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Face Your Fear and Thrive

Face Your Fear and Thrive

Place yourself behind a shatter proof helmet. Tear gas and pepper spray burning your skin, eyes, and lungs. Yelling and screaming as adrenaline gets dumped into your bloodstream. Sweat pouring down your back as the body armor you’re wearing feels like you’re trapped in a sauna. Your hands shaking, knowing that in the next few moments you or another could be potentially hurt or killed.

Fear: it’s a natural emotion that we all feel from time to time. What if, however, it was daily occurrence? How would you cope, or even thrive in such an environment, allowing it to mold you and elevate you? Here are some tips and lessons I learned on how to not only cope with fear, but use it as an advantage and mentor.

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Fear Actualized

Firstly, fear allows us to avoid dangers and also stay away from actions that may bring about negative consequences. Fear, like many emotions, has the potential to consume and even destroy us if left unchecked. Emotions such as love, for example, have the same potential for either harm or benefit. How many individuals have we known who have been reduced to nothing due to the instability of these emotions? Learning to cope with fear, love, and stress are essential to good health and well being, physically and psychologically.

Fear is an intense emotion. There’s nothing like facing a fear that almost paralyzes you and triumphantly overcoming. For most of us it comes in short bursts, very abruptly and surprisingly. Getting into a car accident, having run-ins with a dangerous wild animal, or even being robbed strike almost without warning. They leave us stunned and reflective. What if I had died? What if someone else had died? These questions plague us, and leave us reflective. They have the potential to change our entire perspective on life.

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For example, Ernest Hemingway was transformed after nearly being killed during the first world war. He was a volunteer ambulance driver, and while dispensing supplies, was wounded by Austrian mortar fire. Hemingway would later write about his experience, saying, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you… Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.” For Hemingway, coming close to the jaws of death gave him a clear focus on mortality.

Placed on Death Ground

Imagine placing yourself into a war in which your brushes with death happened at an abysmal pace? Besides being a soldier in an actual war, there are few of us who have to face this reality. How would it mold you? If you don’t come from a military family, few know the personal struggle soldiers who suffer from PTSD deal with. It changes your attitude, the way to think, and act. Left unchecked, the trauma induced can cripple us and even be debilitating for the rest of our lives.

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Instead of being on the front lines overseas, I was in another battle. A battle that took place everyday I clocked in. The conflict started the day I was hired as a Correctional Officer at a maximum security adult prison. Now I know what you’re thinking: Was it really like those shows on cable television, like Lock Down? The best answer is yes, sometimes. To give you a good analogy, if you ever watch the highlights of a football game and actually watch a football game, you have two different experiences. There is a lot of calmness inside most prisons, which is actually more terrifying than it being a highlight real. Just when you get comfortable, you almost get stabbed (I personally was attacked with a knife twice), or see a violent altercation. You know something bad is going to happen, you just don’t know when. Adrenaline gets dumped into your system, things happen in seconds that feel like a lifetime, people get hurt or die in front of you, and you get a permanent event burned into your memory for the rest of your life.

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I am no longer a Correctional Officer but the events I endured changed my life in almost every way. Friends and family conveyed to me that I walked and talked differently. My behavior became more serious and reflective. The fear I felt when first entering into a prison was overwhelming. Witnessing episodes of violence that seemed cut from a clip of OZ tended to have a jarring effect to say the least. Sitting in my car every day outside the prison building, just staring at the walls and barbed wire, building the courage to clock in took its toll not only on my mind, but also on my body. Sleepless nights pouring over the violence witnessed earlier, casting an almost debilitating cloud upon my every waking moment. Yet, I fought on and challenged myself to another day inside. I looked up to veterans who thrived in that environment and was amazed. I knew that if I gave up and didn’t face my fears, it would haunt me for the rest of my days.

