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Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

I love to workout, but sometimes the aches and pains of advancing years make me want to throw in the towel and quit. But rolling over and playing dead is not my style. Recently, I started switching up my routine from P90x to Jillian Michaels. Her workout videos are no joke. I love what she says in one of her tapes: “Most people don’t show up in their own lives.”

If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the pants, I read another article by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt, she quoted her cycling instructor as saying, “Remember, ultimately you are in control of your workout! I can motivate you to push harder. I can try to keep you from giving up, but in the end, it’s all up to you.” Wow.

All this is so true and it speaks to the lack of ownership we take in so many areas of our lives. Sometimes we don’t show up because we’re tired, lack effective leadership skills, or we’re passive.

As a therapist, I see people giving up control over important areas of their lives all the time. Passivity can originate from fears of facing conflict, how we’re genetically wired, fears of less than favorable outcomes when we act assertively, and a whole host of other things.

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For example, I work with a lot of clients who struggle with eating disorders. These folks can loose their identity in the battle with food when it’s not even about the food! It’s about controlling something in their lives when everything else seems unmanageable. They really want to take charge of something, but they aren’t taking the authority where it counts. Often times they are afraid of sitting with difficult feelings or managing difficult situations — so they hide.

Then there are those folks, myself included, who struggle with anxiety issues. We give anxiety the power to control our emotions. Others give husbands, bosses, or friends the power to decide because they feel worn out or defeated by the relationship. We all struggle in different ways, but the lack of owning up to personal responsibility, the fear of showing up in your own life, and the consequences all this brings in each of our lives can be summed up in two words: conflict and frustration.

If you are sick of not being authentic and want to take control of life by facing your fears, the following suggestions can help get you going.

How to Start Showing Up

The first step is to decide how you want your life to look? Then look at what’s holding you back. What are your fears? What obstacles do you believe you’re facing? Showing up in your own life doesn’t mean you have it all together, it just means you’re willing to set goals, plan, face obstacles head on, be assertive, and get honest with yourself and others. Failure is OK. So many notable and famous people have failed. The key is to learn and grow through your mistakes.

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Face your Fears

Being scared doesn’t have to mean you lack courage; it’s going ahead and facing the giants anyway. Courage means you step out and take a risk. Behind all our fears are beliefs, ways we have interpreted and given the events of life meaning. For my ED clients, they don’t starve, over exercise, or binge and purge because they like it, they do it because they hold beliefs that having a thin or in shape body will give them the acceptance, adequacy and value/worth they crave. Dig deep and look at your insecurities. Decide what beliefs are driving your fears.

Small Steps

The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. You will become overwhelmed. Instead, decide what’s timely, what’s attainable, and what’s realistic. Ask yourself the following questions:

What is the state of my readiness for change in any particular area?

How badly do I want what I say I want?

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How hard am I willing to work?

What incentive do I have for pursuing change?

How do I get what I want or need?

First Steps toward Change

Now that you know what you want, what do you need to do? Explore strategies for getting where you want to go. Ask yourself what actions will get you where you want to go. Where can you start? What do you need to do right away and what can you do later? Then list strategies to action by examining what strategies will actually be most helpful and best for your situation.

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Craft a Plan

A plan gives you a road map. Plans are crafted to drive you to action. They keep us from being overwhelmed and help us find useful ways to get our goals accomplished. Ask yourself what actions will get you to the desired goal? Also consider how you can plan for obstacles and be flexible if plans have to change or be modified.

These strategies will help you change your life if you are intentional about putting them into practice. Don’t wait. Start now and take ownership of your life. You’ll feel empowered by stepping out and risking change. Remember, it’s all up to you!

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on November 11, 2019

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

How to Improve Memory and Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever noticed that some people are able to effortlessly remember even the most mundane details and quickly comprehend new things? Well, you can too!

To unlock the full potential of your brain, you need to keep it active and acute. Wasting time on your couch watching mindless television shows or scrolling through facebook is not going to help.

Besides getting out flashcards, what can you do to help remember things better and learn new things more quickly? Check out these 10 effective ways on how to improve memory:

1. Exercise and Get Your Body Moving

Exercising doesn’t just exercise the body, it also helps to exercise your brain. Obesity and the myriad of diseases that eventually set in as a result of being overweight can cause serious harm to the brain.

