We are hard-wired for fear.
This is very old behavior, and it’s protective. As a species, we have very poor defenses! That’s why we’ve developed our brains and become super predators. But we still have the ancient protective wiring in the brain stem.
Here’s what happens: the adrenaline surge caused by fear shuts down digestion and sends blood rushing to our arms and legs. It also widens our pupils so we can see as well as possible. This enables us to fight, or to take flight. It can also cause us to freeze (think rabbit, or deer in the headlights), or freak out.
Fear and long term stress (also a fear response) have terrible consequences for our health, especially our digestive health. And that directly affects our protective immune function, which is our defense against disease.
Here are two quick exercises to short circuit fear & stress, when they’ve got you in their grip.
The faster one is simply this:
- Shut your eyes (if you can)
Take at least four slooooow breaths: long deep inhale, pause, slow exhale
Pause and repeat three times (or more)
This is easy, you can do this anywhere anytime.
The second one is a progressive muscle tighten-release:
- Squeeze your toes as hard as you can.
- Hold for 10 seconds (or at least a count of 5).
- Release. Feels good, doesn’t it?
- Repeat for your feet, calves, thighs and glute muscles. Release.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs as hard as you can for 10 seconds. Release.
- Now squeeze your hands into fists, tighten your elbows to your sides, squeeze your shoulders, neck muscles and jaw. Hard as you can for 10 seconds.
- Release, shake it out, take at 4–5 deep calming breaths.
You’ll feel lighter and easier. Enjoy!
Finally, it’s worth remembering this: fear is an opportunity for us to respond with courage and compassion, both for ourselves and for others.