Education & Career Trends: 6 tips to cope with fear and be mentally free

4 min read

Edition: July 13th, 2021
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

You can learn to cope with fear. (Image Credit: Canva)

In our careers and our relationships, fear is often one of the most powerful blockers. Yet there is no such thing as “fearlessness.” You can’t get rid of fear.

So how can we turn the volume down on fear and ensure that it doesn’t take up so much space in our lives?

Here are 6 takeaways that will motivate you to rethink your response to different types of fear and help you become “mentally free

1. Differentiate between in-the-moment fear and deeply rooted worries

  • Racing heart, sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach — these are signs of in-the-moment fear. A lot of attention is devoted to techniques to calm this rush of adrenaline, such as deep breathing, playing music or using a mantra.
  • These methods are useful for specific situations, but they don’t address the deeper bedrocks of shame — the profound fear that we’re not good enough to be liked or loved.
  • It leads to the fear that rules them all: the fear of being abandoned.
  • It isn’t the type of fear we can mend with quick fixes.

2. Shift your relationship with the unknown

  • In a frenetic world with constant access to information, it’s so easy to become driven by logic and certainty. 
  • There isn’t a whole lot of time or mental space given to mystery or doubt. Mess is something we strive to clean up, not explore.
  • But to really unpack our fears, we need to be comfortable with doubt. We need to shift our relationship with the unknown, from being in a place of fear to a space of possibility.

3. Your self-worth isn’t tied to outcomes

  • Many fears are deeply embedded with the idea that outcomes are the way to measure success.
  • Rarely, there’s genuine acceptance that most of our life won’t be perfect or the way we had imagined it.
  • If our success is solely defined by outcomes, then as soon as an achievement ends, the fear of “How can I win again?” will loom large.
  • Through awareness, develop comfort with failing and learning over a period of time, instead of constantly chasing the next win or outcome.

4. You don’t need to ‘win’ to ‘win deep’   

  • A ‘deep win’ is where it’s got all of our blood, sweat and tears, but it’s not about individual dominance anymore. It’s about human passion and ambition, fulfilment and finally feeling that life is enough.
  • A number of leaders at the top of their fields, describe the feeling of success as “empty”. It may be because “glory” has become driven by a constant need to beat others. 
  • This doesn’t leave us feeling fulfilled; we’ll never have enough or be enough.
  • Instead, work to achieve joy, fulfilment and sense of connection to a purpose. Know why you’re doing what you do – why you’ve chosen the path and actions you have. 

5. Get better at processing ’emotional hangovers’   

  • This involves a comprehensive unpacking of what happened, how we felt about it, what are our learnings, and next steps. And a full stop.
  • Not enough time is spent in processing the emotions that swirl around when something goes wrong.
  • Things get pushed aside too quickly. This results in individuals and teams not being able move on.
  • We get wrapped up in the emotion of what we did or didn’t do.
  • To make sense of what happened ask two key questions:
  1. How do I make meaning out of this situation?
  2. What are the lessons I’m going to take out of this?

6. Be fulfilled and satisfied with ‘less than perfect’

  • We’re never taught how to just be less or be less perfect – to be less than what you imagined you might be at some point, or to not have achieved something that you cared about.
  • Most of us struggle to accept that we can be ‘less’.
  • It’s not about doing more, but letting go of the ideals that pull you back to defining success through winning. 
  • When we accept that, we start freeing ourselves from fear. The opposite of fear is mental freedom.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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