Your body is well equipped to deal with stress, our ‘stress response system’ or ‘FFF (Fight, Flight, Freeze) instinct’ is always on the look out for danger and is designed to deal with it well.
Think what would happen if you came across a tiger? Your brain sees the danger and immediately prepares your bodies to react. This is what I call your FFF instinct. It makes your heart pump harder, sending more blood to our arms and legs to give you energy to run. It makes you sweat to keep your body cool. It gives you clear thinking so you can find that escape route. It switches of digestion because you don’t need to waste energy on last night’s meal right now. It prepares you very well to deal with the imminent danger of the tiger.
Once the situation is over our brain sends a signal to switch off the FFF instinct and return to ‘normal’.
However, these days we don’t have tigers to deal with, but this system hasn’t changed. Our FFF instinct prepares us for anything we perceive as a danger and nowadays it’s more likely to be money worries, deadlines, kids, targets, people and relationships……potentially your short term FFF instinct may never actually be switched off (this is where it starts causing health problems, which you can read more about in Why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers if you're interested).
Where does fear come into this??
Well us wonderful intelligent human beings have the power of anticipation. We have the ability to analyse the what, ifs, buts and maybes in order to anticipate what might happen and be able to prepare ourselves.
And here’s the sting in the tail……
Your mind cannot tell the difference between what’s imagined and what’s real.
Fear is when we prepare ourselves for an anticipated danger as if it’s actually real.
And where our FFF Instinct is perfect for dealing with tigers, it’s not such a great system when preparing for a speech, or difficult conversation.
What can you do about it?
There’s absolutely loads of options. You need to find a way of showing your head that whatever ‘danger’ you are perceiving isn’t a danger at all. You could….
That’s just three I can think of off the top of my head, feel free to share your ideas in the comments, so others can benefit.
Do stressed out people feel more fear?
The simple answer is yes. One of the effects of the FFF instinct is hyperawareness. When you are in a stressed state it’s as if your antenna’s are up hunting out anything which may impact your situation.
Small things suddenly feel very important.
Those small details, all the ifs, buts and maybes add fuel to the fear and make the fear feel worse.
The best thing you can do is relax. Get some fresh air. Switch off for a while……….let your body return to ‘normal’ and it will help you to feel stronger.
Are you interested in learning more about how your mind works? I've created a free video series which takes this a lot further. Click here to watch and learn even more about how to overcome fear.
I hope that’s been interesting and helpful for you.
PS. If you're interested in the books I mentioned in this blog here's the links for you: Why Zebra’s Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert M Sapolsky. The Magic Shop, Helen Graham.