Imagine taming your most challenging fears in just 10 minutes! Debbie Lacy joined Radiantly You! to share just how easy it can be to overcome fears when you have a solid strategy. Please enjoy this excerpted interview from the show and download Debbie’s 10-minute fear-taming worksheet! If you want to listen to or download the show podcast, just follow this link.
Susie: In the first half of the show, we’re going to be talking about conquering fear with Debbie Lacey. Debbie has degrees in psychology and social work. She’s a former social worker, but she didn’t really have the tools to manage the stress and the emotional toll that that job took. She ended up training as a life coach and things were going really well until tragedy struck. Her father was killed by a teenage employee and it was truly a life-changing traumatic event, really an unbearable sense of loss. She experienced every emotion on her healing journey from this tragedy and now she coaches people through loss, healing, self-compassion, purpose, and on our topic of discussion today, fear. Welcome Debbie. Thank you for joining us.
Debbie: Thank you so much Susie. I’m really happy to be here today.
Susie: Tell us a little bit more about your journey. How it came to be that one of your specialties is coaching on fear.
Debbie: Well, when I started becoming a coach, I had to navigate my own fears about starting my business. I was used to being employed and having other people take care of all the things that they take care of when they host you for having a job. I had to manage my own fears. But as I started working with people, I realized that from almost everyone I saw, that fear what they needed to overcome. And for some people, it was what they needed to overcome before they could even identify their goals or dreams. It was such a barrier and such a thing that held people back that I had to find tools to begin shifting that for people or we could never get to the steps of personal accountability and goal setting and all of those things that are so important to living the life that you want to live.
Susie: Fear is powerful, but not always in a good way?
Debbie: Yes. Right. And I always say that the goal is not to eradicate it, fear is one of our emotions, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s a messenger. We don’t want to ever eradicate fear, even if that were possible, what we want to do is we want to dial it back enough so that we can take action so that fear isn’t driving the bus or as I like say, running the show.
Susie: Yes! One of the things that I experience is quite often fear is actually an underlying emotion. And there will be other things that they’re coming in to address, but underlying it all is fear. What exactly happens there? I don’t know if people are always necessarily aware that fear is an issue for them.
Debbie: Well, you’re so right about that. I think one of the first skills in managing fear is attunement. That sense of self-awareness and responsiveness to self. Being really aware of what you’re afraid of and what the fears are, that layer on top of that. And really fear, when I look at it, I think of it more as a story that we tell ourselves about the awful things that could happen. Fear is an anticipatory thing, it’s rarely something that we feel in the moment with great intensity. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been in fear mode in the actual doing of something. Most of the time when we’re afraid in our lives, it’s in the anticipation of something.
Susie: When we can be more present, we’re less likely to experience fear because fear is projecting forward, right?
Debbie: Almost always, yes.
Susie: You have a wonderful strategy, well actually, you have a package of strategies for people, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Debbie: Yes. I have seven fear-taming strategies that all take 10 minutes or less, and these are strategies that are tried and tested over the past 13 years of me doing this life-coaching work, and they’ve worked with all different kinds of people. I do want to say one caveat and that is that I’m not speaking about these as a resource for people who have panic attacks, full-blown panic attacks, or clinical anxiety. As a former therapist myself, I’m well aware of the challenges that those experiences can bring. And while these tools can be a helpful aid to people who are experiencing those more extreme forms of fear and anxiety, they in of themselves are often not enough by any means. I just want to clarify that, but these are tools that can really get you from being overwhelmed by your fear and paralyzed by it to moving into action and there are seven of them, yes.
Susie: How does fear affect our overall health? Because I want to look at it in a broader, more holistic picture also than just, “Oh, I’m feeling fearful at the moment.,” It’s not just compartmentalized like that, is it?
