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Learning to manage our fears is a process

by | Mar 14, 2022

Diving board over pool

I was walking our dog this weekend as I usually do most days. It is a bit of time to reflect but as it was a Sunday, my daughter was able to join me. It was a treat.

On a normal school day, my daughter will leave home to catch the bus to school at 07h20 and only usually returns home at 17h30. If there is sports or other school activities, then it can be 18h30 or later.

My point is that I don’t really get to spend as much time with her as I would like during her normal school week apart from evenings and weekends, but even those can be busy. So, this walk was precious time together.

I made a conscious choice to just be with her, to listen rather than do too much talking. We chatted as we walked, both enjoying the tranquillity of the woods on our route. One experience emerged through our walk, and this touched on her recent experience of learning to dive off a three-metre diving board.

What caught my attention was not the act itself, which was significant for her in many ways, but the entire process that led up to that dive and the process that continued beyond her diving from the three-metre board.

How we learn to manage our fears and not let them overwhelm us

It reminded me of how we grow and learn, not just learning how to ‘dive’ but how we learn to manage our fears and not let them overwhelm us. To keep moving forward and continue to grow. To grow as individuals, as human beings.

As we walked, my daughter spoke about how she had been scared to even go up the stairs to the board. How she had watched others climb the stairs up to three metres, step onto the board and then choose to climb back down.

As we walked, my daughter reminded me of how important it is to remember that learning to manage our fears is a process. We do need to experience our fears to learn how they can support us and undermine us.

This is a delicate subject with many lenses, but in this context, I was struck by how she had started to step into her fear and acknowledge it. Over a period of time, she made small choices in the moment, choosing to not stand still but to keep moving forward, literally, and figuratively.

Learning to manage our fears is a process

In each moment, the fear was gradually replaced with a new experience that was real and evidenced. Real or evidenced in that she did something, actually experienced something that gradually replaced the fear or limiting belief.

From stepping up onto the first rung of steps, to making it to the board itself, to walking to the end of the board, to then considering the jump.

Her first attempt was a pin drop and the smile that emerged with her from the pool after that step off the board, was priceless.

My point is that learning to manage our fears is a process. Our fears can guide and teach us huge amounts in life as we walk along our journey. There are times though when our fears or worries can overwhelm us or distract us unnecessarily, limiting us and slowing us down, or even causing us to regress.

One first step towards moving beyond unnecessary fear or limiting beliefs is to simply acknowledge when our fears are too prevalent or distracting. So, simply acknowledging the anxiety is playing out, is a commendable first step.

That may be a catalyst in itself but similarly the process may not be a light switch moment; in that everything does not change suddenly, the worry does not just stop, nor does it all go away.

The process takes place over time

It can be a moment of realisation and awareness but in other ways the process takes place over time and simply catching yourself in the moment, over time, is good enough.

That is the step onto the ladder, simply realising what you are feeling and acknowledging those feelings for yourself. The next time those feelings shows up, you may ‘catch’ them that little bit earlier. As you become aware of those feelings, you more you learn about them. The more you have a choice…

Now you are climbing up the ladder having stepped past the first rung. That realisation or recognition of progress is powerful, it is evidence of your learning. It is done in the moment, and so can feel authentic, help you be present in the moment, and so introduces feelings of being grounded and more balanced.

Allow yourself to take a step forward

It’s a process so taking a small step forward is sometimes enough. That can take a lot in itself. That is the point though, allow yourself to take a step forward, acknowledge what you feel or think and see what you get back.

A lot of the time people enter into their awareness with the question, ‘What was I so worried about in the first place’.

Try again, and then again. Keep trying and see what you get back.

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