Before I begin, I want you to know I am not a licensed therapist or phycologist. I am not here to help or give medical advice. Talking about overcoming fear is something I want to break down so you have a better understanding of why you respond the way you do.
What I do want to share is my passion for helping take basic clinical principles and make sure they are grounded in Biblical Truth so you can apply healing practically to your life. I want you to walk away with knowledge of why you may be reacting and triggered the way you are.
Why are the words coming out of our mouths and fingertips the way they are? Is it because it’s just the way we feel? Sure, we carry beliefs (we all do). However, when those beliefs get challenged, our fear response (or stress response) kicks in and takes over. When we operate from fear and stress, we lose our ability to reason and think more clearly. (And when not addressed, over time, can continue to compound.)
The prefrontal cortex can shut down, allowing the amygdala to take over and causing us to shut down all rational thinking.
We can’t continue to ignore our pain anymore. Jesus is ready to take your hand and walk you through this journey. A journey that may feel hard, heavy, and impossible to get through.
As I share throughout this post and episode and in my book Face Off with Your Feelings (which you will find many exerts from my book in this post), we can not control other people, but we can manage our inner world with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord keeps pressing on my heart how many of us respond to our emotional responses and how we continue to live instead of healing from our pain. When we live in this world through the lens of our pain, we can become easily offended, believe no one cares about us or our well-being, or cause us to carry anger because, deep down, we fear the pain that could come.
Which leads me to ask: How much are we trusting God, or how much are we trusting what the world offers us?
Remember, fear is a natural response to protection. Therefore, overcoming fear is making sure we do not live from fear.
How to Overcome Fear and Anxiety
Our pain and feelings can be felt. We do not have to ignore our feelings. I know the world is convincing us that feelings have the final say. It’s easy to become controlled by our reactions without regard to the kindness and goodness Jesus portrayed for us. No one is here to say your pain is not justified. We will experience pain and heartbreak living in this world. However, if you are a born-again believer, you no longer belong to the world. You belong to the Kingdom where your future is different, where you belong to a different bloodline.
The fear response itself is not bad. God created our bodies to fear and know danger. However, it begins to change us when we live in the fear response (or stress response). Overcoming fear will help you overcome anxiety. As my friend Nicole Zasowski says, “Anxiety is a secondary emotion.”
You are about to read below an excerpt from Chapter 6 titled Understanding Feelings and Emotions from my book Face Off with Your Feelings.
To understand the impact, we have to go back to our past. We are spirits with a tender soul at home within a body where all parts communicate together. Our past is no mystery to God, but our past can guide us through our present responses. The more we look at our past to learn about our present, the better we can equip ourselves.
Our present response has a lot to do with how our past experiences have trained our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems—parts of our physical bodies. The sympathetic nervous system controls our fight-or-flight response. Our sympathetic nervous system acts like a green light that says, “All systems are ready to go and respond.” The sympathetic nervous system triggers our fight or flight response, which tells our body how to respond to the current situation in front of us that we are dealing with.
Should we run? Do we stay and fight? Is now the time to shut down and draw away?
Understanding our fight-or-flight response allows us to begin to have compassion for ourselves and those around us.
Fight-or-flight is our body’s response to survival. Our sympathetic nervous system is what drives the fight-or-flight response (or the stress response). Its response is to stimulate cortisol and adrenaline to mobilize us to fight or to flee from danger. The amygdala interprets the images and sounds, and then sends a signal to the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then communicates to the rest of the body, through the nervous system, how it needs to respond. We can view the hypothalamus like a command center.
When we are in a constant state of stress, and talking about how stressed we are, our bodies never leave a state of fight or flight. Our body protects us at all costs and is preparing for battle. Suppose our brains continue to view situations as dangerous. In that case, our brains will continue to send signals to our bodies, traveling to the pituitary glands, which release hormones that trigger the adrenals to produce cortisol.
Sometimes the smallest things can trigger emotions that fill us with regret. White-knuckling is an example of how we might try to push (and rush) through the day, experiences, and our everyday life. If we were in a game of tug-of-war, we would have our hands wrapped around the rope so tightly because we do not want to lose. In our attempt to win, we grip so hard our knuckles become white and the rope beneath our palms burns our hands. We may white-knuckle our life consciously or unconsciously, but we ignore the warning signs from our brains and our bodies that God designed specifically to help us cope. A few examples of this are ignoring hunger pains, apologizing for our feelings, and minimizing our feelings as not being so bad—or maybe a Netflix binge or picking up our phone more than a hundred times a day to distract ourselves.
(Overcoming fear and anxiety is about healing from living in a constant state of survival.)
Understanding fight or flight at its most basic level is essential to understand why we show up the way we do in certain situations. Learning how our body responds gives us the ability to pull away and into healing. God didn’t create us to live this life by “just getting by.” He came for us so we may have an abundant life. Even with the stress of this world, we get to live from a place of peace and a sound mind. Living in past experiences and emotions as if they are happening now can directly impact our health.
These experiences and our beliefs about them can impact how we live in the present and our future reality.
There might be times when we do not realize when this is happening. Still, we may begin to notice an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, or we may begin to feel anxious.
When we live in fight-or-flight mode, we cannot connect to the areas of our body that give us the ability to problem solve and to reason. I spent most of my life relying on the same coping way that I always had: defense, which is our fight-or-flight response.