Debbie: Not at all, no. Right now, anyone listening, if you think about something that you’re worried about or afraid of right here in the moment, you can start feeling the sensations in your physical body right away. It can translate to raised heart rate, sweaty palms, chest tightness, stomach constriction, all of these things. And what’s interesting is that when we are in fear mode, as I said before, we’re weaving a story about something that might happen, but our brain doesn’t distinguish between what we’re imagining and what is real, and so our brain responds as if we are actually going through that. That fight, flight or freeze can kick in and that can be very hard on the physical body. But even more than that is that it, healthwise, of course impacts us because of those things. But look at all the actions that we don’t take because we’re in fear mode and then what are the ramifications to our physical health, spiritual, emotional health when we don’t take the actions that we know we could and should be taking.
Susie: Give us some ideas of what some of those ramifications are, like how can it impact our life?
Debbie: Yeah, it literally can keep you stuck. And really, when people are faced with a fear and they don’t have the tools or the willingness to manage the fears, what happens is the fears take over and they prevent you from taking action. You perpetuate this sense of being stuck and trapped and it doesn’t allow you to grow, and so you start making decisions that are all about avoiding pain and discomfort instead of moving toward the things that you want.
Susie: And the pain and discomfort that people might be trying to avoid, I guess, the fear would actually be the body’s mechanism, mind’s mechanism of trying to protect you, right?
Susie: But there again, as you said, the mind doesn’t really know whether this is a true threat or just something that you’re fearful of.
Debbie: Yes, in fact, that’s one of the questions that we ask when fear shows up as a messenger and that’s one of the strategies, it’s called Hear It. And you listen in to the message behind the fear. And one of the things I like to ask fear is, “What are you protecting?”
Susie: Okay. How could listeners do that if they were to try to to hear it, what would be a good way for them to focus in on that?
Debbie: Just like you did in your beautiful centering in the beginning, you can go into your body and you can begin thinking about the thing that you’re worried about or anxious about and allow that to surface up. And you can take a deep breath and then you can ask yourself, “What must be protected?” And listen for the response, whatever comes. Sometimes it’s an actual verbal answer, but often times, it might be something a little strange to you like an image or a memory. Pay attention to whatever shows up, it’s all valuable information. Make note of it. And you can begin responding to that of if you know something must be protected, then how can you go about creating some sense of safety and security around that thing while also still moving forward with what you know you need to do?
Susie: Why don’t you go ahead and tell us about your plan.
Debbie: Yeah, let me go through the seven strategies real quick. How to Tame Your Fears in 10 Minutes or Less also comes with a free workbook which is on my site. The first strategy is you want to name it, name your actual fear. When you name a thing, you tame it. This is critical, because a lot of people let these fears buzz in the background and they never really articulate the actual thing that they’re afraid of. The second strategy is called work it. Some of these are writing exercise, some of these are things that you can just do, and listen, and kinda meditate on. Work it is one where you go through asking yourself the question, “Is this true?” It’s kind of based on The Work by Byron Katie, if you or your listeners are familiar with her. You work through the obstacles that can come up and literally work out the fear. The third strategy is called Hear It and I mentioned that a moment ago where you begin having this dialogue with the fear, really trying to dig out the messages that it’s giving you. And the fourth one is called Contain it and I love this one because this one, I don’t want you to spend any more than five minutes doing and it’s the five-minute freak out technique. What we want to do is we want to contain the fear to a specific time during your day so that you’re telling the fear, “Hey, you don’t get to leak out all day long.” This is your one chance, go ahead and you just let it all out. You can cry, you can scream and yell, you can just feel the fear, but you only set the timer for five minutes because you don’t want it to get too much attention.
Susie: I actually really like that one, because too often, we really feel like we have to hold everything in. And then I can completely see how that could just build, and build, and build. But you’re kinda giving it permission, “This is your time, hello fear, let’s just have a freak out.”
