Fear is a survival mechanism that aims to protect us.
Humans are ultimately wired for survival. It’s in our biology; it’s in our brain. When we feel threatened, our bodies go to great lengths to protect us. The range and nuances of these protective mechanisms display how ingenious our bodies are.
Our fear is a tool to shield us from what’s unsafe. All of our emotions serve to protect us. All of our thoughts act as protection. All of our doings, even our self-sabotaging ways, are acts of protection! It’s extraordinary when we can see that even the parts of ourselves (and others) that disgust or bewilder us, are here to serve our survival.
When We Don’t Face Our Fears
The problem with this instinctual fear is that it holds us back. Humans have evolved. So have our brains. We have developed the prefrontal cortex that allows complex thinking and problem-solving, emotional and social intelligence, memory, and attention. We’re capable of much more than mere survival!
When we’re stuck in survival mode, living in the base of our brain, flooded with stress hormones and all of chronic stress’s consequences, we fear each other because ultimately we fear ourselves. We fear the darkness that has been stigmatized as “bad.” The more we fear what is “bad,” the more we suppress ourselves, and this suppression creates division within ourselves. This division creates trauma and illness.
There is no light without darkness. Only with light and dark do we exist. Until we embrace the beauty within the darkness, we deprive ourselves of wholeness, within ourselves, each other, and our world.
Until we embrace all that we hide from, that we’re unaware of, or we’re ashamed of, we’ll continue to blame ourselves and each other. We’ll continue to separate within ourselves and from each other. We’ll continue on in conflict because the ultimate source of conflict is within ourselves.
This is empowering because we can do the work. We can face ourselves. We can integrate ourselves, and when we offer this healing to ourselves, we offer it to others.
Controlling Fear & The Flow When We Let It Go
Until we face this fear, we seek to control ourselves and/or others. In the need to control — which is a natural adaptive response that developed to protect us — we force things. We push. We keep the gas down, and this is tiring.
We’re cut off from feeling when it’s time to act and when it’s time to rest. We fall out of the natural patterns that are in place to make us strong to do this thing called life without so much effort.
When we fall into the patterns of trying to control our reality, we may want to control others. Again, it’s just an adaptive response to protect us, and again, it’s tiresome because we can’t control others’ beliefs, behavior, or thoughts. And if we try or even long for this type of control, we wear ourselves out, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This isn’t up to us, but our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions are.
Under the weight of fear, we may end up suppressing ourselves, stifling our voice, or even rejecting our own thoughts and feelings out of shame. By lightening fear’s load, we feel ourselves open up, beginning to speak and act more authentically. We begin to feel brave. Confidence rises because we’re being true to ourselves, and doing so isn’t so tiresome because we aren’t controlling ourselves or anyone else. We’re simply in the flow of ourselves, our expression, our world.
The Symptoms of Fear
Fear expresses itself in many different ways:
👉🏼 Struggling with anxiety, panic, and/or phobias.
👉🏼 Feeling nervous, wired, or agitated.
👉🏼 Suppressing thoughts, voice, or beliefs.
👉🏼 Struggling with feeling timid or shy.
👉🏼 Being submissive in abusive relationships.
👉🏼 Feeling defeated and a tendency to retreat from the challenges of life.
👉🏼 Struggling with fatigue, exhaustion, and/or depression.
All of these symptoms indicate chronic stress. Look here to learn more about the physical symptoms of chronic stress and the tools to change it.
Control is an attempt to counteract any of the above, expressed as:
👉🏼 Being a workaholic. Being a perfectionist.
👉🏼 Always doing, pushing, neglecting essential rest, and recuperation.
👉🏼 Being overly ambitious and focused on achievement to prove self-worth.
👉🏼 Being domineering or abusive of self and/or others as the dominant.
👉🏼 Self-medicating tension with depressants.
👉🏼 Self-medicating fatigue and exhaustion with stimulants.
Look here to learn about how you can begin your journey out of stressful consumption patterns.
Holistic Tools to Ease Chronic Fear
In moments of fear, anxiety, or panic, focus on grounding:
👉🏼 Put your feet on the earth, literally. Barefoot is best. On grass, dirt, sand.
👉🏼 Tap into your surroundings with all five senses: See five things. Hear five things. Smell five things. Touch five things. Move five parts of your body. Consciously taste the inside of your mouth.
👉🏼 Breathe with the diaphragm, feeling your belly expand on the inhales and release on the exhales. Count your breath. Let the inhales and exhales lengthen to four or five counts.
