Why is there so much fear and what to do instead

by May 18, 2022Articles, Resources0 comments

Why is there so much fear and what to do instead

There is a lot going on in the world right now. Many conflicts, pains, issues, and stresses. It can get overwhelming and exhausting. What if things were completely different?

Do you want to live an amazing life filled with joy, fun, and ease? Maybe you’re thinking, sure but how?

If I ask you to think about what your ideal life looks like, would you be able to describe it clearly? 

So often I ask clients and they answer with what they don’t want. 

I don’t want to be exhausted, I don’t want to be poor, I don’t want to be angry, I don’t want to deal with stupid people.… and so on.

Notice how often the brain defaults to a state of negativity and judgment.

We don’t even realize the box we’ve put ourselves in. When you are in a perpetual state of doubt and disbelief, that is all your brain is going to focus on. Meaning… that is what you will attract and bring into your life.

The things you don’t want are often based in fear. It could be your worst nightmare, events you’ve experienced in the past or horror stories you’ve heard from others.

You might be wondering, why is fear so rampant?

It’s because our goal as a human, from an evolutionary perspective, is to survive. So the brain has us doing things to ensure survival and avoid danger.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that fear is the same as danger. When the reality is, fear is not the same as danger.

Fear is a normal physiologic response. While danger is something that’s life-threatening.

Anytime you want to do something new or different, your brain is going to panic. You’re going to feel fear. But that doesn’t mean you stop or retreat. Because it’s most likely not actually dangerous or life-threatening.

The reason the pandemic has been so challenging is because it has turned many things upside-down. It has brought on a whole new level of uncertainty for many of us.

This uncertainty can be very unsettling because we like predictability.

Predictability = comfort = safety to the brain.

But did you know that research shows human beings are running on subconscious (a.k.a. unconscious) brain programming over ninety percent of the time?! Meaning the thoughts, feelings, and emotions you experience, the actions and decisions you make, are all recurring habits you’ve accrued over time?

So many of our beliefs are from childhood experiences and we never pause to question or change it. Perhaps you encountered a mean school teacher who chastised your behavior or looked down on your intellect saying “you’re terrible at math”. You may have picked up beliefs like “I’m not good enough”. That message becomes deeply ingrained and constantly replays in the background of your mind. This can lead to a drive to succeed, becoming an overachiever and perfectionist, things I dealt with for most of my life.

Let’s take a deeper look at the brain and how it works. We can look at the brain broadly as three main parts that are closely connected and evolved over time.

Your Three Brains

At the bottom, there’s the reptilian brain, which is the oldest part in the lower area that is most concerned with survival and guides the autonomic nervous system that can put us into fight-or-flight. Then, there’s the limbic brain in the middle area which is concerned with emotions and feelings and often called the emotional brain. Lastly, at the top there’s the neocortex, the part of the brain that developed most recently and helps us with critical thinking and often called the rational brain.

While the neocortex is the “smartest” and serves as the “conscious” part of the brain, it is unfortunately not the one who is usually in control. Instead, it’s the reptilian “survival” brain that serves as the “subconscious” part of the brain that is usually in charge.

Depending on your past experiences, family history/background and genetics, your reptilian brain may be very sensitive and over-active, leading you to be more risk-averse with strong aversions to fear.

But I want you to know that it’s possible to change this.

Think back to a newborn baby… We are born with only two innate fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds. Every other fear is LEARNED.

Isn’t that crazy? So the good news is this… because the fear was learned…. you can UN-LEARN it too.

This is why I emphasize the importance of developing the pillar of “Calm” in the Inspiring Success Story MethodTM I developed after working with many clients and seeing the same things come up again and again.

When we don’t learn how to regulate our fear response and nervous system, we end up sabotaging ourselves because we are stuck, trapped, and paralyzed in fear.

Are you ready to change things?

When we are in a state of fear, the sympathetic nervous system is activated and we are in a state of “survival” or fight-or-flight. The stress hormone cortisol is released, our hearts beat faster, muscles get tense, anxiety increases, breathing gets shallow.

You get into a repetitive cycle where stress leads to pain leads to anxiety leads to more stress and more pain/anxiety/etc.

So how do we stop this cycle? Through practicing mindfulness and being present.

One of the easiest ways to keep your reptilian/survival brain in a state of calm is through the act of breathing. When we take intentional breaths and slow down, it activates the parasympathetic system which acts in counter to the sympathetic system.

Think of the sympathetic system as the gas pedal to rev-up the body while the parasympathetic system as the brake pedal to slow things down. When your body is over-activated, you need ways to calm it down or else it will lead to burnout and exhaustion.

Try this simple breathing technique called “4-7-8 Breathing”.

Take an inhale through nose for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale through open mouth for a count of 8. Repeat three times.

Try it out at least once a day this upcoming week and see how you feel. Remember, every little bit counts!

If you want more tools and exercises to manage your fear, don’t forget to join my newsletter (and get my free Create Your Own Calm guide) and follow me on social media (linkedin, instagram, facebook) for updates!

Make sure to get a copy of my #1 bestselling book So Much Better: Life-Changing Strategies to Develop Calm, Confidence & Curiosity to Become Your Own Inspiring Success Story HERE to start the process now.

Cindy Tsai

Cindy Tsai

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  1. What is Mindfulness? Part 1 - Cindy Tsai, MD - […] have been conditioned to look for certainty (see my blog post on fear and brain physiology here) and use…

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