Furthermore, without regular exercise, plaque starts to build up in your arteries, and your blood vessels begin to lose the ability to effectively pump blood. Plaque buildup leads to heart attacks and it also reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your blood carries to your brain. When the nutrients don’t make it there, the brain’s ability to function is compromised.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you get moving every day. Even if it’s just a brisk walk, it’ll help you maintain and increase your mental acuity. Brisk walking, swimming and dancing are all excellent activities. Take a look at these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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2. Eliminate Stressors and Seek Help If You’re Depressed

Anything that causes you major stress, like anger or anxiety, will in time begin to eat away the parts of your brain that are responsible for memory. Amongst the most brain-damaging stressors is depression, which is actually often misdiagnosed a a memory problem since one of its primary symptoms is the inability to concentrate.

If you can’t concentrate, then you might feel like you are constantly forgetting things. Depression increases the levels of cortisol in your bloodstream which elevates the cortisol levels in the brain. Doctors have found that increased cortisol diminishes certain areas of the brain, especially the hippocampus which is where short-term memories are stored.

Prolonged depression can thus destroy your brain’s ability to remember anything new. Seek professional help to combat your depression – your brain will thank you.

3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep and Take Naps

Getting a consistent 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night will increase your memory. During sleep, the brain firms up memories of recently acquired information.

Getting enough sleep will help you get through the full spectrum of nocturnal cycles that are essential to optimal brain and body functioning during the waking hours. Taking a nap throughout the day, especially after learning something new, can also help you to retain those memories as well as recharge your brain and keep it sharper longer.

4. Feed Your Brain

Fifty to sixty percent of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate its billions of nerve cells. The better insulated a cell is, the faster it can send messages and the quicker you will be thinking.

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This is precisely why parents are advised to feed their young children whole milk and to restrict dieting – their brains’ need fat to grow and work properly. Skimping on fats can be devastating even to the adult brain.

Thus, eating foods that contain a healthy mix of fats is vital for long-term memory. Some excellent food choices include fish (especially anchovies, mackerel and wild salmon) and dark leafy green vegetables. Here’re more brain food choices: 12 Foods that Can Improve Your Brain Power

Deep-fried foods obviously contain fat but their lack of nutritional value is not going to help your brain or your body, so think healthy foods and fats.

5. Eat Breakfast and Make Sure It Includes an Egg

According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of  The Brain Trust Program, an egg is the ideal breakfast. Eggs contain B vitamins which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage; and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed.

Other foods to add to your breakfast include fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Avoid trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Trans fats diminish the brain cells’ ability to communicate with each other and HFCS can actually shrink the brain by damaging cells.

Having a healthy breakfast in the morning has been shown to improve performance throughout the day. If you’re too busy to have a healthy breakfast, this maybe just right for you: 33 Quick And Healthy Breakfasts For Busy Mornings

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6. Write it Down

If there’s something you want to remember, writing it down can help.

It may sound like a no-brainer, but do you really know why? Writing it down creates oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercises those parts of it. Here’s How Writing Things Down Can Change Your Life.

You can start a journal, write yourself emails or even start keeping a blog – all of these activities will help to improve your capacity to remember and memorize information.

7. Listen to Music

Research shows that certain types of music are very helpful in recalling memories. Information that is learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled by thinking of the song or “playing” it mentally. Songs and music can serve as cues for pulling up particular memories.

8. Visual Concepts

In order to remember things, many people need to visualize the information they are studying.

Pay attention to photographers, charts and other graphics that might appear in your textbook; or if you’re not studying a book, try to pull up a mental image of what it is you are trying to remember. It might also help to draw your own charts or figures, or utilize colors and highlighters to group related ideas in your notes.

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Here, you can learn How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results.

9. Teach Someone Else

Reading material out loud has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material. Expanding further upon this idea is the fact that psychologists and educators have found that by having students teach new concepts to others, it helps to enhance understanding and recall.

Teach new concepts and information to a friend or study partner, and you’ll find you remember the information a lot better.

10. Do Crossword Puzzles, Read or Play Cards

Studies have shown that doing crossword puzzles, read or play cards on a daily basis not only keep your brain active but also help to delay memory loss, especially in those who develop dementia.

So pick up the daily newspaper and work on that crossword puzzle, read a book or enjoy a game of solitaire.

Pick one to two of these tips first and start applying them to your everyday life. Very soon you’ll find yourself having better memories and a clearer head!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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