Those living with more chronic manifestations of fear need to take action to change default states. Fear symptoms are completely treatable through holistic measures. You don’t have to suffer!
Begin by identifying your primary fear triggers:
WRITE IT // SPEAK IT.
👉🏼 What things in your life scare or drain you? Why?
👉🏼 Do they present a healthy challenge for you, or do they simply weigh you down? Ultimately, do you need these things in your life?
👉🏼 If any of these things are good for you, can you do anything differently so you don’t tire yourself out?
👉🏼 How can you listen to yourself to give yourself what you need to feel centered, grounded, and courageous?
Meditation and mindful embodiment practices, such as yoga, tai chi, or qi gong, are ways to develop inner listening skills. Developing a relationship with yourself allows you to tune into what you most need by listening to your body and intuition. Here is a guided meditation that can get you started.
Strengthening the Kidneys and Adrenals
Special care for the kidneys and adrenals is especially helpful for chronic fear symptoms, as well as methods that calm the nervous system. (Many of these tools are similar to chronic stress because both have similar physiological impacts):
👉🏼 Slowing and smoothing the breath, and a simple practice of diaphragmatic breathing, signal the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing anxiety and stimulating the immune system that is impaired with high-stress levels. These breathing practices are guided here.
👉🏼 Elongating exhales to twice the length of inhales stimulates the vagus nerve. This acts as an automatic brake on the sympathetic nervous system, which repairs stress-effects, such as reducing inflammation, strengthening brain-gut communication, and increasing positive emotions and social connection. This breathing practice is guided here.
👉🏼 Yin and restorative yoga are incredible tools for calming the nervous system while releasing tension, emotions, memories, and trauma stored in the body. Viparita Karani, pictured above, is a powerhouse posture for the kidneys and adrenals in particular (amongst other benefits). Combine mindful embodiment or the breathwork listed above for extra benefits.
👉🏼 Specifically strengthening the kidneys and adrenals with active exercises, such as prone backbends like Salabhasana as seen below, can offer a kick of energy and courage when in the face of healthy fear. Practice this yoga session daily that’s specifically designed for stress and anxiety.
👉🏼 Special care for gut health is crucial to enhance and stabilize mood and decrease fear symptoms by ensuring pre- and probiotics in the diet and identifying inflammatory foods, such as gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, alcohol, and processed foods by eliminating one at a time for at least three weeks and reintroducing into the diet to feel its effects. What is causing harm is then obvious and will need to be eliminated entirely to allow the body to heal. A plan and support through this process can be crucial!
👉🏼 Magnesium, Vitamin C, E, and B-Complex are depleted with chronic fear and anxiety. It’s always best to get vitamins through our food because they’re more easily absorbed and utilized by the body, but when seriously deficient, find a quality supplement (and see a doctor you trust to help guide you, too).
👉🏼 Supplementing with adaptogens, such as ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and ginseng (rather than ginseng soaked in liquids that have sugars), provides amazing support and benefits that are easily felt.
👉🏼 Licorice and dandelion root are powerhouses for the kidneys and adrenals as well, and can be taken as capsules or simply steeped for tea.
👉🏼 EFT tapping is a practice that connects the body-mind and is a powerful tool for releasing emotions and updating limiting beliefs that may accompany emotional pain and distress. Check here to learn more about the EFT practice, and there is a tapping practice guided specifically for fear and anxiety in the Holistic Liberation Facebook group.
Clarifying Vision & Life’s Purpose
The most fundamental element to nourishing healthy fear is to allow time for deep restoration (in body and mind), and from that quiet place within, feel our life’s purpose that motivates us. When action falls into place from that purpose, inspiration and motivation are natural. Action is easeful. Life flows. And trust is felt in how life unfolds, exactly as it is, allowing pure acceptance.
Vision of the bigger picture sheds light on each moment, each action, each interaction.
This is the ultimate key to resolving chronic fear and all of its manifestations. Fear will never go away. Healthy, we actually don’t need or want it to—we naturally face fear when we’re challenged in the process of growth and development, in pursuing our dreams and in speaking our truth—but when fear arises, it makes sense and is met with clarity that supports the action necessary to fulfill our purpose in life, to ourselves, to our communities, and to the planet.
Check out the Holistic Liberation Program that guides and supports through the process of changing physical, mental, emotional, and lifestyle patterns from chronic fear and stress to joy, love, and freedom.
Jyllin is an integrative health coach and creator of the Holistic Liberation Method that repatterns chronic stress in the body, mind, beliefs, emotions, and lifestyle. Learn more about Jyllin and The Holistic Liberation Programs.