Most people know all too well the feeling of paralyzing fear. The moment when the heart pounds, breathing is harsh and heavy, and the muscles seem frozen or poised to take flight. For some, this response can have a profound negative impact on daily life. But, there is hope, and it is possible to break away from this prison of fear.
I was fortunate to sit down with Alison Pate, an Executive Coach based in Sydney, to discuss her views on resiliency and breaking free of fear. As a child, Alison was subjected to brutal treatment from the headmistress at her school. This left a toll on her mind and body, and she was eventually forced to confront what had happened to her and live through it.
She knew she faced a turning point when a classmate in hotel management school told her she was too timid and shy to make it in the hospitality industry. She realized that she had chosen this career path and she was determined to be successful at it.
I took chances that I normally wouldn’t take. I put myself in incredibly challenging situations.
Instead of shrinking back into the prison of fear, Alison decided to break free. Meditation and mindfulness training, along with therapy and personal development helped her face these issues. She learned self-awareness and learned to recognize what was causing her pain and to utilize coping mechanisms and techniques.
As the world is more and more out of balance, we as humans also find ourselves out of balance. For so many, the automatic responses of the limbic system drive us to the ‘fight or flight’ response, and we simply can’t control it. But, you can learn to manage this reaction.
In leadership, this fear response will cause you to try to control situations. You will try to control employees, and instead of allowing them to think for themselves, you will stifle innovation and creativity. You may overwork yourself, pushing yourself to unrealistic expectations, trying to always be ahead and be the best. It’s inevitable though, you’ll burn out, and the fear will take control once again.
You can become more resilient and learn how to cope with the automatic fear response. There are many techniques to choose from, including:
Many people shrink away from the idea of therapy, but we have to ask ourselves, why? Would you not rush to the ER if you broke your leg, or if you cut off a finger? Taking care of the mind is just as important as taking care of your physical self. You deserve to have a happy, healthy body AND a happy, healthy mind.
Neuroscience has given us the tools to understand how mindfulness training can affect the brain. Scientists have found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can lead to increase in gray matter in the brain, which is involved in learning, memory, and emotional regulation (Hölzel, 2011). And, to make things even easier, there are many mindfulness training programs available, and you can also start online.
Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years by billions of us. It’s never too late to start, and there are programs available in nearly every community, and the world wide web offers access for those who can’t (or won’t) go to a class. A scientific study found that yoga participants had clinically significant reductions in the severity of their depression after only an 8-week course (Prathikanti, 2017).
If the idea of therapy or yoga classes overwhelms you, consider just taking a walk outside. Breathe the fresh air, listen to the wind in the trees, and watch the little animals. Give yourself time to reflect on the water you see, on the laughing birds fighting over nuts, over the beauty of the trees. Let your brain become quiet, and focus on the feel of nature. You deserve this time!
In this fast-paced world, we try to push down our fears, but instead, we often seem to be led by them. You can increase your resiliency and become a better leader, a better partner, and a happier person if you break free from this prison of fear.
Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research, 191(1), 36–43.http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006.Prathikanti, S., Rivera, R., Cochran, A., Tungol, J. G., Fayazmanesh, N., & Weinmann, E. (2017). Treating major depression with yoga: A prospective, randomized, controlled pilot trial. PLoS ONE, 12 (3), e0173869. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173869
Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist and filmmaker. Silvia is the Founder & CEO of the About my Brain Institute, creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology, author of ‘Leadership is Upside Down’ and director of the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’.
Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.