We have been discussing the role of fear in our culture and the conflicting effects it has on obtaining our objectives. The primary role it is supposed to serve is to detect actual threats to our existence and warn us to fight, flight or freeze.

How is this achieved?

The primitive center of our brain stimulates adrenalin and cortisol in response to a sudden threatening stimulus that we see, hear or feel.This innate, self protective , life saving mechanism has been successfully passed on from our ancestors so that our DNA is programmed for survival.

However, the problem we are presented with is what happens when we exist in a culture without actual life threatening stresses? Our daily stresses have become perceived as threats and, as a result, we stimulate the same neurotransmitters and hormones as if we were being chased by a tiger. The result is a chronic stimulation of our sympathetic nervous system. This highly charged flight ,fight or flee state is supposed to be turned on briefly as it is in the primitive animal kingdom. Research by Ron Sapolsky has shown that chronic exposure to stress that results in prolonged stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system is toxic to the body. prolonged levels of adrenalin and cortisol that stimulate high blood pressure and shallow accelerated breathing , shut down the parasympathetic nervous system. This system counters the effects of the fear/stress response by returning the body back to a state of balance. The heart rate and breathing slow down and the body can shift focus to relaxed functions such as digestion, reproduction and elevated immune function. Too much chronic daily, perceived stress hinders these vital functions which lead to impaired digestive and immune function and lead to disease.

So how do we successfully shift away from this fear controlled tendency. The answer is simple but not easy. Like every example I demonstrate, the central key is practice. The initial mental training starts with a shift in mindset. By recruiting and enlisting the higher brain centers of the neocortex, the primitive brain will turn off. They are competing at all times. You cant focus on creativity, decision making and task solving if you are focused on fear/ stress and avoidance. Likewise, when you are engaged in meditation, gratitude , optimism, intellectual and spiritual growth, you are not in a state of fear.

So start with a mindset shift when fear or avoidance tendencies become present. Step one is mindfulness. Become self aware When you recognize and acknowledge that a fear is causing you to avoid a necessary task you disarm it. You are summoning the neocortex to challenge and reason with it. You shift from thinking that the situation is not an actual threat. It is now regarded as important. Repeat this over and over again. Remember , the goal is to always form new neural connections in the brain. The plasticity of the neocortex means it is capable of learning and reinterpreting the emotionally stressful stimulus. It is called cognitive reappraisal. The stress response becomes progressively desensitized with repeated exposure .

Lets illustrate by example. A person who perceives the threat of disturbing news avoids opening certain bills or emails. His discomfort and fear of owing money or missing a deadline conditions him not to act. The effect of his neglect is that interest charges and fines set in , which reinforce the avoidance behavior. The ability to change this pattern requires practice. He shifts his perspective to realize that these notifications are now IMPORTANT. Not to be ignored. He is safe . No one will attack him today. Important notices have to be handled.

Step one. Identify through self awareness that there is a tendency or fearful feeling to avoid a task and decide if it is actually important. You have just enlisted your neocortex.

Step two. Pick something small and easy.( Don’t start with a huge overdue tax bill). Open an email that you may be uneasy about but consider it somewhat important.

Step three. Acknowledge and reward yourself for pushing through the discomfort. This is another figurative perspective muscle you are training. It will be difficult at first and will become easier and easier with more repetition.

Step four. Set up your habit loop. Remind yourself to daily assign something that is uneasy for you as important . Take a small action and complete it if possible. Remember completing a task will free up your cognitive attention units, lower stress levels and raise your confidence and esteem for the next challenge.

Can you think of three small tasks that you have been avoiding because there is a fear threat associated with them. Could you reassign these tasks as important? Which is the smallest one you could complete first? Please share