How Being Scared Can be GOOD for You!

How being scared can be good for you… when researching this blog a bunch of stuff came up from Halloween; how being scared can help you focus, give you a rush, and make you feel alive! Most of these articles were alluding to the spook-factor of ghosts and witches, or the odd surprise when someone says “boo”. The scared i want to talk about today is the fear of doing or not doing something. 

Most of you that know me, know that i have trouble saying “no”… Furthermore, i try to live my life by the old Mark Twain quote: Twenty years form now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.  This is all well and good in theory, but there has been a few things this year that have terrified the crap out of me, and i have not yet done them (so i am still scared as i write this). In an effort to make myself feel better i have begun researching whether or not there is such a thing as a “healthy” dose of fear, and i have discovered that there kind-of is!

Just this weekend’s hiking group was enough to stimulate a healthy dose of fear! It was wet and rainy and i was worried about someone in our team slipping and injuring themselves!

The first thing i am afraid of is this trip to Nepal (next week – eek!). The first thing to be scared about is the flight to Lukla, where we start our trek. It’s only one of the most dangerous airports in the world… and i am not ready to leave my kids forever… The next thing is the altitude. It is almost certain that some of us are going down with altitude sickness, and whilst i am not worried about getting it myself (i was only at 4300m last year!), i am worried about being there for whoever gets sick and making sure they a) survive and b) get to safety. Finally, on this scary point, 80% of tourists in Nepal get gastro, and i am afraid of taking antibiotics because they give me debilitating gut pain.

So why do it, right? Well, there’s actually a few reasons to do it even though i am terrified!

  1. Because i want to live my life to the fullest. If i bail out at this point, i will be missing one of the most magnificent regions in the world. Furthermore, with over 50 flights per day into Lukla, that odds are in my favour that we will survive and arrive safely. I have taken extra precautions for altitude and gastro, and have a very competent guide in Binod from Hike Nepal, that i have used before. I feel like i have prepared for these worries as best i can, and I have to trust my preparations. I love my kids, but i also love myself, and this is MY life too!
  2. Because i want to find out what i can do! If i don’t go because of fear, then i will never find out if i could do this, and that is scary in itself! How will we ever know what we are capable of if we don’t try? And if we never try, how bland would life be?
  3. Fear and uncertainty feed success. Being afraid makes the successful completion so much more powerful! If I know i can do it, then where’s the triumph? If i put myself out there and succeed, that in itself is intoxicating and wonderfully exciting! It is also the single most rewarding thing i have ever done for work; that moment when your client finishes is the most puffy-chested, fist-beating-proud moment EVER! I will never relinquish it to someone else!

Last year’s gym trip to Nepal was not quite as scary, there were fewer participants and i had achieved the same altitude before in Peru.

The next thing is that i have been chosen to speak at a major conference in 2018, one of the “big 5” conventions for fitness professionals in the world. I feel so out of my depth, frightened that i’ll make a fool of myself, that i won’t “hold my own” with the international speakers and professionals that i will be rubbing shoulders with. But how can i refuse? If i don’t give it a crack (and risk failing in front of hundreds of people) then i won’t get my message out in to the fitness community. And i know my stuff in this regard. This conference is a huge opportunity to reach hundreds of very receptive personal trainers in one hit, and would be hugely beneficial to my business if i pull it off. The “pro’s” outweigh the “con’s” in this scenario and i will be there with all the side effects of acute stress in full flight!!

Now here’s the thing about fear and stress, it means you’re growing, and growth is good. All the cliches are relevant here “if you want something you’ve never had before, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before“, “if nothing changes, nothing changes“, and so on. My journey this year will change me, i will be more experienced, i will have done things this time next year that i am frightened of right now, and thereby eliminating them as things to be scared of (unless i fail… in that case i’ll be dead, scarred, or humiliated).

One of the first Burrell Education courses that i took. I had jelly legs and a quavering voice… and no-one noticed!

But back to the “healthy” dose, and this is the caveat: it has to be ACUTE, not chronic, stress or fear. Acute (short and sharp) stress can get your heart pumping, make you hyper-vigilant, faster, stronger, improve your memory, and make you more focused*. Acute stress helps you meet deadlines, rise above challenges, and channel that super-human strength (think about those “hero’s” that have lifted cars off children).

On the other hand, chronic stress (stress that lasts more than a couple of days or hours) can decrease your memory, make it hard to lose weight, and contribute to lifestyle diseases such as impotence, heart disease, and hypertension** (and more). So if you are always stressed, scared, or frightened, don’t put off seeking help or creating a strategy to find a solution! Since my stress has lasted a few weeks now, i have sought the assistance of a councillor that specialises in Positive Psychology, to help me “see” the benefits, and feel excited over my nerves!

In short, being scared is good for you! Avoiding life out of fear is no way to live!



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