Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Feel the Fear

Pretty much everyday for as long as I can remember my Mum has been telling me to feel the fear and do it anyway. It is usually exactly what I need to hear to give me the confidence to do something, go somewhere or speak to someone.

I've always been the anxious kid, the one who's face tells their every emotion (yes, thank you bright red cheeks), and their every fear. I've been told I'm 'scared of life', 'scared of my own shadow' and that people are amazed I can actually walk out of the door. I shrug it off and say yes, I'm phobic and yes, it stops me doing a lot of things. But then whenever I am able to do something, go somewhere or speak to someone I'm always struck by such a huge sense of achievement. If I can do that, even feeling like this, I can do anything.

I've mentioned before that, for the last few years, I've not been making New Years Resolutions apart from one, which has been keeping me going since about 2011. It was New Years Eve 2013, as I stood under the Eiffel Tower, having agreed to go to Paris to meet new people and try new things, that I realised that my yearly resolution has been working. Just saying yes, agreeing to do things without thinking of the 'what ifs', had changed the way I did things. Essentially, it meant I did do things.

Remembering to feel the fear and do it anyway is a big part of being able to say yes, oui, si, da, ja. I was terrified when I decided to move to London, and almost hysterical when the moving day actually came around, but I channelled that fear into something useful. Now, over a year later, I know that moving was the best thing I could have done. Granted it's not been all smooth sailing and I still have days where my bed seems a better option than facing the wide world, but I don't think I would have such an enthusiasm for life if it wasn't for that fear hiding in the corners of my mind. Fear makes me appreciative, it makes me stronger and keeps me going.

I have a few tips I rely on when the inevitable fear overload day comes around which I thought I'd share as I'm pretty certain I'm not the only one who struggles with excessive fear.

Breathe Deep It may sound obvious, but I've been known to forget to breathe properly and end up in all sorts of awkward hyperventilation situations (there's never a paper bag when you need one). When I start to panic/ freak out/ worry I can always feel it in my stomach. Those pesky butterflies are not always the signifier of good things. Even before my stomach has completed its first flip, I've whisked myself off to a quiet spot to focus on taking a deep breathe, inhaling deeply through my nose and back out through my mouth. Focusing on the mechanics of it can be a pretty useful distraction.

Memorise I know a few poems/songs off by heart and I find reciting the words either in my head or under my breathe can help bring me back to the moment. Panic at the Disco's 'There's a good reason these tables are numbered honey. You just haven't thought of it yet' got me through my GCSE exams. Sitting in a hall, in silence, surrounded by a entire school year of students was never my idea of a good time. Happily, I was in a Panic at the Disco phase and could sing most of their songs in my head. Crisis averted! I also know a few poems by William Blake and Invictus by William Ernest Henley is a good one for encouraging courage and strength.

Analyse Instead of trying to ignore the situation and what is making me feel scared, I sometimes find it useful to analyse the situation. If I can discern what the trigger is then I can either work on it, or know to avoid it in the future. I know from experience that going into cafes or restaurants I've never been to before scares me silly because I hate not knowing how things work and always worry that I'm doing something wrong and making a massive social mistake. By knowing that I can take steps to address the fear before it hits. I would still much rather go into a Starbucks than an independent cafe when I'm alone, but I try new places with other people first so I can feel more comfortable if I decide to go it alone.

Shrug It Off and Start Again Even with the greatest will and the best coping mechanisms in the world, it doesn't always mean the fear dissipates. There are times when I know I have to give up and remove myself from situations before I really get into panic mode, but that's okay and it's important to know it's okay. When that happens it's important not to dwell on it or let it drag you down. I have lists of everything I have achieved, from the small things (asking a sales assistant for help in a shop) to the big things (eating in a restaurant by myself). Referring to these lists and remembering that I can do it gives that little boost of confidence to know that I can try again on another day.

Sometimes it does feel like I'm scared of life, but I'm a firm believer in taking things one day at a time and remembering that fear is necessary and, if channelled correctly, can be beneficial.

Thanks to Susan Jeffers for writing 'Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway' which inspired my Mum and me in turn.

How about you, do you have any tips for coping with the things that scare you?



  1. I so love this new theme of posts that you're doing :)

    Bizarrely, I actually used to be scared of trying at sports. I spent years joking around at the back of cross country runs and messing about as wing attack in netball because I was scared that if I really tried and then turned out not to be very good, people would make fun of me. I didn't do any sports whatsoever until I one day decided that I would brave the gym. I went with some friends who were as nervous as me and we sort of muddled through together and it turned out to be fun (obviously the rest is history and I ended up falling in love with running!). I always think sharing the fear helps!

  2. This was a really good read. I had (and have) similar issues with driving... and parking... especially in a new area of if I don't know the directions. I obsess over Google maps before going somewhere new, including street view to try and check out the parking situation. I use some of your coping tips, and also try to remind myself that even really stupid people can drive, even teenagers can drive, and so can I :)

  3. Thank you, Charlotte! I'm glad you're enjoying them :)

    Sharing it is a good idea, and one I should probably try (I'm very good at pretending and hiding it from people which always turns out badly). I think that's a perfectly valid fear! Teenage girls can be so judgmental and I'm sure I had the odd giggle aimed at me as I bumbled my way around a hockey pitch. That may be why I find running so appealing - the fact that it's solitary and, if you're running fast, you're past people before they can judge you :D

  4. Thank you, Laura. That's a good thing to remind yourself, and something I'm sure I can apply to some of my fears!

  5. This is definitely something I need to work on right now. When my agoraphobia was at its worst I HAD to confront it to get my life back - but I've definitely let it slide recently and the anxiety is creeping in again. Not in a 'can't leave the house' way like before, but I still find it hard to say yes, take opportunities, and enjoy life in what most people would consider a 'normal' way. I obsess about everything and plan in advance and worry myself right out of things that really shouldn't be that problematic.

    Deep breathing definitely helps. I used to visualise pulling all my fear and anxious muscle tension from around my body into my lungs with each 'inward' breath, like black ink, then blowing it out with the 'outward' breath. My hypnotherapist also suggested imagining yourself surrounded by a colour you love, whether it's as light or a protective bubble or whatever. I often forget to do it, but it DOES work.

    I also use the song/rhyme trick actually! I sometimes find myself going so fast that it doesn't exactly calm me down, but it's a distraction. I used to use the Mighty Boosh songs and crimps. Plenty of them, they're nonsensical, and they've got a great rhythm. :)

    Thanks Ellie, you've reminded me of some important things and given me a little inspiration to start fighting again!


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