Debbie: And it puts you in the driver’s seat because it’s not fair and it’s not right for fear to just kind of drive the bus all day long. That’s the fourth one. And the fifth strategy is called Flip it. I love this quote that I once heard from Robert Heller and he said, “Fear is excitement without the breath.” Fear and excitement in our physical bodies are very much very similar, they’re very linked. The physiology of our responses to both are very similar. I always say that whatever is worth having in life has both fear and excitement attached to it. If you’re feeling fearful about something, flip it over. There’s excitement there.
Susie: I was reading on your site that there were some of the things that you did after you tamed your fears. And I’m wondering if you could describe one of these in the Flip It mechanism. And that was you went sky diving. I could see that being an activity that’s got fear and excitement both in it, how would you flip that?
Debbie: Well, nobody goes sky diving unless they’re excited to do it. I don’t think you ever really going to go if you’re so terrified and there’s no excitement about it. But you’re right, that’s one of those activities that has both. I think, for me, what I had to do was… The fear set in when I was literally in the plane, the whole side of it is wide open and you’re supposed to walk out. I did the static line, so I didn’t do tandem. It’s just me. And the parachute deploys automatically on static line when you jump and hopefully everything is okay. And you get training for four hours on how to work your chute, if it gets tangled or whatever. It’s very nerve wrecking.
In that moment, I had to just actually do a lot of breathing techniques and connect in with why I wanted to do this. This was a bucket list item for me, and so how cool, I’m here. I’m literally standing on the edge of the wing and I’m about to jump, and I had to keep flipping over to excitement because the adrenaline was raging. And it’s just really loud, there’s just a lot of things going on when you’re about to jump out of a plane.
Susie: You’re reminding yourself really, right? “Yes, I’m having some fear, but this is really exciting.”
Debbie: Right. This is cool. Yes. Isn’t this cool? Isn’t this… And realizing that my accelerated heartbeat, I could attribute to fear or I could attribute it to excitement. And it’s way better if you attribute it to excitement.
Susie: This is really empowering. I like that because all of these really put you as you said, in the driver’s seat. What’s the next step?
Debbie: Then the sixth strategy is Drop It, and this is to consciously put the fear down. You can just decide. It’s kind of the opposite of the freak-out session. You basically say, “You know what? It’s not time right now for you to be expressing yourself. I’m not going to put my attention to you. I’m going to go for a walk, I’m going to play some music, I’m going to do something else that distracts me from whatever thoughts and feelings are feeding the fear right now.” You just drop it.
Susie: That one sounds a little more challenging, I think.
Debbie: It can be. Especially if you’re one that tends to ruminate on things and really wants to work it out mentally. But it’s something like all of these that you can practice over time. And I think when people start feeling the benefits of each one, then they’re more apt to try it again. If you just try dropping it and getting your mind on something else in that moment and watching how your body responds positively to you dropping that fear off to the side even for half an hour or an hour, you’ll really get into the benefits of it and want to do it more and more.
Susie: I think that’s really a great point to make is that this isn’t necessarily something that right off the bat is going to just get you out of the place of fear. It is practice, practice, practice – so it’ll become your new normal.
Debbie: Yes. But I do say that, I think practicing any one of these in the 10 minutes or less, you’re gonna experience a decrease in your fear. If you go in and you would rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, let’s say at an 8, you can expect that to drop at least 1 or 2 points just within 10 minutes. And what we’re trying to do again is not eliminate this fear, but dial it down enough so that you can take an action that feels positive, that moves you forward and closer to what you want.
Susie: Great. And the last step?
Debbie: Shut it down. This is when you do the thing that fear hates, it does not like you to do this. And that is to do a 10-minute visualization where you are imagining yourself taking the step or doing the action that you’re afraid of. Not only do you go through it in your mind like a positive visualization, what you also do is you imagine any potential obstacles and how you might overcome them. And this strategy, your brain responds so well to this and really supports you moving forward to be able to overcome any obstacles if you’ve already tried it out in your mind beforehand. Fear absolutely hates this because it just shuts it down immediately and you actually start developing a plan in your head about how you’re gonna move forward and you can even see it.
