Overcoming Fear: How to Fear-Proof Your Day
Wonder if you need to work on overcoming fear? Does any of this sound familiar?
You plan to work on your side-hustle and find yourself knee-deep in organizing your books?
You decide to cut back on expenses so you can work less and create more, but then find yourself remodeling your kitchen?
You face the fact dairy makes you feel like poo, but then eat nothing except ice cream and cheese for two weeks?
You decide to start walking, but then schedule yourself back-to-back appointments during the times you set aside to exercise?
It’s not you! It’s your emotional immune system!
Your emotional immune system’s job is to keep you safe from anything that threatens to leave you exposed. It does that by waylaying, distracting, or convincing you to do the exact opposite of what you said you wanted to do.
You aren’t undisciplined, self-sabotaging, or unable to change. You just need a more expansive way to defend yourself.
Without seeing how fear hijacks your day, all the time management advice, habit info, accountability buddies, and internet blocking software in the world is doomed to fail.
Your emotional immune system is never going away; it’s part of how you are put together as a human. Your goal is to work with it so you can make more room to do what you want without it freaking out.
I’m proposing a specific way to make that room. It’s simple and requires only a bit of pre-planning on your part.
Here’s how it goes:
Note when and how fear currently steals your day.
- Is it first thing in the morning? Do you spend the first part of your day checking social media, email, reading the news, or trying to get yourself “ready” for what you most want to do?
- Is it during a transition, such as after you drop off the kids or get home from work and it’s time to focus on something you want, only you can’t make the switch?
- Or does fear sneak in when you fall into a compare-and-despair pothole and then find yourself shopping for shoes or eating crunchy snacks?
- Or is it when your creative work feels hard, pointless, or seems that you don’t have the mind or talent to do it.
Make a list of when and how fear defends you by diverting your attention and desire.
Keep a running list of simple steps that move you forward on what you want to do. Simple steps are clear actions broken down so you know exactly what to do next.
A simple step is: “Call Beth and ask what her accountant does for her and what she gets charged.” A not so simple step is: “Find an accountant.” You don’t know what to do when you see something general like that on your list.
Your emotional immune system kicks in when you don’t know what to do next because it feels threatened. When you have a list of simple steps to choose from, your threat defense system is way less likely to freak out.
Keeping a running simple step list is so powerful! Take this list with you everywhere.
When you realize that fear has hijacked you, call it out. “That’s my emotional immune system at work. That’s all it is.”
Naming what’s happening allows you to be less snared in the reaction of your brain and nervous system.
Offer self-compassion immediately. “Oh, I’m afraid. That’s so hard to feel. Ouch.” Rub your arms, hug yourself, put your hand on your heart, and exhale long and slow. This calms your central nervous system.
You can add kind self-talk like, “Good job emotional immune system. I know nothing will eat me if I take this next step. It’s safe for me to do this. I can handle what life brings.”
Then use Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule to count down, “5-4-3-2-1” and then do any one of your simple steps.
And that’s how you fear-proof your day!
- Know how fear hijacks your day.
- Keep an on-going list of small steps. Add to it often. Don’t worry about the order, but do check from time to time that what’s on your list is leading you where you want to go and is connected to what you most desire.
- When you find yourself doing the opposite of what you want, being distracted, or over-providing for others, name it as the emotional immune system! Immediately offer yourself self-compassion.
- Countdown 5-4-3-2-1 and do a simple action.
Tell me and the weekly Oasis members how this works for you. We’ve been playing with this for a while now; give me an update.