And fear about the future is the strange gift of being human. Our astonishing ability to think and plan and imagine and anticipate problems in the future makes us very good at doing things to prepare for what is likely to come next.
But it comes with a price: fear and anxiety.
The body has a complex system of fear responses, but we can understand the two basic responses as follows:
Identifying which state you are in can help you shift into a more relaxed and open state, like flow (being deeply and pleasurably immersed in a focused activity) or social engagement. (feeling safe enough to be genuine with others and open to new ideas).
So here are two quick tips to help shift your biological fear response into focus, flow, safety, and openness.
1) The Freeze-Faint Shift
One of my clients recently had a deep energetic emotional release. I encouraged her to move around to help the emotion fully exit her body, and I was thrilled to see that she was allowing herself literally to shake—her hands, her shoulders, her head. She got her whole body engaged! She was really shaking it out. I joined her, shaking my body as well, to encourage her to stay with her process until it came to a natural conclusion.
She beamed. She had begun the session unfocused and sleepy, and had left the session enthusiastic and energized.
What was happening?
My client had gone into a habitual freeze-faint response.
The freeze-faint response happens when, for example, a rabbit or a deer is startled into motionlessness. The instinctive goal is not to be seen or noticed—and the freeze-faint response shuts down the nervous system.
How do I shift out of freeze-faint?
To shift out of freeze-faint, you need to wake up your nervous system.
The most recent studies on trauma affirm that trembling and shaking after trauma causes the nervous system to reset itself.
So if you feel that your energy is drained (faint) or that your body is rigid (freeze)--allow yourself to shake/tremble/dance/move/look weird.
Your body is the boss of this, so let yourself look as weird as you need to!
2). The Fight-Flight Shift
Another client some years ago was going through a divorce. She was conflict-avoidant and simply left the room whenever her teenager began to get in her face. One day, her daughter bluntly told her bluntly that when she left the room like that, it felt like she didn’t love her.
What was happening?
My client had developed a flight response to conflict in order to keep herself from exploding in anger. This worked well when she was a child, but as a divorcing mom, she had learn to meet her daughter’s anger without fleeing and without exploding. That meant she had to shift out of fight-flight.
How do I shift out of fight-flight?
To shift out of fight-flight, you need to ground yourself and calm the nervous system.
By taking a sumo stance and consciously exhaling a few seconds longer than inhaling. The longer exhalation resets the nervous system to get out of fight mode, and the sumo stance keeps you feeling grounded, counteracting the impulse to flee.
—and within a week or so, she noticed a real difference in her relationship with her daughter.
My client's sumo-stance practice continues to serve her well during COVID.
She is able to stay productive, engage in creative conflict, and use healthy communication practices with her daughter, as they shelter-in-place together.
Getting stuff done is hard in normal times. It is especially hard now, when there is so much fear, and so much is outside of our control.
That is why I encourage you to download my free guide to identify and fix the 3 Invisible Time Leaks that almost everyone overlooks when they try to "be more productive."
Download my guide: 3 Invisible Time Leaks
Lynnea Annette is an executive life coach who supports professional women who feel the stress of working hard and being under-appreciated.