Stock market swings the likes of which we've never seen, talk of corporate giants going bankrupt and a Homeland Security advisory rating that never seems to drop below orange. There's a lot to be scared about out there.
Fear, like panic and anger, is a stress emotion. It helps us assess our immediate situation and it governs reactive decision-making, keeping us safe in the short term. When we sense danger, our brain triggers the fight-or-flight response and this physiological response forces a myopic focus on the short-term goal of survival. Fear is non-discriminatory--it creates the same short-sighted focus in us whether we are facing an actual and immediate physical threat or just a perceived one.
Fear, and the physiological response it elicits within us, keeps us shielded from the great potential that exists within each one of us when we choose to stop just surviving and start thriving.
The more we can calm the physiological events triggered by fear, and keep our systems balanced, the better chance we have of maintaining perspective, a long-term vision, and enjoyment or gratitude in the moment. Here are three ways to stay calm when fear strikes:
1.Maintain your foundation
- Exercise: Regular exercise forces deep breathing and also creates an environment in which stress hormones can be metabolized.
- Sleep: Our ability to cope and to think clearly is compromised when we are sleep deprived; sleep deprivation also impacts immunity and weight.
- Eat: Blood sugar fluctuations only exacerbate irritation and muddled thinking.
- Breathe: Deep breathing decreases production of stress hormones; lowers heart rate and blood pressure, increases oxygen to the brain, slows racing thoughts and quickly brings us into the present moment, where there's no fear.
2. Change the situation
You may not be able to change the external situation, but you can choose to limit your exposure to the situation. Is it really advantageous to have stock tickers running across the bottom of your screen or live CNN feeds sent to you by e-mail? Seek the information you need to make decisions, and then turn it off.
3. Get perspective
Remember that the goal of fear is to keep us safe. By gaining perspective on the situation, we can choose whether or not we want to react to the fear we sense. The less we react to it, the less impact it has on our bodies physiologically, and the greater ability we have to stay calm, remain clear-headed and keep our focus in the moment as well as on a long-term, sustainable vision. By choosing to see the good in a situation and spending more time focusing on that than on the dooms-day or what-if scenarios, the less vision-limiting stress hormones you'll have running through your body.
We are all being faced with collective uncertainties. Whether the uncertainties are impacting your personal finances, your long-term strategy or your client base, you have a choice to react with fear or respond with tenacity.
Kristin Wehner-Keffeler is the " Healthy & Wealthy " columnist at Entrepreneur.com and a consultant coach. She partners with entrepreneurs and business leaders to increase their impact and staying power by leveraging their health and the health of their employees as a business asset. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .