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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 September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

    Reference

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