative sense. It also paralyzes the rational mind, making it unable to think clearly.

Fear and anxiety are closely linked. Fear is the momentary emotion while anxiety is the longer-term mood. If the fear is held onto (and not released), the brain moves towards long-term anxiety, forcing the brain to focus repeatedly on the perceived threat. The anxious mind begins an endless spiral of negative thoughts, feelings and chemical reactions. Fear-based worrying lies at the heart of all anxiety.

Courage as the Antidote to Fear

Courage is the antidote to fear. Courage is not the absence of fear but the exorcising of it. You need to feel the fear, breathe it out and push through it. It is the conquering of your fears that makes one brave. One cannot be brave without fear. This step involves taking concrete actions to help us achieve our dreams. By reframing the question as, What am I willing to try?, you can make change exciting, rather than paralyzing. Whenever you feel fearful, find out what it is that is making you feel that way. Then, go after the fear-inducing situation in small, manageable steps.

Author: Dr. John Schinnerer

John Schinnerer, Ph.D. is a U.C. Berkeley-trained executive coach and founder of Guide To Self, a company that focuses on coaching high performing individuals to their potential using strengths-based development and positive psychology (the science of optimal human functioning). He consulted on Pixar's Academy Award-winning movie Inside Out. He was featured in the documentary Skewed. He was recently cited in US News and World Report on anger management. His private practice is located at 913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280, Danville, CA 94526. He may be reached at John @GuideToSelf.com. Most recently, Dr. John hosted Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He graduated summa cum laude from U.C. Berkeley with a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. John has been a coach and psychologist for over 10 years. Dr. John’s areas of expertise range from positive psychology, to emotional awareness, to moral development to parenting. He is a noted writer and speaker on topics such as employee engagement, emotional intelligence, making a good brain great, and creating a healthy and efficient workplace. His award-winning book is on proven ways to lead a meaningful and happy life and is entitled, “Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought.” He has written articles on corporate ethics and EQ in the workplace for Workspan magazine, HR.com, and Business Ethics. He has given numerous presentations and consulted with tens of thousands of people for organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, Pixar, Sutter Health, SHRM, NCHRA, KNEW and KDIA. For over 17 years, Dr. John has been a loving father to four children.