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The breaking point came when I was transferred inside the prison to the most dangerous unit — a unit some of the most violent offenders in the state called home. This was a place where inmates were locked in a cell 23 hours a day and only went outside to exercise in a cage, a unit where there was constant violence and almost never a dull moment. It was either make or break. I had to not only control my fear, but also not show it.

Everyone in that environment could smell fear, even fellow officers, and knew when you were weak. I have seen men twice my size intimidated by men of small stature. They lost the respect of fellow officers and became targets. I knew I had to dive in with everything I had, or else I might be killed. The day I started to thrive was the day a fellow officer was stabbed in the jaw with a 8-inch metal blade. I instantly changed into someone who was always terrified to a man who had no fear of death. Something sublime clicked in my head, and I rushed in and resolved the situation. My eyes burned from the pepper spray but I felt no pain and looked the attacker in the eyes and saw fear. The fear of me.

I was attacked several times after that incident and never flinched. I handled the situation and never felt fear, panic, or nervousness. My confidence skyrocketed, and the feeling of transcendence enveloped my every waking moment. I learned to thrive in chaos and make it my comfort zone. I noticed toward the end of my time as a Correctional Officer my hands wouldn’t shake anymore. Usually due to the adrenaline after an event, I would get the shakes that could be most felt in the hands. The first time I noticed the shaking was gone was the last time I was attacked. After the incident I calmly wrote a summary of the incident with a pen and paper — even writing cursive my penmanship was as good as ever. I had become so used to violence and stress that even a tolerance to adrenaline developed.

Lasting Change

I am no longer a Correctional Officer, but am a professional that still sees a fair share of danger. I react coolly, calmly, and collectedly in almost every situation, as I did in the prison. Due to that experience, my social intelligence became one of my strongest assets, and my confidence has remained high. Overcoming my crippling fears allowed me to develop into the man I am today. Here are 3 lessons I learned from my experience that have been invaluable:

  1. Never give up in the face of adversity. Life and its endless struggles hit hard, but overcoming challenges results in invaluable gratitude and strength.
  2. Remind yourself every day that there is a lesson to be learned. Life is our mentor, we are its students. Never stop finding the gems of experience and knowledge each day hides.
  3. Place yourself on death ground — a place where you are forced to rise to the occasion and overcome. It will not only increase your confidence, but force you to improve. There is no improvement without change.

More by this author

Holden Eliason

Private Investigator, Entrepreneur

Face Your Fear and Thrive

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Last Updated on October 16, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

The Ultimate Guide to Help You Sleep Through the Night Tonight

It’s well past midnight and you’ve got to get up in less than six hours. You toss and turn all night. Before you know it, another hour passes by and you start panicking.

If I don’t get to sleep in the next 30 minutes, I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow!”

One thing is for sure, you’re not alone. Over 70M+ Americans have stated that they don’t get the proper sleep they need at night.[1] So what could possibly be causing this insomnia epidemic?

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey of building my language learning company, I have experimented and researched dozens of best sleep practices. Some have flopped but a few have dramatically improved the quality of my life and work.

In this article, I’ll look into the reason why you’re sleep deprived and how to sleep through the night tonight.

Why you can’t sleep through the night

The first step to improving anything is getting to the bottom of the root problem. Different studies have shown the reasons why most people cannot sleep well at night.[2] Here are the main ones that the average person faces:

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Stress

If you’ve ever stayed up at night worrying about something, know that it’s a major sleep inhibitor. When you’re feeling stress, your mind and body becomes more activated, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep. Even when you do manage to sleep, it won’t be deep enough to help you feel rested the next day.

Exposure to blue light before sleep time

We’re exposed to harmful blue light on a daily basis through the use of our digital screens. If you’ve never heard of blue light, it’s part of the visible light spectrum that suppresses melatonin, our sleep hormones. Other harmful effects include digital eye strains and macular cellular damage.

While daytime exposure to blue light is not very harmful, night time exposure tricks our brain into thinking it’s daytime. By keeping your brain alert and suppressing melatonin, your mind is unable to shut down and relax before bedtime.

