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How to Trick Your Fear Brain

Article written by Blog Post Contributor Coach Judy Prokopiak

I'm not sure when it happened, but I developed a fear of heights and speed. I used to love roller-coasters as a kid, however, sometime after the birth of our children I started to hate high things, and fast things. The Space Needle in Seattle, the Twin Towers in New York, the Empire State Building. I don't even like being on the high floors in hotels. I have been to these places, stepped out into the picturesque views and pushed myself through my anxiety to visit, telling myself I am safe and trying to put on a brave face for my kids ( who were not scared by the way... well our son did not love the St Louis Arch) and although I didn't realize it at the time, I was modeling them how to be brave in the face of fear.

Now to be honest I wasn't "panic attack" scared to ride the roller coasters or view the sites from up high ( that was my father in law- totally hated even ladders and escalators), but I had A LOT of anxiety. Especially waiting in the line for the coasters, listening to people scream, I would feel my panic start to kick in and boy did I have to manage my mind, and there were a few times I just said, "I can't do it".

We recently we took a family trip to the beautiful country of Croatia. What did we decide to do? I very high, very fast ZIP LINE adventure! Although I had been zip lining twice before... it was terrifying and totally thrilling at the same time (check out Banning Mills near Atlanta Georgia). So as we prepared for the drive up the mountain, and the steep hike to the top and the beginning of this amazing adventure, I began to feel that anxiety and fear thinking creep in. My heart rate was racing, my mind went to all sorts of terrible thoughts and my imagination was starting to run wild that I would be the one person who would plummet to their death or get stuck out on the wire or some other crazy scene that would be in the movie Cliffhanger!

So what did I do? I did exactly what I tell my clients. Take back control of your lizard brain! Our mind is telling our body what is happening and our body is telling our mind what we are feeling. I told myself that I was "excited" to do this instead of I'm scared and so my body now had a reference for why I felt this way. (see this awesome video by Mel Robbins) "It's going to be amazing", "It's going to be so fun". "I am going to be so proud of myself when I do this", "i'm going to have a story to tell" "I am going to get to share this experience forever with my family".

It worked! Granted, I didn't really believe it when I was saying it. but I just kept saying it to myself and out loud to the group! I allowed myself to feel the fear. I allowed myself to scream the whole way across the gorge!

Next... I asked myself, "what am I really afraid of?" The answer was that I wasn't really afraid I would die, I was afraid I would get stuck out there and not be able to get back. I asked the guides, what happens if I get stuck out there? they said we will come get you... it will be Ok. They also told me in 6 years no one has ever died or been hurt from the zip line ( they sprained ankles from the hiking part though). Sometimes getting the facts helps you realize that you are just terrorizing yourself with your own imagination.

So, what does this mean for you, for your business? It means that there will be things that scare you, speaking in public, making a phone call (fear of rejection), sharing your story, asking for help, or speaking up at meetings. You will need to do it afraid. I know you have heard this before, but it's not about being "fearless". It's about feeling the fear, understanding what it is that is really scaring you, managing your mind and deciding that it is worth it to step out of your comfort zone and into confidence!

Even though all 8 zip line runs were still scary, I am very proud of myself for being ringmaster of my shit show and now I have a story to tell. Now I have more confidence. Now I have memories that are priceless.

Oh, and by the way, I love Stand Up Paddle boarding in the ocean, but there are sharks and other things living there. I have used this same technique and tools to manage my mind out there too.

So, maybe you aren't afraid of heights, or speaking in public, or flying, but I guarantee that you have some stories or beliefs that are holding you back, keeping you stuck, or creating challenges in your life. Maybe that fear or anxiety ( that can show up as procrastination or indecision) is driving you to overeat, over drink, binge watch Game of Thrones, or go on an Amazon shopping spree.

This is my specialty, helping smart successful women learn how to flip their script, change the stories they are believing about themselves, build confidence by stepping out of their comfort zone and go after their big (sometimes scary) amazing life. Want to chat? Let's do this....



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