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8 Ways Overcoming Fear Can Improve Your Health

You already know how fear can paralyze you personally and professionally, rob you of your joy, and keep you from going after your dreams.

But did you know stress can also make you sick? Whenever your mind feels fear, it triggers the fight-or-flight stress response in your body, which disables your bodys natural self-repair mechanisms and makes you more susceptible to illness.

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But never fear (no pun intended)! Here are a few tips for living a healthier, happier life by overcoming fear.

1. Understand Fear is Primal

It originates from the lizard brain of your amygdala and exists as an adaptive mechanism meant to save your life. But in modern society, fear is a warning signal gone haywire. Most of what you fear losing a loved one, money, or a relationship, for example isnt actually threatening your life, though it may be threatening your sense of security. You may not be able to ditch the emotion of fear, but you can make the choice not to let it run the show anymore.

2. Assess Your Fears to Determine If Theyre Helpful or Harmful

If youre afraid of crashing on the rocks when you consider jumping off a cliff, your fear is probably valid. But if youre afraid to write the book you dream of writing because youre afraid of failure, fear is only getting the way. Sometimes fear shows up as a valuable intuition, but often, its just an agent of self-sabotage. Learning to tell the difference can make all the difference.

3. Recognize Fear Often Masquerades as Protection

Consider how many times you make decisions because of the just in case. Remember that just in case is fear masquerading as self-preservation. But its still fear, and its still harmful to your health.

4. Consciously Dissociate From Fear

Once you realize that fear often hurts you more than it protects you, and that fear is a primal emotion originating from your lizard brain, its easier to notice your fear from a distance, rather than letting it have its way with you and dictate your decisions. Try giving your fear a name. (I call mine The Gremlin.) Visualize it as a beast separate from you. Then pat it on the head and reassure it that youve assessed the situation, all is well, and theres no need to be frightened.

5. Identify the Voice of Your Faith

Then invite your faith to fight off your fear. Once you can identify the voice of your fear, see if you can tap into the voice of your faith. (I call it your Inner Pilot Light,that always radiant, perpetually sparkly, totally authentic voice thats always inside of you.)

6. Trust No Matter What Happens, You Can Handle It

Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, says that beneath all our other fears lies one root fear: I cant handle it. But deep down, you know you can. Trust that sense of deep knowing.

7. Ask For Guidance

If you cant identify who should win (your Gremlin or your Inner Pilot Light), seek Divine guidance. Ask for Signs from the Universeand learn to interpret the answers.

8. Surround Yourself with Courageous People

When you surround yourself with fearful people, they cant help projecting their fears onto you, and you can get unwittingly dragged down into the muck with them. But when brave people who take risks surround you, youll feel inspired to be more brave yourself.

When you tap into your faith and find your courage, youre likely to still feel fear, but youll no longer be ruled by it. When you tap into your faith and learn to overcome your fears, your brain halts the stress response and triggers the relaxation response. When the relaxation response is activated, the body can once again heal itself.

Dr. Lissa Rankin Lissa Rankin, MD is an integrative medicine physician, author, speaker, artist, and founder of the online communities LissaRankin.com and OwningPink.com. Discouraged by our broken health care system, Dr. Rankin set out to discover why some patients experience cure from seemingly incurable illnesses, while others remain sick even when they receive the best medical care. Fueled by a passion to determine what really makes people healthy and what really predisposes them to illness, she dug into the medical literature to study how doctors might better care for patients and patients might better care for themselves. Her research helped her understand and translate how thoughts and emotions originating in the mind translate into measurable physiological phenomena. She is now leading a health care revolution to help patients heal themselves, while encouraging the health care industry to embrace and facilitate, rather than resist, the possibility of patient-initiated spontaneous remission. She will be sharing the findings of her research about self-healing in her upcoming book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House 2013). Lissa lives in Marin County, California with her husband and daughter.

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