Why you need to overcome your fear response – and how to do it

By Dr Amy Silver

Frau spring uber Abgrund vor Sonnenuntergang.
Frau spring uber Abgrund vor Sonnenuntergang.
Our threat response systems have been activated now for well over a year. The behaviours that we have chosen to cope and to progress through this pandemic will determine more than just our now, it will determine our future health. 

Fear is the threat emotion, wanting to keep us safe by warning us of danger. Thank goodness it does, otherwise we’d all be out shaking hands in crowded places! Fear’s job is to shout at us wherever it can see risk and danger. It can take the form of worry or doubt and indecision, FOMO or stress.

When fear is the loudest guest in our heads, we are prone to making short term choices just to get it to stop talking to us! We want to avoid or attack, that is the chemical reaction that is set off. Here are some of the things we find ourselves doing.

  • We avoid the things that are making us feel nervous because we fear the feeling of fear.
  • We get defensive when we feel threatened, pushing people away when we feel worried about losing control.
  • We put on a ‘coping mask’ or take on more than we should because we fear people seeing us as vulnerable.
  • We people please because we fear getting rejected. This leads to us bending all our boundaries to allow for others. We put others first and ourselves last.

Can you see that none of these behaviours serve us well in the long term? Here are the six steps to mastering your relationship with yourself so that you serve your best future self, your strongest body and mind:

1. Recognition: Understanding how much fear is making choices for you, what it wants you to (avoid/attack) and how these relate to your history and your future if you don’t shift.

2. Self -Compassion: Learn to prioritise your needs, your wants, and learn how to soothe the difficult emotions within you.

3. Separation: Foster the idea that fear is merely a guest in your mind, you are the host. You do not always need to listen to fear, it can be an advisor not a dictator. Separate what it’s message is from the drama so that you can foster a different relationship with it.

4. Evaluation:  Learning to evaluate what in the fear voice is helpful or not, what is truthful or based on bias or stories, will help us understand this voice and whether we want to listen to it or not.

5. Decision: Rather than basing your decision of what to do on stopping the pain now, what would serve your future self? You know what your body and mind need. Making the decision to do it though is the question that you start with, and return to daily. 

6. Experimentation: When we feel like we are at 0 and our goal is at 10, it can be a little demoralising. Experiment with what that next step could be. Imagine if you were 1% closer to your best self, what would you be doing? Do that as an experiment. See what happens and review yourself. 

The health of our body and mind are a direct consequence of the way in which we deal with the triggers of our emotions. We must learn to quieten even the loudest of guests in our minds so that we can make the choices that serve us in the long term. This pandemic may move on, but we want to come out stronger, more capable to handle whatever the next disruption is, because that is the one thing we know, disruption is here to stay.

Dr Amy Silver is a psychologist, speaker and author on the management of our emotions for high performance through courage and courageous conversations. Her new book, The Loudest Guest: How to control and change your relationship with fear is a game-changer for those ready to play a bigger game (see www.DrAmySilver.com for more information). 


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