You already know how fear can paralyze you personally and professionally, rob you of your joy, and keep you from going after your dreams. But did you know it can also make you sick? Whenever your mind feels fear, it triggers the “fight-or-flight” stress response in your body, which disables your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms and makes you more susceptible to illness. But never fear (no pun intended). Here are a few tips for living a healthier, happier life by overcoming fear.

  1. Understand that fear is primal.  It originates from the lizard brain of your amygdala and exists as an adaptive mechanism meant to save your life. But in modern society, fear is a warning signal gone haywire. Most of what you fear – losing a loved one, money, or a relationship, for example – isn’t actually threatening your life, though it may be threatening your sense of security.  You may not be able to ditch the emotion of fear, but you can make the choice not to let it run the show anymore.
  2. Assess your fears to determine whether they’re helpful or harmful. If you’re afraid of crashing on the rocks when you consider jumping off a cliff, your fear is probably valid. But if you’re afraid to write the book you dream of writing because you’re afraid of failure, fear is only getting the way.  Sometimes fear shows up as a valuable intuition, but often, it’s just an agent of self-sabotage. Learning to tell the difference can make all the difference.
  3. Recognize that fear often masquerades as protection. Consider how many times you make decisions because of the “just in case.” Remember that “just in case” is fear masquerading as self-preservation. But it’s still fear, and it’s still harmful to your health.
  4. Consciously dissociate from fear.  Once you realize that fear often hurts you more than it protects you, and once you realize that fear is a primal emotion originating from your lizard brain, it’s easier to notice your fear from a distance, rather than letting it have its way with you and dictate your decisions.  Try giving your fear a name. (I call mine “The Gremlin”  and Martha Beck calls it her “Inner Lizard.”) Visualize it as a beast separate from you. Then pat it on the head and reassure it that you’ve assessed the situation, all is well, and there’s no need to be frightened.
  5. Identify the voice of your faith.  Then invite your faith to beat the crap out of your fear. Once you can identify the voice of your fear, see if you can tap into the voice of your faith. (I call it your “Inner Pilot Light” , that always radiant, perpetually sparkly, totally authentic voice that’s always inside of you.)
  6. Trust that, no matter what happens, you can handle it. Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, says that beneath all our other fears lies one root fear – “I can’t handle it.” But deep down, you know you can. Trust that deep knowing.
  7. Ask for guidance. If you can’t identify who should win – your Gremlin or your Inner Pilot Light, seek Divine guidance. Ask for Signs from the Universe and learn to interpret the answers.
  8. Surround yourself with courageous people. When you surround yourself with fearful people, they can’t help projecting their fears onto you, and you can get dragged down into the muck unwittingly. But when brave people who take risks surround you, you’ll feel inspired to be more brave yourself.  

When you tap into your faith and find your courage, you’re likely to still feel fear, but you’ll no longer be ruled by it. When you tap into your faith and learn to overcome your fears, your brain halts the stress response and triggers the relaxation response. When the relaxation response is activated, the body can once again heal itself.

Are You Ready To Be Brave?

What fear is holding you back? What courageous action can you take today to show your fear to the door?

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  1. Karen

    Hi Lissa,

    Strange or the Universe giving me answers, but today, I received not only your blog, but also an editorial link about the very same issue. I am 64 and will be 65 in August. My husband of 16 years left over three years ago now for his high school sweetheart. Ever since I turned 62, I have wanted to retire. I work a full-time and a part-time job, and it seems that I am always playing the ‘what if’ game. Now that I am almost 65 and Medicare will be available to me, there is no reason that I shouldn’t retire, sell my home, and move back to be near my family . . . no reason except for my fear that I can’t manage. The truth is that I have always managed on my own or married to someone who was constantly quitting/getting fired from jobs–I still made it just fine, and we never fell into debt or went without food. If I can do that for someone else, I surely can do it for myself. I think the Universe is guiding me, through your blog (thank you) and reinforcing that in other ways. I can do this. Thank you so much for your informative blogs and for the “Inner Pilot Light.” You truly are inspiring my journey.


  2. Cathryn Wellner

    Sage advice once again. If I had followed these steps during some fear-filled life passages, I’d have arrived at my current peace-filled stage a whole lot sooner.

  3. Nancy Ayres

    I have been taking a lot of ski lessons and have advanced to the highest level of instruction. (Lucky me.) When you are initiating a turn on a steep slope you need to point your body down the hill and your skis straight down – the last thing your lizard brain wants to do. But when I can surrender and do it the results are smooth and flowing and effortless. Much easier and less scary than holding on for dear life!

  4. Matt

    Fear controls my life! I want to make so many changes but the fear drags me down and keeps me in my spot. Mostly due to my previous failures and insecurities. I end up staying in my “safe place” which also makes me miserable!

  5. yas

    Thank you so much Lissa! This was amazing.

    I fully agree and I think fear is the only thing thing that keeps away from everything you may have; whether it’s your dreams or it’s your physical health. So thank you for posting this so we can be aware or reminded of the real harms fear can do to us.

    First of all we need to to know what fear is. Fear is a very powerful emotion. It has a very strong effect on the mind and body because it is one of our natural survival responses. It tells you what to do in an emergency, like a fire or if you are being attacked. So even though it is natural, but it is something that we need to control to stay healthy and happy. If it gets out of control it can harm us. So becoming aware of it helps a lot. Try to learn more about your fear or anxiety. Keep a record of when it happens and what happens. You could carry with you a list of things that help at times when you are likely to become frightened or anxious. This really does help. Takes efforst but it;s worth it!

    Thank you again for your wonderful post!


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