The “F” Word

If you thought this post was about fornication and sexual performance you could stop reading now. Sorry to disappoint, but the “F” Word to which I am referring, is none other than Fear.

When I wrote Lose the Gum, I spent a great deal of time researching the role that confidence plays in our success and how many of our self-sabotaging behaviors are rooted in fear. It is widely understood that insecurities and low self-esteem create self-doubts that prevent us from moving forward and hold us back from achieving our ambitions.

What I did however, find to be quite interesting is the role that environment plays in fostering fear and subsequently hindering our success. The very conditions of our surroundings actually have physiological effects on our bodies and our minds and impact the quality of our thinking. Certain high-stress environments induce fear and can keep us operating in a perpetual state of panic which is not conducive to producing our best quality work.  

Fear is our emotional response to the presence of danger. It is our most primal survival instinct that kicks in when standing in front of a hungry tiger that wants to eat us like we’re a Scooby snack. When we are suddenly scared the hypothalamus takes over and makes a decision for us about whether to flee or to fight. Fear hijacks the frontal lobe and pre-frontal cortex which is the part of the brain that is responsible for careful thought, decision making and all executive functions. 

Operating in a constant state of frenzy keeps our brain and body locked in a reverberating circuit while our brains lose their sophistication. The result is simpleminded thinking with a loss of perspective and an inability to differential shades of gray. Intelligence even dims. Instead of actively managing, we resort to merely reacting to problems as they happen. This fear based existence undermines our ability to succeed.

Culture plays a role in creating an environment that perpetuates a state of fear. Consider the case of an executive who admits to being overwhelmed or overloaded. Generally employees who seem unable to keep up the pace are seen as deficient or weak. But companies do themselves a disservice by keeping staff overwhelmed which then fosters high-stress environments that prevent employees from performing at their best.

If you find yourself working in an environment where you are in a constantly overwhelmed or in a perpetual state of panic, here are some tips that can help you manage the situation :

·         Interact with a person you like every 4 to 6 hours. By connecting comfortably with people you enjoy helps reduce brain stress.

·         When you feel overwhelmed, do easy tasks first. That way, you feel more competent to conquer bigger, more complex tasks.

·         Plan to accomplish your most difficult tasks when you are at your best during the day.

·         If you're a manager, delegating effectively will improve your performance.

·         Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, and exercise. This will keep your brain in its best condition.

·         Think positively.