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How to Process Emotions Part 3: Fear

How To’s designed to get you unstuck and pull you into alignment with your highest self.

Good morning!

So far in our little series, we’ve covered how to process anger and sadness.

Today we’re moving on to processing fear!

How can I tell fear is one of the emotions I’m feeling?

The physical location of fear is similar to sadness and it can be felt as a stabbing sensation in the chest and throat.

However, instead of feeling heavy, fear comes on like a jolt as it triggers our fight or flight response.

Recognizing fight or flight

  • As adrenaline and cortisol spike, our heart rate increases which causes our breathing to be shorter and more shallow.
  • Our blood flow literally changes direction. Instead of moving toward the heart, blood moves toward our limbs, preparing us to either flee or stay and fight.
  • Digestion turns off (if you’re about to fight a bear, your body prioritizes that over digesting a sandwich) as the sympathetic nervous system is activated.
  • We may experience chills or sweating
  • Our muscles will tremble and shake

What is fear’s positive intention?

The simplest and noblest intention of fear is to protect us from danger.

And while this is all well and good, our bodies can (and often do!) experience a fight or flight response even to perceived danger.

One of the fascinating things about our brains is that they cannot tell the difference between real and imagined stress.

This is where the skills of processing fear really come in handy.

If you can tell you’re not in any real danger but your body is still activated like there’s a serial killer at your door, it’s time to create some dialogue between your logical brain and your critter brain (if this sounds new, you can read more about both brains here)

Why suppressing fear doesn’t do us any favors

Before we move on to processing fear (once we’ve ruled out the threat of real danger), let’s take a quick look at what happens if we try to override the feeling with our logical brain.

Chronically unprocessed fear:

  • Causes fatigue in the body (it takes a lot of work to bottle fear up!)
  • Can lead to weight gain especially around the midsection due to spiked cortisol levels
  • Leads to anxiety which often causes depression as one’s outlook becomes more and more bleak
  • Causes racing thoughts when we try to relax and can lead to sleep disturbances including insomnia

Processing fear

To restore harmony to our nervous system, we have to process fear out of the body.

Step 1:

Accept the fear by noticing where you feel it in your body and what it feels like.

Step 2:

Listen to it. What is the fear saying? Try not to override your body’s answer with your logical brain. If you’re experiencing symptoms of fear, your body thinks you’re in danger and will respond with fight or flight regardless of how much it makes sense in the moment.

Step 3:

Sit with it. Try to pay attention to the sensations of fear with curiosity and let it move through you. This is the tricky part as it can be difficult not to feed the emotions with more thoughts. But by keeping your attention on the sensations themselves, it’s like leaving windows open in a room and allowing the fear to dissipate in its own time.

Step 4:

Comfort yourself. Talk to the fearful part of you like it’s a friend or a small child. Most emotions just want to be heard and understood – then they’ll quietly settle back down.

Results of keeping fear processed

When we get great at processing fear as it comes up for us, particularly in imagined scenarios, we will be more energized, focused, and motivated.

Processing fear activates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to truly relax and tap into our natural resources.

Pretty cool stuff!!!

Next week, we’ll move on to talking about disgust. YAY!!!!!

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