You know the feeling: the hair on the back of your neck stands up as your breathing quickens and your heart hammers inside your ribcage. Your pupils dilate as adrenaline floods your bloodstream. You’re scared. Whether you find this thrilling or or horrible, fear actually offers quite a few health benefits.
At its most basic level, fear can be credited for keeping us alive. The development of the “fight or flight” impulse in our sympathetic nervous systems kept our ancestors on the savannah from being eaten by predators. We can use our inherited instincts combined with a healthy dose of common sense to avoid all kinds of physical danger.
Especially as women, we are taught to listen to the voice inside that tells us to be fearful in certain situations. The next time you are choosing whether to walk down a dark street at night or deciding to leave the bar with that nice guy you just met, pay attention to any fear you may sense bubbling up in your nervous system. It just may save your life.
As contrary as it may seem, fear may actually benefit your spiritual health. Some find meaning, hope and inner peace in religion, while others grow spiritually through connections with art, nature or other people. Religions encourage a respectful fear of their deity in order for people to grow fully as a follower of their values.
Fear can also play a positive role for those who enjoy spirituality through human connections. Fear’s cousin, concern, keeps us from being lazy in our relationships. iIn manageable amounts, fear of being rejected or abandoned helps keep us responsive to significant people in our lives.
While you may not feel terribly great in the midst of a fearful episode, working through your fear can give you an emotional boost. This happens in both a physical and a mental capacity. An adrenaline rush usually includes an increase in endorphin activity, releasing hormones that are responsible for feelings of happiness and pain relief. Who doesn’t want more of those?
Perhaps the greatest emotional benefit to fear is the sense of accomplishment we get from facing those things that scare us. A primary way to work through fear and anxiety is self talk, says Dr. Jill Klingler, a clinical psychologist in Montgomery.
“Self talk involves holding an internal dialogue with yourself. Instead of thinking negative thoughts about something that scares you, bully over them with positive statements,” Klingler says. “Orient yourself toward the future in a positive way.” By overcoming a fear, whether it involves getting on a dreaded rollercoaster or asking for a raise at work, you’ll feel fabulous that you were strong enough to take the risk!
Achieving a balance of healthy fear with ample self-confidence is good for you. Embrace whatever scares you this Halloween season, and enjoy the health benefits it brings!