Emotional Intelligence- Four ways to get over Fear and Anxiety

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When I was in my school may be in the 7th or 8th std, we had a teacher by the name Singh Sir who would teach us English and geography. He was very strict and firmly believed that the only way to discipline and groom students was to hit/beat them really hard (sometimes black and blue) and as frequently as possible for the most trivial of reasons or even for no reason. He was a terror. Students obviously would hate him for his atrocities. On one of those occasions, I was his victim. It so happened that, we were told to write an essay on technological advances and science. I made some grammatical mistakes as he would check our note-books in front of the class and was beaten badly in front of everybody. And in those teenage years, you are old enough to understand and are sensitive about your pride, ego, and self-worth that you feel ashamed, all the more if you are humiliated in front of girls in the class. The fear of this man had so deeply rooted that I had started hating English and geography. I used to get nightmares a day before this fellow’s class. I guess all the generations before 1990 went through this ordeal at some point in their lives unless they were extraordinarily brilliant students or children of some celebrities/politicians.

Another story that is very common unfortunately in our society is when young girls fall victim to being sexually abused by a known person, a relative, a neighbor, or worst somebody from the family itself. She is threatened not to talk about it or she may have to face even more dare consequences or her younger brother might be killed and she continuous to bear the torture for many occasions. These incidences can leave permanent scars of fear, hatred, and bitterness about men in general in the psyches of these victims for years.

In both the incidences, the victim is caught in fear, the body senses threat to it, but the irony is you can neither fight nor flight. You are too weak to fight and cannot flee (flight). You are perhaps totally frozen (freeze) to take any action and have no other option but to submit to the predator’s attack.

In some cases, fear plays its way into our hearts by way of surroundings and the environment rather than an individual. It could be the fear of staying alone in the house on a dark, no moon night with the only sound of the wind blowing through- an ideal scene for a horror movie. This may happen to a child who is frequently left alone in the house, by his/her parents due to their professional compulsions. I know a friend whose father used to work in the maintenance department of the factory and had night shifts quite often. His mother was a nurse in some government hospital and she too would have night shifts. Both parent’s night shifts would coincide and the poor guy would be alone on so many occasions. Sometimes, there would be grandfather with him though, but he too kept shuttling between Mumbai and their native place for some work. Some children may get even more afraid if the responsibility of their siblings is also bestowed upon them.

Sometimes, these children get afraid of the thoughts that something will happen to them in the absence of their parents. Worst, they may also think that something dreadful would happen to their parents and they might not return. Many children may have the fear of animals imbibed deeply into their psyches. The most common fears are from snakes, crocodiles, tigers, bears, etc. Then there could be uncalled for fears of burglars and dacoits when you are alone in the house. These fears when experienced in childhood could be carried forward as adults though the intensity might get reduced. These un-called for fears are called phantom fears. We all know the experience of thinking a black long water tube in the garden might be a ‘snake’. It is very important to understand how childhood experiences can get deeply rooted and get carried forward into adulthood to stand as major obstacles in one’s progress in career and personal lives.

Then there can be fears and anxieties even when a large community is subjected to an accident or attack. Many survivors of 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US had fallen victims to these fears, that there could be another such attack and they might the next to fall. The same could be the cases in Mumbai after the terror attacks in 1993, 2006(in local trains), or the 26/11 attacks. Fear of the unknown is just as forceful as the fear of the well-known and all types of fears can be deadly. All such fears stem from the uncertainties of economy, personal competence levels or lack of it, upbringing from childhood, lack of self-confidence, and low self-esteem. But in most cases, they might be unreal and false.

Childhood fears may be too deep rooted and carried over into adulthood as well.

So, are fears and anxieties totally useless? certainly not. They alert us, serve as a warning system for any upcoming dangers and threats and it is expected that we take into taking some action to counter them.

Fear and anxiety can be considered as the two sides of the same coin, however, there is a slight difference between the two. Fear is a concentrated short-lived attack of anxiety. It can be considered analogous to a short-term high voltage spike which is triggered by say, a thunderstorm (any external triggering incident). Fear is a response by our body to a real or perceived threat. Most people recover quickly after they have experienced fear. The cause of fear is generally easy to recognize, e.g. the noise in the night, the sudden sight of a snake, or sight of an individual who has caused some harm in the past, a person who suddenly cut in front of you in the traffic or a loud bang of firecrackers in very quiet surroundings.   

Anxiety continues for a slightly longer period of time and again results due to some upcoming stressful events, or perceived uncomfortable situations. Anxiety is a general feeling of uneasiness and an overreaction by the individual to a situation that is his/her subjective behavior as any future danger. Anxiety is about some vague concern often difficult to pinpoint and is more felt at the physiological and visceral level. More often, anxiety may not have clear solutions and extreme anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders obsessive-compulsive disorders, and phobias require professional and medical treatments. (Hence beyond the scope of this blog only mentioned here for information)

Anxiety continues for a slightly longer period of time and again results due to some upcoming stressful events, or perceived uncomfortable situations.

