Retrain your brain to overcome fear

Ashleigh Austen

Learn to overcome anxiety. Photo: Getty Images.

Rogue spiders. A trip to the dentist. Leeches. We’ve all got something that we’d sooner do 100 burpees than tackle.

Tried everything to shake your fear? Clinical hypnotherapist Julie Rice has five mind re-training exercises to overcome your anxiety, for good.

1. Control your breathing
Breathe out at the first sign of a fear response. Do not breathe in. Train yourself to exhale immediately. If you breathe in while experiencing fear this will tell your brain ‘I’m out of control, I can’t handle this’.

By exhaling, you train the brain into rational thinking and calmness under fire.

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Try this simple pattern after exhaling:
Inhale to the count of 5
Hold to the count of 5
Exhale to the count of 10
Repeat 5 times being very mindful of each aspect of the cycle.

Make sure once you have exhaled completely, breathe in deeply from the base of your stomach.

2. See yourself as fearless
It’s important to move forward in an empowered and confident way. Acting ‘as if’ we are confident, controlled and empowered is very important. Relax for five minutes, take three deep breaths and breathe normally.

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To the best of your ability imagine, see and get a sense of a more confident you. Invest hard in the imaginings, so much so that you can step inside and really become that person. Imagine yourself more and more confident, step into that person. Listen to their positive internal dialogue, their calm breathing, become aware of how much more powerful and assertive they are in their physiology and mimic this.

3. Look forward
Go into the future and ask if what you’re faced with is such a big deal. Quite often our fears are imagined in our mind and we make them far worse. As Mark Twain said, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”.

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Imagine yourself as an elderly woman looking back over your life. Is what you’re faced with now even going to pop? It’s highly unlikely. Keeping things in perspective really diminishes fear.

4. Be resourceful
Take a few moments to relax, close your eyes and remember all the times in your life when you have surprised yourself and been able to be confident or have felt empowered. It might be the time you were praised for your efforts or you landed that promotion.

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Take yourself back into the memory and really re-associate with it again. The smells, the colours, the time of the year, notice anyone significant in the memory, recall any positive reinforcement from friends or colleagues during that time.

Now breathe in deeply three times and press your thumb and your finger together. Anytime you need to recreate this resourceful state all you need to do is to take those three deep breaths in and press your thumb and finger together. Eventually you will create a trigger into a state of mind where you have the courage to overcome the fear.

5. Refocus
Keep a journal. Write down everyday your positive feelings and interactions, everything you have done well, every improvement you have made and every empowering and positive thing you have seen or experienced that day. Write as much or as little as you want.

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Read what you have written; say to yourself “I want more of that” and then connect with the good feelings of having more of that. Retrain your brain in how you like to feel, rather than focusing on the source of your fear. Teach your brain how to play to your strengths. Review what you have written regularly.

Inspired to kick that fear? Sure you are! Go even further with the incredible true story Unbroken, available on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital from May 14, 2015. Directed by Angelie Jolie, it’s bravery encapsulated.