Eating close to bedtime

Eating too late can actually be an issue for many people, especially those who are older than 40. The reason is, eating before laying down increases the chances of Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus.

Another reason not to eat too late is sleep quality. Even if you manage to sleep right after eating, it’s likely that you’ll wake up tired. Instead of letting your body rest during sleep, it has to digest the food that was entered before bedtime.

Rule of thumb: eat 3-4 hours before bedtime.

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Medical conditions

In some cases, it could be medical conditions that cause your sleep problems. If you can’t relate yourself to the above reasons or any of these common sleep problem causes, you should visit the doctor.

The vicious sleep cycle

The biggest danger to repeating the bad habits mentioned above is the negative cycle that it can take you through. A bad night’s sleep can affect not only your energy but your willpower and decision making skills.

Here’s an example of a bad sleep pattern:

You get a bad night’s sleep
–> You feel tired and stressful throughout the day.
–> You compensate it with unhealthy habits (for example junk food, skipping exercises, watching Netflix etc.)
–> You can’t sleep well (again) the next night.

    You can imagine what could happen if this cycle repeats over a longer period of time.

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    How to sleep better (throughout the night)

    To help you break the vicious cycle and stop waking up in the middle of the night, I’ll explain to you a list of actionable steps to solve your trouble staying asleep.

    1. Take control over the last 90 minutes of your night

    What you do (or don’t do) before bedtime have significant impact on the quality of your sleep. Many times, it can be the difference between staying up until 4am and sleeping like a baby.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    • Go from light to dark – Darkness stimulates production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Turn off unused light around the house, and think about investing into warm light that you can use in the bedroom before bedtime.
    • Avoid screens (or wear blue light blocking glasses) – Keep the bedroom a technology-free zone as the light from electronic devices can disturb your sleep. If you need to work, wear blue light blocking glasses (also known as computer glasses) throughout or before you sleep to prevent sleep disruption.
    • Find an activity that helps you to wind down  This could be anything that calms you down, and reduces thinking (especially unnecessary stress). Fir example, listening to soothing/good feel music, taking a hot bath, reading or meditating.
    • Keep any electronics you have on the other side of the room or outside the room – One of the most harmful things that can disrupt your sleep is the notifications you get from your smartphones. The simplest way to avoid this is to keep it away from you.
    • Create a bedtime routine – A night routine is a couple of things you do prior to going to bed. By doing these things every night, you’ll have a more restful and high-quality sleep. Learn how to pick up a night routine here: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide to Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

    2. Eat the right nutrients (and avoid the wrong ones)

    What you eat (not just when we eat) plays a critical role in your sleep quality. If you’re ever in doubt of what to eat to improve your sleep, take the following into consideration:

    • Kiwi – This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate—all of which may help you snooze.
    • Soy foods – Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
    • Fiber-rich foods – Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep—the more you eat, the better you sleep—per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.
    • Salmon – Most fish, especially salmon, halibut and tuna boost vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin— a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness.

    3. Adjust your sleep temperature

    Once you’ve gone through the first 2 recommendations, the last step to experiment with is temperature. According to Sleep.org, the ideal temperature for sleep is 60-67 Farenheit. This may be cooler than what most people are used to, but keep in mind that our body temperature changes once we fall asleep.

    Rule of thumb: sleeping in cooler temperature is better for sleep quality than warmer temperature.

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    Find out how to maintain the optimal temperature to sleep better here: How to Sleep Faster with the Best Temperature

    Sleep better form now on

    Congrats on making it to the end of this guide on sleep. If you’re serious about taking the necessary steps in improving your sleep, remember to take it one step at a time.

    I recommend trying just one of the steps mentioned such as taking a hot bath, blocking out blue light at night, or sleeping in cooler temperature. From there, see how it impacts your sleep quality and you can keep doing what works, and throw away what doesn’t.

    As long as you follow these steps cautiously and diligently, I know you’ll see improved results in your sleep!

    Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

    Reference

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