Making Friends With Your Nerves: How to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Want to know the one thing that separates the people who are taking risks, making moves, and living the life of their dreams… from anyone else? It isn’t that they’re naturally more fearless. It’s that they’ve learned how to make friends with their nerves; how to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Below are a few lessons I’ve picked up along the way as I’ve continuously faced things that scared the living daylights out of me, from starting a podcast, to leaving corporate America, to selling my belongings to travel the world working from my laptop. I hope they support you in your next endeavors, so your fears can be passengers on the journey, but no longer the main drivers.

How to Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Do the Damn Thing

I know this sounds simplistic, but truly, the fastest way to get over a fear is to DO the thing you fear. Instead of hours of mental gymnastics, simply get out there. Host the Facebook Live. Launch the podcast. Give the speech. Go on the date.

Fears are like a tornado, gaining more force the longer they’re allowed to rage. When you do the thing you fear, you cut through all the stories in your head about why you can’t, why it’s too scary, and what bad things will happen. You simply do it and survive.

Remember Nerves Are Highest the First Few Seconds

Chemically, your adrenaline is highest in the first few seconds. So yes, the moment before you step on stage or press record, your nerves WILL be out of control.

But also remember, that’s all they are: nerves. Simply a bundle of thoughts and feelings coursing through you. Almost like the boogeyman, in the sense that they are nothing to ACTUALLY fear, because you are strong enough to withstand any FEELING.

A feeling generally lasts 90 seconds in the body. So if you can sit, feeling the feelings, breathing into them, closing your eyes, rocking yourself, sitting under a big cozy blanket—whatever you gotta do—you’ll emerge on the other side of the storm, realizing you can handle any emotion. And THAT’s really the thing you fear, not the act itself.

As soon as you start talking on the Instagram Live, publish the blog post, share the screenplay… you’ll feel the fear subside, and know the worst is over.

It Will Either Be a Good Story… Or a Good Story

I’ve repeated this mantra to myself hundreds of times through the years. It’ll either be a good story (like a good experience) or a good story (like the kind you share with your girlfriends after a rough but hilarious mishap).

Once, in the middle of a New York City heatwave, I tried Bikram yoga. I became so overheated that the instructor had to stop class and pour a sugar packet into a water bottle for me, allowing the class to Savasana while she prevented me from blacking out. Another time, I attempted a sprint triathlon and gulped down so much lake water in the first few seconds that I never quite recovered until the land sports. (I’m starting to recognize a trend in my athletic attempts… )

Were both of those experiences semi-embarrassing? Yes.

Were both of them uncomfortable? Yep.

Did I survive, with stories I can still laugh about today? Affirmative.

Imagine How Alive You Will Feel

After a certain point, your routines are nailed. You wake up and immediately start thinking about the same challenges. You hit the gym or the snooze button. You brush your teeth with the same toothpaste brand you’ve bought for 5 years. You order or make the same coffee as you did the day before… while a routine is nice and comforting, it’s not the memories you look back on one day.

When you’re 80 or 90, you will want to have a life full of stories. Good stories, bad stories, hilarious stories, awkward stories, heart-wrenching stories… and it won’t matter so much to you then, because the delight will be in the variety. The fact that you gave this life your all, and have the memories to prove it.

So if nothing else, conquer your fear because it’s another memory to have in your story book. A moment that you felt so alive because you did something completely new, novel, or foreign to you. You faced your fears. You went for it. And if nothing else, know that…

You Almost Always Get a Reward

I used to make a practice of trying one new thing every month. The only rules were that the activity had to be something I’d never done before, and something that was a little bit out of my comfort zone. Eventually, something surprising happened.

I began to realize that, almost every time, I received some kind of breakthrough. I’d be running in that sprint triathlon, when an idea for a new blog post or book concept would pop into my head. I’d be rock climbing, and realize I no longer even needed the ex I had been so worried about when I walked in the studio.

The breakthroughs looked different every time. Sometimes they were an idea, other times a revelation, and other times peace about a situation I’d been grasping for.

So if nothing else, know this: your fear isn’t without reward. Whether it’s a new client, thought, perspective, or story, you will almost always get something out of your efforts.

In the words of Glennon Doyle, ”The braver I am, the luckier I get.”

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