I stepped up onto the platform. It was higher than I first thought. Too high. I don’t like heights. Though the padding below promised a soft landing, it did little in the way of helping me feel confident.
“You are the Simone Biles of klutz. This is not a good idea.”
The voice in my head spoke these words loudly as my palms got sweaty, and my knees shook.
A kid, about 4 or 5 years old, skipped me in line…again. I let him. I was still trying to decide whether to take the stairs back down to safety or jettison myself off of this platform and slide through the air.
“Surly, the folks who built this indoor trampoline playground tested this. Look! The four year old is killin’ this! Wait…we did have to sign a waiver. Why did we have to sign the waiver? Is this thing safe?”
As the words floated into my conscience, another voice spoke up and made me move over to the zip line.
“It’s time to give your fear the middle finger, girl. Do this.”
Fear is a constant source of trouble. As someone with an anxiety disorder, my fight is daily and constant. Making decisions, even simple ones, is complicated and gut clinching. Even when I don’t have to make a quick decision, the thought of having to make a decision in the future can send me spiraling. My mind stays in hyperdrive most of the day. There are times I will even wake in the middle of the night in a panic.
After I was diagnosed with the disorder, I began to seek out the best ways to handle it. I spent hours online reading articles and testimonies on the effects of anxiety. Often, I would find myself whispering, “Amen,” to the computer screen.
Over the last 6 years, I have tried many tactics and self-help tricks, but few proved worthy. This list is what has worked for me.
It is a mantra I speak to myself daily, and I put it into action.
FLIP OFF FEAR IN 5 STEPS
1. NAME THE DEVIL
Fear is cunning. It likes to dress itself up in costumes of other emotions. There are times I think I am feeling angry, but once I start to strip away the burning desire to scream, fear is hiding in the corner snickering. It is the same with sadness, jealousy, and so on.
I look at this sniveling little nuisance and begin to work through the rest of the list.
What happens if I don’t work through this list? What if I stop at naming the devil?
Fear begets more fear and births doubt.
“I’m afraid of this fear. I cannot do this! I cannot conquer it! It is stronger than I am…”
Before I can count to 5, the little freak as doubled in size, multiplied, and gone into hiding again. It has cloaked itself in my self-doubt and slithers away into the shadows. It knows if it stays in the shadows, it can restart it’s destruction. It finds a suitable costume, and the process begins again.
Unless a decision is made to fight this battle now, it only makes the battle worse later.
The first weapon in the arsenal is naming it.
Name the devil. Then, take the next step.
Fear hates oxygen. What it wants to do is send the mind in a tailspin. It wants us to sweat, get nauseous, wide-eyed, and paralyzed.
It wants us to hold our breath.
But, when we start to fill up it’s living quarters with oxygen, it starts squirming like a fish on the sea shore.
Oxygen feeds our brain. It helps us to think deliberately and strategically. It calms everything down when fear has stirred it all up.
Once fear has begun to fear it’s own demise, it will roar. It will go into it’s own version of a panic attack. It does not want to loose it’s playground and is cozy at home in the recesses of your brain.
What does that look like?
More fear and more doubt.
It is to be expected. This is the reaction of all things about to die. Letting fear’s fear take over only allows it to get a foot hold to fight back. Keep going.
Name it, breathe deeply, and take the next step.
3. SPEAK TRUTH
Now, the devil is backed into a corner, it begins spewing words of doubt.
“Look at you, little wimp, thinking you can defeat me!,” it cries in a monstrous cackle.
Arguing with fear does no good.
Fear is a bully.
No matter what is said to it, it will have a response. Generally, it will be laughing at you.
So, how to get through this part of the battle?
Speak truth to yourself…not to your fear.
“I am bigger than fear. I am stronger than fear. I am capable of winning. I will win. I will be the victor. I am the victor.”
Fear will hear these words. As it gags on the oxygen in the brain, it will brag about it’s own strength, wit, and stealth. It will reach it’s dying arms out into the soul and charge it with electrical impulses of fight or flight.
Name it, Breathe, and Speak truth. Then, move to the next step.
The intensity of the battle has reached a climax. Fear is pulling out all of the stops. Every play in the playbook and every trick in the bag is revealed. It knows death is close. It will not go down without a fight.
Now is the time to move.
Move towards the object of your fear. It could be as simple as a decision to walk out the door or as big as stepping out of an airplane for the first time sky diving. Either way, the battle is the same.
Propelling the body towards the feared object or situation requires activation of all the other steps. The little freak will begin to grow larger the closer the object or the situation gets. It does what fear does…attacks.
Name the devil, breathe, speak truth, move…repeat
The devil is defeated when the food supply is gone. It no longer has footing. It no longer has it’s feast. It no longer has doubt as a weapon. Now, the situation has been dealt with, the decision has been made, the snake has been handled, the step out of the airplane has been taken, and fear has been proven wrong.
Fear has been conquered. The battle is won.
Now, take the next step.
Prepare for the next battle.
Fear has thousands of identical twins lurking in the corners of the mind. With anxiety disorders, the chemistry in the brain is jacked up. It is a water source for fear.
Slowly, over time, I believe the chemistry can be changed. But, it takes training.
How does one train to conquer fear?
Meditation, exercise and diet.
Like with all training, it takes time. Time to set routines. Time to learn how to do it. Time to conquer fear enough to even start.
Pick one of the above and start slowly. I have found if I do too much too soon, I give up. Starting slowly with training will set those routines in place. Each time you do a session, confidence grows.
If you pick mediation, do a 5-minute mediation every morning or evening and gradually move up in time. If you pick exercise, do 5-minutes a day and move up. If you pick diet, eat one healthy food a day and move up.
Sometimes, a season of training is put on pause due to depression or other issues, it is ok. Let me repeat this again:
IT IS OK!!!!
The trick is to not allow this time of depression or forgetfulness conquer the training. If it has been a long time since training, IT IS OK! Start over with 5-minutes.We all have other battles we face in a day.
Half of the battle with training is learning how to take care of the mind. Taking care of the mind means to be accepting of where one finds themselves.
Fear does not want us to be kind or gentle to ourselves.
It wants a person to feel disappointed in themselves and defeated by themselves. Once a person feels defeated, the voice of fear is amplified over all the other voices of truth.
Being kind to oneself oftentimes requires these same steps listed above:
Name the devil (Self-defeating talk)
Breathe (Oxygen stimulates confidence)
Speak Truth (You truly are worthy and capable.)
Move (Do 5-minutes of training.)
Train (Keep Training)
SIMONE WOULD BE PROUD
I reached out an grabbed the zip-line bars. I looked down at the guy operating the zip-line. He was smiling at me. Something in his smile gave the extra boost of confidence to step off the platform.
I flew through the air. The rushing wind flowed over my face, and I giggled. It was fun! Not only was it fun, it was a win for the “me” team! The carcass of fear dissolved.
I let go of the bars and landed in the soft foam below. Immediately, I gave the zip-line worker 2-thumbs up.
I had won against my own fear. The taste of victory was divine.
With a new-found confidence, I made my way over to the monkey swing. It, too, was on a high platform. Again, I let the little kid skip me in line…several times. I was working on tackling fear.
Courage takes work.
“This is only fear. Breathe, Autumn. Yeah…that’s good. Breathe more. Ok…keep doing that. You can do this. You are stronger than this fear. You are not the Simone Biles of klutz. You are powerful.”
I moved over to the take off area and placed my hands on the swing handle bar. I looked over at the swing worker, and he was smiling.
“I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”
I stepped off the platform and into who I truly am.
I am a conqueror.