“Essentially, all healing is the release from fear.” – A Course In Miracles, Helen Schucman.
What is fear and what is the connection between fear, stress and health? Fear is the absence of love. Stress is our body’s response to mental or emotional pressure. Stress affects health. Fear and the absence of love affect health.
Fear is one of the basic instincts that we all have. It was designed to keep up safe to ensure our survival. In ancient times we needed to protect ourselves from the dangers of the world such as wild animals, fires, attacks… Nowadays, we do not face such dangers as much, but a part of our brain that controls responses associated with fear, amygdala, is active nevertheless and often rules our lives.
Instead of real threats we fear imagined dangers – heights, airplanes, rejection, getting ill, being alone, loosing a loved one, loosing a job, being homeless, not being the best at work or school, not having enough money, loosing money, being betrayed, being stuck in a lift… you name it! And guess what? All these fears trigger the same stress reactions and our body receives exactly the same signals as if our lives would be in real danger. Our minds do not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.
When our minds perceive danger, be it real or imagined, our body receives a command to shut down most of its regular processes and to switch to emergency mode. Our body gets worn out very quickly because life becomes a series of emergency situations. Our parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of the natural healing processes, gets suspended and sympathetic nervous system gets activated triggering the fight-or-flight response.
Our immune system weakens, we get colds, aches, digestive and respiratory problems, depressions, panic attacks. Stress alters the production of hormones and before we know it we experience hormonal imbalances and various reproductive system disorders. Prolonged periods of stress can lead to serious conditions such as cancers, diabetes and heart attacks.
So how to reduce stress and to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, your mind-body healing abilities? A very simple method is to sit still with your eyes closed and your back straight and to watch your breathing. You can count each inhalation and exhalation as one, feeling the air coming in through your nostrils and all the way down to your chest and belly and the air coming out when you exhale. Count till ten and start again. You can do it for as long as you like. If you find it difficult to sit still, try increasing the time gradually. If you loose count or get distracted, it’s ok, just bring your attention back to your breathing and start counting from one again. Watching and controlling your breathing is the first step to gaining control over your thoughts, including fears.
It is important to recognise that our fears are only thoughts – projections into the past and assumptions about the future that have no real basis whatsoever. All the things that we are afraid of and that cause stress are not even real!
It is impossible to get rid of fears just by thinking and wishing it. When you think that you should not be scared, that it is silly and how not to feel scared, you actually feed your fears. Our minds and thoughts are powerful. If we constantly think about fears, we only make them stronger. There is no point hiding them either – they would get suppressed and would come out at the most unexpected moment. Being honest with yourself about your fears is essential for the self-healing process. When you shed light on your fears, their darkness starts fading. You are accepting yourself by facing whatever it is that causes your fears.
If you concentrate on the opposite of fear, love, your fears will start getting weaker and your love stronger and it will contribute greatly towards your wellbeing and health. To activate your self-healing abilities, focus on self-love and acceptance. You can start by simply looking in the mirror and telling yourself something like “(Your name), I love you unconditionally, you are a beautiful, unique and special human being. I dedicate myself to your happiness.” Feel it when you say it and give yourself a smile. Whenever I do this, I immediately feel present and see myself objectively, without judging, without thinking how I look. Just seeing yourself objectively, as a person, as a human being, can bring you closer to loving yourself.