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Ana Forrest

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Stalking Your Fear, Part Three

Posted: 03/31/2012 10:00 pm

In my previous articles in this series, I gave you steps to stalk your fear and some Forrest Yoga tools to use immediately in frightening situations. Let's look now at some common scenarios that are very scary. We all need to learn to handle everyday fearful situations, like walking alone in a dark parking lot or having a near-miss car accident.

Living your life in constant vigilance is incredibly tiring; ongoing fear drives you into exhaustion. Dealing with the fear frees up that energy and ends adrenal overload. Part of the exhaustion is also due to lousy coping habits -- people try to zone out with TV or out-eat anxiety, which just makes it worse. Learn some new skills to down-regulate your nervous and endocrine systems. Then the body can move out of fear and truly, deeply rest.

For example, imagine you are on the road and a car swerves in front of you! You almost get in an accident and can feel the surge of adrenaline wash through you, speeding up your heart rate and flooding your body with a chemical rush.

As you continue down the road, you are on high alert. You watch everything that moves with complete attention. Even once you get where you are going, you are on constant overdrive, startling easily and slightly shaky. The event may replay in your head over and over, adding to your distress. So you sit or lie down for a while to calm yourself, maybe adding a sweet snack or a stiff drink for good measure. The rest of the day, you feel edgy and off-balance, unconsciously dreading and expecting the next threat.

I want to educate you about a stress condition I call "adrenaline poisoning." If I don't move and dissipate the adrenaline after a fright, it feels like food poisoning. The overload of adrenaline is hurting my muscles and joints. It's like having a bad headache in my whole body!

Part of our age-old response that goes with freezing, fleeing, and fighting is that adrenaline courses through us as a safety mechanism to give us the energy to save our own life. This is hardwired into us. When we live in constant fear without being able to take physical action, the adrenal glands become terribly stressed. We end up nervy, shaky, sick and anxious. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. Our constant vigilance results in an excess of adrenaline moving through us all the time and we struggle on in a startled, frightened state. Stalking your fear, instead of being stalked by it, helps end this cycle.

Returning to the car scenario, let me teach you some new and improved coping skills. As the car in front of you swerves, start breathing deeply. Make a warrior's choice: Intentionally use deep breathing to immediately begin to regulate your heartbeat, clear the panic, oxygenate your blood and change both your brain's response and chemistry. When you get home, or wherever you are going that is a safe place, walk off your startle. Even if that means walking the halls or circling, walk somewhere safe, move your arms vigorously and breathe deeply. If you have read my book, "Fierce Medicine," or do Forrest Yoga, I highly recommend doing 10 rounds of elbow to knee and 10 sun salutation exercises. Move and breathe to process the adrenaline through your system. After that, taking a bath or a shower helps complete the down-regulating process, making you refreshed rather than exhausted. Take action and avoid ending up with that nasty "adrenaline poisoning" hungover feeling.

You can move the fear out of your body with 20 -30 minutes of deep breathing and movement. With Forrest Yoga, you can be stronger and feel better in your body in a few minutes. Plus, you teach your body to come to a down-regulated rest state rather than staying in a hyper-vigilant, exhausted place.

Take action fairly soon after the event, whatever the event was. What people today usually do is nervous eat or turn on the TV or drink alcohol -- none of which is an effective response. Move and breathe, and understand that what you are feeling is just the body's survival response. Feeling fear doesn't make you weak or a victim. Fear is just the body's response to a life-threatening situation. Moving and deep breathing can disperse the chemical reaction of fear.

If you keep revisiting the frightening event in your head, you continue to re-panic yourself. Choose to deliberately move the adrenaline and the fear out. Be clear on making the choice not to keep yourself in a scared state, even if you are addicted to the fear.

An added bonus is that anyone who happens to live with you will vastly appreciate you learning to regulate this energy. The situation will be so much better than being snapped at when you are in a fear overload state, especially if it is habitual. It's difficult to be around someone who is terrified a lot. (When you snap at the people close to you, it perpetuates being ashamed of your own behavior, which is closely tied into the fear syndrome.)

In my next article, I will address another common fear: having to walk alone into a dark parking lot to get your car. I will tell you about one of my own experiences being attacked. Plus, I offer you some very useful tools to survive and emerge victorious from scary situations. Learn to shift from being a victim into a warrior!

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