Susie: Let’s take the example of changing jobs. The number of people who have jobs that are not serving them at all and their discomfort is a huge message for them. They’re getting the messages physically, emotionally that this is not the right job, but fear screams louder and people have a hard time leaving a job. How could they use these steps to work through that fear?
Debbie: That’s probably the number one thing that I’ve worked with people on. I get a lot of career changers and people who are really at their wits end and they’re not sure what to do next in their career, but they know they can’t stay where they are. The fears come up, and why? Because it’s attached to your safety and security obviously. If you’re earning an income, the thought of leaving that to do something else that’s uncertain is very scary. I really think that if you go through some of these steps and start breaking it down, for example, naming your fear. Are you afraid that you’re not going to be able to find a new job? Are you afraid that it’s going to take too long and you’re not going to be able to maintain your household? You want to really go there, because so many times we try to avoid addressing it and then we don’t have the wherewithal to move ahead and we actually forget that we are well-equipped to deal with discomfort. We really are. But we have forgotten that because of the pills we can take and the Internet we can surf and all the things that we can do to get away from the discomfort.
I invite people to go there with what the feelings are, what you really feel you’re afraid of and then working through the steps, that last one I mentioned about shutting it down by imagining what, “If I were to think about leaving my job, what would be one thing… Where would I begin? Where could I possibly begin?” And visualizing yourself making that phone call or looking online for possible other jobs or hiring a coach or whatever it may be. Visualize yourself doing that and taking some deep breaths and just continuing to move into it as you’re diminishing the fear and taking an action immediately. As soon as you feel your fear dropped down enough, take some kind of action because all these fear taming techniques are for naught if you’re not actually gonna move forward with something, right?
Susie: Right. And I would encourage everybody who’s listening to go ahead and just try that first exercise to name it because in a sense, that’s releasing; and just see how good that feels. See if you feel a shift … just connect with your own body and experience what you feel. Be sure to download this workbook.
Debbie: And when you do download that, you’ll get an invitation from me to join my private Facebook group which is called Ready Set Manifest. And that’s a really nice community where we all support each other to overcome our fears and take those next steps that are so critical to living the life that we want to live.
Susie: That’s wonderful that they also have the Facebook support group. Can you give us some examples of incredible transformations that you’ve seen when people have gone through steps like this?
Debbie: Yeah. Let me stick with that first one of naming it. I had this really interesting example, once I was doing a workshop on my Money Mindful Curriculum. Talk about fear, money is often right there with it. I had this woman in the workshop, and one of the first things I invite everyone to do is write down an actual fear that they have about money and on a scale of one to 10, rate its intensity at that moment when they’re sitting there in the workshop. I had a woman, she wrote down a fear. She rated it at an eight and at the end of the day I go back and I say, “Okay. What shifted if anything in the numbers that you all put down for your fears?” And she said that hers was down to a zero.
Debbie: That’s what I said. I said, “Wow. I know I’m good, but I don’t know if I’m quite that good like in one day get you from an eight to a zero?” And she said what happened was, in the naming it process, she realized that the fear she wrote down in the morning was not her own fear. It was her husband’s fear.
Susie: That’s very powerful.
Debbie: Yes. She decided to drop it. She decided to leave it behind and recognize that she didn’t have to keep holding that, and so it completely diminished for her. It just imploded.
Susie: I would have to say that is a great lesson for everyone out there, because I think everybody holds some level of fear that we have taken on from someone else.
Debbie: Yes, ancestrally we pass our fears down through generations. I’m a firm believer of that and we get these stories and these messages growing up and they’re all in the lore of who we are and we don’t take the time to actually examine them and ask ourselves, do we want to keep carrying this story or not?
Susie: This is amazing work. Thank you so much for joining us.[Listen to the archived show]