Answer- When you perceive it as an important opportunity.

In the previous post,  I demonstrated how by overriding our primitive self protective, fear detecting amygdyla brain, and enlisting our higher functioning, highly evolved, human frontal cortex, we can overcome the downward negative elements of stress. I want to further demonstrate this with more examples.

Firstly, let me emphasize that like everything else I discuss, mastering this concept comes with practice because it may be counterintuitive at first. You are ,after all , having to go against your basic primal instinct , which is self protection and self preservation. But here is the first step in a successful mindset shift when it comes to fear. Most threats are only perceived threats. Look around you. At this moment you are safe. Nothing bad is going to happen to you right now.( unless of course you are reading this blog on your cell phone while driving). So when it comes to tackling an objective that you don’t feel like doing, ask yourself this. Are you avoiding doing it because you are afraid of the outcome? that you wont succeed? that its going to be awkward and frustrating? That its going to waste a lot of time? Congratulations. You are probably right on all counts. The first mindset shift in perspective I want you to consider is the inner fear you are experiencing is normal and not to be ignored. It just needs to be REINTERPRETED by your higher brain that is more evolved for reasoning. You shift your thinking and over time train (with practice) that any objective, task or activity you fear to attempt to work through is actually IMPORTANT. It not a threat, but rather an opportunity for completion.

When you shift your thinking from stress/ fear to important, you reason that important tasks should not be avoided. Important objectives reflect the things that you value and the responsibilities that you are obligated to do. Overcoming the fear shifts the thinking from perceived threat to an opportunity and choice to meet a challenge. This is where personal growth comes from.

Lets demonstrate this concept . A private citizen is obligated and responsible to pay his taxes. He fears that he doesn’t have enough money to pay it. He is stressed over the idea of filing himself because he wants to save money, but he hasn’t done it before. Its going to be stressful discovering the figure he owes. His stress stimulates his sympathetic nervous system to panic. There is no one to fight. He cant run anywhere. So he freezes. He avoids. He procrastinates. He doesn’t pay the taxes which leads to more chronic stress when the interest payments start to accumulate and the stress cycle pushes the spiral downward. This is a choice.

The other choice is that he decides and recognizes that paying taxes is important. To avoid filing late and incurring unnecessary penalties, he uses the deadline as a motivating incentive to act. He maximizes his structure to enlist a tax accountant that specializes in consolidating debt and coming up with an affordable budget. The amount owed is less than he feared. He repeats this the following year and it gets easier with practice. He has now successfully leveraged his stress to push forward and upward.

We can apply the same formula to a desired goal or activity. A person wants to run in a 10k charity race. She has never done it before but values the cause and believes it would be a healthy pursuit. Her primal instinct kicks in and she feels afraid that she wont succeed and that she will be frustrated and embarrassed. She may have doubtful  thoughts  that may give way to emotions of feeling the urge to procrastinate and avoid training. Or she can choose to understand that primal fear is a sign telling her that this event is important and she must prepare for the challenge. She understands that is going to be difficult at first. She anticipates the initial struggles of inertia and the discomfort of being out of shape. She anticipates the time commitment to train. She prepares. She sets up her structural schedule. She shifts her mindset to think that by scheduling time to run, she is making time to run. She sets up a habit loop to reminder herself to run beforehand and reward herself afterward each day. She respects her streak and has someone to keep her accountable . She keeps running and over time it gets easier and easier. Stress levels drop and energy levels rise.

The adrenalin surge of the stress response doent always have to be a negative thing. In short interval doses, stress  can be a source of excitement and boost energy. Think of riding a roller coaster,tree trekking or watertubing. Exteme sport junkies thrive on the adrenalin rushes of their seemingly dangerous activities. Research actually shows that they are often well prepared for their challenges and train to take all safety .

The aim is stress in moderation and surrender to the faith that repeated exposure and trained practice always lowers the negative effects of the chronic stress response.

Can you think of a stressful task or goal that you have been avoiding? Can you really think of why you FEEL the threat of facing it? Is it real or just perceived? Is it truly a threat or is it an opportunity? Always be prepared to answer the question -What would happen if I face this task today?  What would happen if I avoid it today and tomorrow? Please share your thoughts