Practical Advice for Fighting Fear How do we dial down our freaked-out minds? Scott Halford, author of Activate Your Brain and the founder of the consultant group Complete Intelligence, explains.
This is the first time I've done an interview for Entrepreneur. If I blow it, my career could suffer. Should I be a little afraid?
Sure. One of the triggers of fear is uncertainty, and you don't know how this interview will turn out. We have about seven times as much architecture in our brains to detect threat as we do for spotting reward. It's evolutionary; it has allowed us to survive. We're not fierce, fast or strong. We're just smart. And we're exquisitely sensitive to things that feel dangerous.
Doesn't it seem like we should have some kind of built-in mechanism that helps us differentiate between life-threatening danger and, say, whether a meeting is going well?
We do have that mechanism. It's called the frontal lobe. Every piece of information you meet in the world triggers an emotion, which tells you whether to believe something is true, dangerous or right for you. So when you have an emotional response to something -- a deadline, for instance -- that's the animal brain putting you on high alert. The frontal lobe is the cognitive part of the brain that says, "You don't really need to be that afraid." This gives intelligence to our emotions. The downfall to emotion is that if it's strong, it stifles your ability to access your prefrontal cortex. I tell the people I counsel, when you're feeling anxious and you know you're inflating the risk of something, literally walk away.
And what, this will give you more courage?
It will. Danger is magnified through a stress hormone called cortisol. It focuses danger in your brain. Taking a break resets the neurochemistry so that the stress response goes down.