It can be exhilarating, a rush, it can be paralyzing and traumatizing: Fear. We have all experienced it. Where does it come from, how is it triggered, and how do you respond? Could fear become an ally instead of an enemy?
Fear can show up during a new situation, in an instant, there is that familiar, unwanted feeling. Like taking that first ski jump you haven’t been willing to try, signing up for your first marathon, or taking on something new in your life like a new job, having your first child, starting a new project at work, taking on a new sport or activity, all of which you have never done before.
Fear can also come from a previous accident or bad situation that has happened to you where your experience wasn’t good. Maybe it was a skiing accident, hitting the wall during your first attempt at a marathon, slipping and falling on ice, failing a test at school, loosing a job, or losing a spouse.
These types of triggers cause certain physiological side effects like a rapid heart beat, palms sweating, the sense of anxiety, breaking out into a sweat, feeling euphoric, feeling immobilized or feeling paralyzed. All of these reactions are normal and are part of our “fight or flight” mechanism. How does your experience of fear take over and how can you learn to experience fear in a better light.
Firstly, understand that the “fight or flight” pattern will be there in some way. It is how we respond to the situation that matters. It is important to remember that we have choices. Life is not about finding the right way or answer. It’s about discovering in the moment what choices and options are available to you. It all begins with awareness. Once you are aware, you begin to see there are choices and options and in a moment’s notice, the world can open up to you.
Knowing there are choices is the beginning to experiencing more freedom with fear. You can start to feel more open and can sense the space and time around you giving you the opportunity to discover what possibilities exist. Presence is critical at the point. You may realize that by noticing your options, you gain a feeling of relief. Your heartbeat can slow down, your sweating slowly disappears, your breathing becomes more normal as you begin to notice and think about the choices you have. It’s important to learn and to notice not only the first choice that resonates with you, but also other possibilities that resonate with you. The possibilities will give you an undeniable sense of freedom. Replying on only one option can be confining, limiting, and scary. Imagine if your one choice doesn’t work, what do you have to fall back on.
For example, imagine skiing down an expert (black diamond) ski run for the first time. It feels so steep, so scary. In that moment, panic sets in, takes over, and you become paralyzed. But what if you could start to breathe, look around and notice the terrain, observe others skiers and how they are getting down the run. As you take the time to look around, you begin to notice the different choices you have, how the terrain is different on one side compared to the other, you see how skiers are getting themselves down the hill differently. In this moment, space and time take over, you begin to feel more at ease and you can then search for the best option for you.
The same is true with your training. Are you stuck in a rut? Do you do the same routines year after year? Are you afraid to open up, mix it up, and try something new? What do you have to lose?
Recently my daughter was falling off the ledge at school, her grades became poor, she was trying very hard, but she wasn’t getting done what she needed to get done in several classes. I met with her counselor. During the meeting it became clear to me that she needed help, but a different kind of help. As the counselor was going over each class, I was drifting in and out of thought wondering, where is she going to get the kind of help? Like any parent, I began to feel scared not knowing the answer for my daughter. What is it she really needs? Where am I going to find the right kind of help? In this moment of uncertainty and fear, I suddenly got very clear, the person who needed to help her was me. She didn’t need another tutor or special school. I needed to help her but I had no idea how. I didn’t know what I was doing or what she needed but I was willing to be open, to trust and to discover what she needed. I was scared; there was no manual for this. What was clear to me was that no one could help her like I could.
At first, I felt angry. Why me? Why can’t the tutors help her? Then I realized that my anger came from my fear of failing. In that moment, I reflected on my work, teaching others to learn miraculous things, and found the courage to go for it. I had nothing to lose.
I stepped into the unknown and started seeing what she knew and didn’t know. I trusted that by being present, choices, options, and direction would present itself to me, and it did. It was like going off a ski jump for the first time. A rush took over inside of me and in that moment of anxiety there was exhilaration and a sense of freedom. The dance began; I learned about her and found a variety of ways to show her what she knew and needed to know by introducing thoughts, techniques to solve problems, concepts and direction. After some time, she discovered what worked for her.
Shortly thereafter my daughter brought all of her grades up to A’s and B’s. However, this isn’t really what is important, is it? What is important is that she began to learn new ways of understanding and solving problems. In her discovery, she started to feel more confident and exited about what she had done. As a mother, I can say that there is truly no better gift than to watch the world open up to your child by supporting them with patience.
From here, you can begin to look at some other fears in your life. Where do your fears lie? How could you approach a fear in your life? Perhaps you can begin this New Year by looking closely at your life, like you just looked at your training, and invite yourself to explore a fear. You will never know what’s truly possible until you open yourself up and try. One thing is certain, you can always go back to what you know and where you were, but if you never try you will never know. Do you have the courage to try? Courage is the greatest catalyst to Fear.
So where do you go from here? Where do your fears lie? How do you approach a fear in your life? Perhaps you can begin this New Year by looking closely at your life and inviting yourself to explore a fear of yours. You will never know what’s truly possible until you open yourself up and try. One thing is certain, you can always go back to what you know and where you were, but if you never try you will never know. Do you have the courage to try? Courage is the greatest catalyst to Fear.