Our bodies tell the stories of our souls.
What Are Emotions
Why are emotions important to understand when talking about overcoming fear and anxeity? They are important because there are reasons we respond the way we do. Everyone doesn’t respond to the same situation in the same way. We have to ask ourselves, why is that?
Here is an explanation from my book Face Off with Your Feelings:
Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger. When we think a thought from an internal or external trigger, the thought creates an emotion. The emotion is chemical, and energy communicating through the rest of the body creates a feedback loop between the brain and the body. Emotions are important because they “continuously regulate every living cell to adapt to emerging threats and opportunities. They provide raw data about the world around us that is essential to our functioning.”
Our emotions become influenced by our memories, beliefs, and personal experiences. Emotions are neurological answers to an internal or external stimulus.
For instance, say I spend a lot of time creating a post for social media. I am excited to post it, but when I do, no one likes or comments. Therefore, I believe no one likes me. I experience the emotion of sadness, which leads me to feeling lonely, isolated, and misunderstood. Therefore, I turn inward and never want to share anything again.
The trigger was no one liking or commenting. This could lead me in a downward spiral because I carried belief about the likes and comments that led me to experience the emotion of sadness.
You may not care about comments or likes. Therefore, your response and reaction will be different than someone who does.
Overcoming fear starts with learning about the nature and character of God, what He supplied us with here on earth, and renewing our minds to God’s truth.
What Are Feelings
Feelings, then, are the conscious experiences of the emotional reaction. They are the physical and mental sensations that arise as we internalize emotions. Feelings are cognitively saturated emotion chemicals. Feelings are necessary because “feelings are how we begin to make meaning of emotion; they cause us to pay attention and react to the perceived threats or opportunities. We’re acting on emotional data.”
When we say that “our bodies hold stories,” this refers to the narratives our minds believe about every pain, trauma, or moment in our lives. Every event we experience carries a story of joy or dread. The past stories our bodies hold become the reference guide for current events. Every moment, our bodies respond in the ways we have trained them through our beliefs, pain, and joyful moments.
Good news: If we have trained our brains and bodies to respond one way, it means we have the strength and power to train our brains in a new way. Feelings become sparked by emotions shaped by our personal beliefs or memories.
(Overcoming fear and anxiety will require us to be intentional, kind, and patient with ourselves as we learn the beliefs we carry.)
Thoughts are the language of the brain, and feelings are the language of the body. You can become subconsciously triggered by something someone said or an event. Therefore, you react and respond according to who you have experienced in the past or the story you have told around it. We can’t escape what’s in our souls and hearts.
Proverbs 27:19 paints a beautiful picture of this for us: “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.” There is no separating the two. They go together because our body works as one. We can’t escape or run away from what we feel because the root of our emotions is what tells us what to feel. (Exerpt from Chapter 6 titled Understanding Feelings and Emotions.)
Our Thought Patterns
Here is a simple understanding of what a thought pattern is and how we have to interrupt our patterns to begin overcoming fear and anxiety. This breakdown deals with the information your body is receiving from your senses then your body will decide what to do next. (I share more details about our thought patterns in my book Face Off with Your Feelings.)
Our bodies typically respond in this order at a fast pace:
- Trigger (stimulus)
Therefore, emotions are set into motion by an internal or external stimulus—a trigger.
Our emotions promote bodily reactions, such as increased heart rate, facial expressions, or sweating. To sum up, our emotions tell our bodies what to feel.
Overcome Fear and Anxiety Practically
First John 3:20 serves as a reminder that God is greater than our feelings and knows every detail about our hearts: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” We can’t run from Him, and He never hides from us. Knowing He is greater brings us comfort because He is our source of truth, not what we feel. When we know God never leaves us, even in our turmoil, we realize that time will not fix what we are going through; we must pursue healing.
Time can soften the intensity and frequency, but time doesn’t make what we feel go away. Feelings do not just go away. They transform into something better or bigger. (This is why I teach how to overcome fear and anxiety is important.) The goal is to create space between us and the emotion to focus our souls on God’s truth.
The following five steps make us aware of our emotions as they come: (to get all of five steps with more explanation and examples get my book Face Off with Your Feelings.)
1. Acknowledge the emotion.
Stop for a moment. When we begin to feel our heart start to race, our palms start to sweat, or like we want to cry or run, take a moment to acknowledge that our bodies are communicating something with us.
2. Identify the emotion.
Is fear, anger, or envy present? Once we acknowledge something isn’t right, we can give ourselves permission to explore what we are feeling.
3. Accept the emotion.
Acceptance allows us to feel without being run by what we are experiencing. I have learned we are run by our emotions when we run away from them.
4. Recognize what the emotion is telling you.
As we have learned, there are stories surrounding what we believe. They could be true, or they could be lies. Truth brings healing and restoration. Lies produce death and cause us to wage war in our souls.
5. Have a conversation with God.
Our last touching point in awareness is our conversation with God. How do we continue to move toward healing (versus continuing the cycle of this feeling)? It may feel hard, uncomfortable, and awkward. The healing hand of God can be felt in these moments.
Our goal is not to get rid of fear but to make sure fear sits in its proper place. The fear response is there to protect us but not a place to live from.