Using Fear to Your Advantage

Fear is an intense emotion. So intense, in fact, that as adults we call it a less scary word: anxiety. But fear (or anxiety) are normal emotions. “We view fear as a disease,” says Robert Maurer, PhD, a clinical psychologist from UCLA. “Fear is good. It’s not a disease.”

Why do we experience fear, especially in times when we feel we shouldn’t? If I’m performing, I should be having fun, not be debilitated by fear. But stage fright can be a real problem for a lot of performers. Where does it come from? In my experience, stage fright can stem from embarrassment, the worry that you are being judged by others, or low self-esteem. I usually experience more stage fright in front of small audiences of people I know personally, than I do in front of very large audiences of strangers.

In an article titled ‘Thinking big’ could be making you fail, Dr. Maurer writes, “Innovation triggers the alarm mechanism in the amygdala section of the brain that’s known as the fight-or-flight response. More simply put, the thought of change ignites fear…It effectively shuts down all nonessential brain functions, including creative thinking.”

Fear is a necessary survival tool. It is your body’s way of telling you that change is necessary. Here are a few ways you can deal with fear:

    1. Take a deep breath. Reconnecting with your breath can center you and bring you back to reality.
    2. Feel the fear. The lifespan of an emotion is 90 seconds. Allowing yourself to experience the emotion does two things; it allows the emotion to follow its natural path, and it releases the hold the emotion has on you.
    3. Reframe the fear. Anxiety and excitement have similar physiological results. The next time you feel anxious, determine if the feeling of excitement might be more useful in your situation. If you are anxious before an interview, try reframing the fear as excitement about the opportunity.
    4. Face the fear. Sometimes the only way out is through. The more you do something you fear, the easier it becomes.

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