Michael Clarkson on Fear

clarkson 2013 -2Worry, stress and depression are serious problems in our fast-paced, economically-challenged society. I believe that fear is at their base – fear of change, of failure, of not being able to provide for family, and fear of what other people think of us. But there is hopeful news. Without worry and fear, we wouldn’t be motivated to excel at work or in relationships; we wouldn’t look both ways before we cross the street so as not to be struck by a car; and without worry, we wouldn’t plan to meet challenges. People who never worry never get anything done! People who worry TOO MUCH don’t either. The trick is to worry wisely –about the things we have some control over. The average person has 44,000 negative thoughts a day – and only eight per cent of those things we worry about do we have some influence over. It helps to network with others . This can put our worries into perspective and help us realize that we often share the same worries. There is safety in numbers. Fear is our survival instinct, our number one primal emotion, but since caveman times, it has taken some strange twists. Now it has become more counter-productive and we have developed more fears and stresses than we ever had. We see too many things as threats and this often leads to distress and depression (although depression in itself is complex and may have other components such as boredom, helplessness and sinus issues). Some of us worry more than others, depending on our genes, our experiences and our upbringing. Some people have more “anxiety” hormones in their system, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It was discovered not long ago that some people have a “worry gene” which is a different size, making them predisposed to anxiety (after that, I stopped judging my mother-in-law). Age and gender also come into play with certain fears. Unfortunately, less than 10 per cent of people with full-blown phobias do not seek help for their problem; rather they look the other way and hobble through their lives in denial while avoiding the thing they are afraid of. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I recognized that I was worrying too much, leading to depression. Since then, I’ve reacted to situations with less stress. There are a number of things we can do to bring our worries and fears into better control:
  • Awareness — becoming aware if we are afraid of something, why we are afraid and how it’s affecting our routine
  • Facing our fears — exposing ourselves to them
  • Making ourselves less vulnerable — shoring up our resources, such as other people, and developing spirituality
  • Visualization – prior to an important meeting or test, picturing what will happen to a successful conclusion
  • Professional help — sessions with a doctor or psychologist or group therapy
  • Drugs — such as the anti-depressant Paxil, which helps manage social phobias
  • Deprogramming — if fears develop from low self-esteem, we may have to re-evaluate our attitudes, needs and beliefs

For more on Michael and his presentations, check out his NSB profile here