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Healthy Fear

MP900439455Every day we take steps somewhere. When faced with taking the next step out of an unwanted change or away from a bad situation, we are often fearful because we are stepping into unknown territory – we’ve never been there before.

Fear is a good thing.  But when it keeps us from exploring new options for our life or expanding possibilities or setting new and exciting goals, we need to take a look at what and why we are afraid. 

Healthy fear is a good thing

Healthy fear listens to that internal gut feeling that tells you something is not right or you are in some kind of danger.

Fear is a critical survival warning system that keeps us alive. We hear an unusual noise in the middle of the night and cautiously check it out. We become cautious and observant when returning alone to our car in a deserted parking lot. We lock our doors because we know it is a deterrent. We avoid dangerous sections of town. We drive safely because we want to avoid deadly accidents.

Healthy fear puts in place preventative measures against potential dangerous situations. It tells us to be careful and cautious. It prepares us to take some kind of action. 

The Fight or Flight Response

When our brain registers danger, whether real or perceived, our “fight or flight” response is activated. In the blink of an eye, hormones and chemicals are released. Our heart, circulatory system, adrenal glands, stomach, intestines, kidneys, liver, brain, lungs – in fact almost every organ in the body is activated in some way to meet this emergency. Blood is shunted away from our extremities, liver and digestive tracts to the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles. Digestion is put on hold. Glucose is dumped into the blood to provide energy for the impending fight or flight. Sweating helps take care of excess waste. (See my book “Make Stress Work for You” available on my website).

Once the danger is past, the body returns once again to a restful state; your heart beat returns to normal, your blood pressure lowers and your digestive system continues to digest your lunch. This is a natural and normal response to life.

The problem today is we experience a lot of fears that are not actual life threatening threats, but “paper tigers” that loom large and threatening. When our response to threats are out of proportion, we exaggerate or make the situation worse than it is. When that becomes our normal reactionary response, we can become fearful of taking any next step.  

Next week, we will look at some of the ways unhealthy and restricting fears may be keeping you from moving forward.

©2013 Marlene Anderson

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