However, normal anxieties such as some uneasiness for the upcoming presentation in front of your board or a sales presentation in a quarterly review meeting can be viewed as a positive sign as this means that you are still not 100% confident about your performance and that will spur you into more action, maybe getting in more facts and figures, preparing yourself for probable questions asked by the board members/bosses, rehearsing yourselves multiple times, etc.

Another disruptive emotion related to fear and anxiety is a worry. Worry can be defined as a feeling in which we dread that, ‘that’ thing will happen to us or our loved ones, resulting from not being able to either complete some task, assignment or goal or fear of losing something. E.g. we worry about getting late to the airport and missing the flight, or a mother is worried whether her son will pass through and get into the higher standard, or a father worrying whether his young son will drive home safely without meeting an accident.

Being excessively possessive and panicky about their vehicles is a very common characteristic of some youngsters today. I know of a young man in his mid-twenties who does not allow even his parents to eat anything inside his car, worrying that, even if the smallest of foodstuffs fall inside it will make his car messy and dirty. I know another younger person in our building who was fighting with me the other day when I had parked my two-wheeler very close to his bike. It was not even touching his bike, but this fellow was getting panicked and hyper, that it might touch and create a dent/scratch on his bike, should someone just push it, accidentally. While it is a very good quality to be neat, tidy, and taking care of your possessions, some people take things a bit too far. I know one more person who would waste a lot of time and energy searching for a parking slot under a tree so that once he gets back, the car’s cabin is not hot. Its good to try that but again getting panicky about it is absurd. I sometimes get anxious if I don’t get to park in a ‘pay and park’ lot and even if I have parked my car on the roadside where NO-Parking is not mentioned.

The first very important step is to recognize and acknowledge that you are having some of the above discussed disruptive emotions. For that, we need to build some self-awareness inside of us.

So, having understood what is Fear, worry, and anxiety, now let’s understand how we can manage them. Some methods:

  1. Keeping busy: my experience is when you are getting a distressing thought, if you can get busy and divert your attention to some other activities, you tend to get over at least partially for some time your negative thoughts, that uneasy feeling due to anxiety and fear of an impending event. Honestly, I never tried to get busy mindfully, it just happened and as I looked back, I realized my mental state prior to getting deeply engaged in an activity, and after that was totally different. When you get busy and focused deeply on any task, leisure, hobby or even work especially if it is of your liking, you will not get (or at least the frequency and the intensity reduces) those thoughts which play again and again on your mind like a broken gramophone record.
  2. Mindful breathing:  Sit in a comfortable place with your back straight. Close your eyes and take 3 deep breathes. Now, practice belly breathing i.e. as you inhale, your stomach gets raised, and as you exhale it gets lowered just as you fill the air in the balloon and release it. Observe you breathe as you inhale and imagine you are taking in all peace, happiness, joy, confidence, or any quality/ positive emotion you badly need. Then while exhaling visualize all your worries, tensions, stress, fears, and anxieties being let out from your body. Start with 5 mins and as you practice daily, you can gradually increase this time up to 30mins.   
  3. Listing your fears and worries:  As we are all going through the delicate phase of lockdown due to coronavirus, many of us will have fears about the future, anxieties, and worries about many things going on right now in our lives.

We may have more than one fears and worries at the same time. We may fear that, with the economy going to be badly hit due to coronavirus and the ongoing lockdown, we fear to lose our jobs, loss of business now, as well as even after the lockdown is removed, worries about children’s education, fear about the health of our spouse and other close family members, or worries about whether my college-going teenage son is not with bad company, etc. But most of these fears and worries may turn out to be false and uncalled for.

As an activity, what you can do is, list all the fears, worries, and anxieties that cross your mind, right from the morning after you get up till the time you go to bed in the night, on a plain paper. Include every worry, trivial apprehension about any small matter in the office, tension and the negative thoughts you get because of your boss’s behavior on the phone, any doubts, suspicion on any person that you may have, or the worst that you think can happen to you and your closed ones. Before you fall asleep mark all those fears that you think will come true or rate them on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the highest possibility of that fear coming true. Paste/pin this paper on a prominent place say on your desk at home or your board in the bedroom so that you can check this list, time to time. In the coming months check for yourself, if any of the fears that you imagined came true. (you may see that almost all your fears and worries were only your negative thoughts and far away from reality and un-called for).