Here are some helpful tips to assist you in moving forward to overcoming a fear in your training and in your life:
• Acknowledge and be able to describe the fear. This allows for you to have a clear awareness.
• Witness what you have chosen in the past as your response to this fear.
• Open your self up to be present, and notice other options or choices that are available to you.
• Have the courage to take a risk.
• Remember, you can always go back to your original response.
• Go for it! Take that first step in a new direction, perhaps into the unknown, be present and see what happens.
• Share and celebrate success for taking that first step towards greater freedom in your life!
How and when do you feel good about yourself? Your workouts? Your goals? Defining what “feeling good” means to you is the first step in evaluating the ways in which you can feel good/better in various aspects of your life.
Feeling good can be a physical sensation, an emotional state, a mental state or a combination of all three. Any of these states can be triggered in a moment’s notice. Think about how you feel in different situations and what affects you in what ways. For example, reflect on how you feel when you wake, after a run, after working out, after sitting in traffic, etc. In any of these situations, how you feel comes from the act of doing, being, accomplishing, or a combination.
Ask yourself: Why is feeling good important? Feeling good is certainly better than feeling bad. How we feel can shape our day. It effects how we are able to cope with our life, being productive, focused, and or handling what tasks lie in front of us. Maintaining a healthy physical state, emotional state, and mental state provides an overall sense of wellbeing and happiness which makes life much more enjoyable.
Let’s begin by looking at the physical part of feeling good. How do you know when you physically feel good? Is it how you wake up in the morning or is it because you performed well during a workout? Is it because you feel strong, fast, light, powerful, awake, and/or energized? Notice there is a variety of ways in which each of us decides what “feeling good” means to us. First and foremost decide for YOU what “feeling good” is and how you physically get there.
One way to feel good is to workout. For me, working out can mean a run, a hike, a bike ride, training at the gym, a yoga class, a walk, swimming, downhill skiing, skate skiing, etc. Part of my prerequisite for a workout is exertion. I need to do an activity where I feel as though I am exerting myself. When my heart rate goes up, I sweat and I begin to feel alive. This brings about a good feeling inside of me. During these workouts, I feel strong, powerful, agile, and free. Soon after my workout I feel centered, calm, focused, pleased with myself, and accomplished. This is what “feeling physically good” is for me. It is very important for me to begin my day with a workout because it allows me to stay on top of my daily game.
There are many other physical ways we can create “feeling good.” For example, getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously, and hydrating all contribute to feeling good. These topics were covered in my previous article: Energy.
It is also worth examining what makes you feel bad physically. By knowing both sides of the coin you will feel more in control to create “feeling good” in your daily life. Train/workout in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, where you feel successful and accomplished. Refrain from evaluating yourself against others. Your evaluation should only be comparative to yourself, and no one else. Stay within to reap your rewards.
What about emotions? Let’s stay in the camp of relating to your workouts, training and competitions. Certainly we feel and have emotions connected to our physical self. So if we feel energized, most likely we’re feeling positive and happy within ourselves. There is a direct correlation between the physical and emotional world. However, it has occurred to me and I’ve seen many people develop a negative emotion despite their positive performance. This is often the case when we have set our personal standards to an outside standard, which will never be optimal. Avoid comparing yourself to anyone. It is the beginning of the end to not feel good about you!
Here are a few tips to help you stay positive: Find something in your workout or training everyday that makes you “feel good.” This will impact your training, goal setting, your ability to compete and most importantly, how your life goes. Next, have reasonable goals. I’m going to exercise today, get enough sleep tonight, have a day of rest because I’m over trained, or fuel my body with appropriate hydration and fuel. Setting goals that teeter on the impossible will set you up for failure. Your emotional state is delicate. Treat yourself and your emotions with care. Start your day off in the right direction with a physical good feeling to emotionally set the stage for a positive day for yourself.
Your state of mind is also key, and comes from the combination of your physical and emotional state. If you physically and emotionally feel good, most likely you will mentally feel strong. Mental strength truly is the key to your personal strength, endurance, success and happiness. It must be acquired through your physical and emotional states. It is virtuously impossible to be mentally strong when you’re down on your physical and emotional game. Your mental strength gives you the power to survive one’s daily life. I usually begin my day with the physical, building my emotional and mental state for strength for the rest of the day.
I’m sure many of you may go in a different order; maybe you start with your mental state, or emotional state. What is important is to find the state you can access the easiest to give you that “good feeling” to begin your day with. From there, I highly recommend playing around with the idea of developing the capacity to access your “good feeling” from any of our states. For example, let’s say you take a day off to rest to recover. On this day you may find that you are “feeling good” from your mental state by knowing a day off is going to benefit you tremendously. The more you are able to shift states to create your sense of well-being, the healthier and more functional of a person you will be in the world. Relying always on one state for “feeling good” can be very dangerous, and lacks flexibility. First, learn for yourself how you cultivate “feeling good.” Next begin to play around with “feeling good” physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Soon you will be happier, feel more satisfied with yourself and your life, so you can enjoy and live your life to the fullest.
"The fastest path to both physician and mental domination in Ironman triathlon is to race and compete in triathlons during your build-up to the big day."