Also, make a note of those events which happened totally opposite the way you imagined. E.g. you may have had a worry that your son may not even get through in his 10th standard exam, however, after the result comes out you are surprised that he has scored extremely good marks. When most or all the fears and worries have had sufficient time to occur, fold the list and put it in your purse or wallet. This paper acts as a reminder to your un-called for fears and worries and you establish yourself as a totally new, confident person who is not afraid of fear.

  • 4. Circle of excellence:  This is a very effective NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) technique that can be used to get over our anxiety and improve performance. E.g. at a job interview even the most talented candidate may fumble with words or may not remember some answers which he/she would have answered 100/100 times at home, due to fear and anxiety. The same can be said for any examination, corporate presentation or any situation when you feel nervous and mentally weak. The following are the steps for practising circle of excellence:
  • Stand upright with a calm and confident posture. Just concentrate on the floor in front of you and create an imaginary circle of about four feet diameter, big enough for you to accommodate.
  • Take a few deep breathes and allow your body to relax.
  • You may add some beautiful colours to the border, floor and inside of the circle in front of you. Now add some soothing music which you liked to the circle or the sound of OM, the sound of a flute or any music of your choice.
  • Then step into the circle with your eyes closed. Think of all the resources/strengths/power you need to achieve your goal or to get over the difficult situation. The resources could be courage, confidence, peace, joy, love, oneness, calmness, etc.  Now, recollect all those earlier incidences in life where you did show a lot of courage, confidence etc. and were able to tide over them. Start to project those events in that circle to make it very positive and emotionally confident state. Feel the resources floating in the circle around you, then flowing into you through the soles of your feet into your body, each cell of the body and going right up to the top of your head. Feel yourself being filled with all those wonderful resources mentioned above. Feel the colours and listen to the soothing music as you stand inside the circle. Believe that once you step into the circle, you will feel much empowered with the energy. Allow yourself to soak in as many resources as possible, and when you feel satisfied, step out of the circle.
  • Look at the circle in front of you- is so beautiful, colourful, inspiring and very attractive. Now, get into the circle again to experience and feel the powerful resources and energies flowing into you. Once you get in, feel the light, music and see the various events as though they are happening live and that you are the part of those events. Stay within the circle till you are satisfied and once done, you may step out of the circle.
  • To increase the intensity of the highly resourceful state, you may repeat the above procedure 2-3 times.
  • Now, just imagine any challenging situation where you need any of the above resources, (like courage, confidence, peace of mind etc. to tide over your anxiety/fears/nerves) step into the circle and allow the sound, colours and the resources to flow into you. Once you have soaked in all these inspiring resources, and you are content and satisfied, you may step out of the circle.

The more inspiring and powerful the circle of excellence, the better it will work for you. For that, you may have to practice the above steps repeatedly. Do this exercise each time you feel challenged, in self-doubt, or in need of a powerful resource.

You can get past your fears, anxiety and worries by working on them

Conclusion:  Behind every emotion, there is a thought. Each time our boss calls us, we fear that he will give us the pink slip. We think that my child has poor immunity and worry that he/she will catch some disease. We spend sleepless nights thinking about the upcoming presentation/job interview and get anxious about it. In each of these cases, there is no point in just brooding, we need to take action and get over/change that mental state. Have faith in the almighty and rest all your worries, tensions, fears, etc. on their shoulders after all your efforts to get out of your distress mental state.

13 thoughts on “Emotional Intelligence- Four ways to get over Fear and Anxiety”

    1. Thanks a ton, Radhika for patiently reading my blog… Do keep reading and motivating me. Sorry for replying late to your comment.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Uday… Do keep reading and motivating me. Sorry for replying late to your comment.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Anjali… Do keep reading and motivating me. Sorry for replying late to your comment.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Rohan… Do keep reading and motivating me. Sorry for replying late to your comment.

    1. Thanks a ton for patiently reading my blog Abithaa… Do keep reading and motivating me. Sorry for replying late to your comment.

  1. You have very precisely defined fear, anxiety n worry and well differentiated, with illustrations in our day-to-day life.

    You rightly said that behind every emotion there is a thought .Rather emotions are physical representation of our thoughts.

    The four ways explained by you, to manage fear, anxiety and worry, will definitely prove to be very effective .

    I am of the opinion that ‘disputing negative thoughts in our mind’ is also a better way, to reduce fear, anxiety or worry .

    I feel that your spiritual base and deep study of psychology make your blog more meaningful and appeal to readers.

    Good work. Stay blessed.

  2. Hello there!
    The best part of your blogs are that,they are so full of emotions that everyone must have experienced them in one of the other occasions.In this post about fear and anxiety I could clear relate it to a very close person to me and some emotions about myself as well.
    The circle of excellence is very well described by you and I am going to try it today also make my husband and parents do the same.
    Thank you Sir for your insights!
    Great reads!
    Keep Writing and Keep Inspiring!

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