Fear is one important aspect of our lives. It keeps us alive and it also prevents us from moving forward. The Human Brain documentary shows that we can actually train our brain and have control over it. We can train our brain to be able to deal with fear so that we can still move, make rational decisions and don’t panic.
The history shows that mistakes are almost always associated with fear or panic. The best place to learn how to deal with fear is navy seals training where trainees are introduced to absolute chaos and struggle from the first day to train their mind and learn how they can minimize making mistakes by training their mind to handle fear.
Before getting into how Navy Seals deal with fear we should first learn how brain works and why we panic.
Brain weighs 3 pounds yet consumes 20% of the fuel that body receives to be able to function. The first part of the brain is called Brain Stem. This part is responsible to keep us alive. It is the part that is common between humans and other reptiles and mammals. This part of the brain is in charge of heart rate, digestion, blood pressure and almost anything else that keeps us alive and we do subconsciously on a day to day basis.
The next part above this is AMYGDALA which handles emotional reactions. Amygdala is as small as a finger nail and we have one in each part of our brain. One of the strongest emotions we have is fear and panic.
The Frontal Lobe is the conductor of our body. This is the part that makes us most human. Frontal Lobe is in charge of decision making, problem solving, and thinking.
The reason we freeze when we are in a fearful situation is that information gets to Amygdala twice as fast as it takes to get to the Frontal Lobe. Because of this reason when we feel fear we freeze and panic before being able to think and decide about a rational reaction.
Navy Seals training minimizes these delays by teaching accurate and fast reactions to fearful situations. Trainees will be faced with many struggles from the first day. They’ll learn how to react to these struggles so the delay in brain for problem solving won’t bother them anymore and won’t cause panic and freeze due to not having any clue on how to react to that specific situation.
The way brain communicates with body is through sending electrical signals through nerve cells to other parts of the body. These signals travel with a speed of 270 mph. When we are under extreme stress brain communicates in another way. Amygdala triggers a chain reaction that releases stress hormone to our blood and this hormone prepares our body to react to the situation.
This is when you feel fast breathing, faster heart rate, and blood pressure. This hormone also makes memory sharper, and our body less sensitive to pain.
So now that you know how brain dictates and how body reacts to fear let’s see how Navy Seals training helps trainees to deal with fear. Almost all failings through the training comes from this phase where trainees have to overcome their fear. Through this set of 4 techniques however they have reduced the amount of failures.
Goal Setting, Mental Rehearsal, Self Talk, and Arousal Control are 4 techniques used in the mental toughness program to control fear even in the most extreme situations.
Goal Setting: it is done by using the Frontal Lobe of the brain as this part is responsible for reasoning, and planning. Goal setting brings structure to the brain in chaos and keeps Amygdala in check. Goals should be broken down to small and very specific tasks. This way you bring the focus only to a small part of what you have to do instead of making your brain worry about what is going to happen next.
This way of setting goals is amazing if you want to achieve anything you want in life. Although it is good to have a big picture of the end result but you definitely have to break down that big picture into small sets of goals and bring your focus on only one goal until you finish it.
If you are confused on what to do today, pick only one thing and tell yourself I only need to finish this. And make that one goal your main goal and believe that this is the only thing you need to do to win. Now your brain won’t shift to other tasks and is not worried about what is going to happen next.
Mental Rehearsal or Visualization: this is where your imagination comes to help you. Visualize a situation and set of activities you do to handle that situation. Once visualizing make sure you visualize the perfect reaction you can have. This helps greatly with whatever you do in your real life.
I have personally tried this with my music lessons. When I had problem moving my hand smoothly to play a piece of music I closed my eyes and visualized playing that piece perfectly. I saw my hand and wrist moving in their best way to play the piece smooth without pauses. Once your brain picks the right reaction and sees the pictures you are imagining and learns how to move your hand then you will need way less time to perfectly play that piece of music. Visualization is as important as practicing whatever you do in life to train your brain and body.
Self-Talk: you have probably heard it many times that you are what you think about. Did you know you can actually rewrite brain signals that come from your brain to your body with what you think about and how you talk to yourself? An average person talks to herself between 300 to 1000 words. Why not making all these words positive when we know it impacts our brain and its ability to push us through hard times? If it is possible to overwrite the brains signals why don’t we use “I can do it” instead of “I can’t do it”? Why say negative words when we can say positive words and become stronger?
Frontal Lobe is always active. So it is easy to get in trap and have negative thoughts. It is easy to see a situation and think you can’t handle it because of lack of training, lack of strength, lack of support which ends up convincing you to give up. make sure you are always conscious about what you think and that you are always thinking positive pushing yourself to achieve more and get stronger.
Arousal Control: this is breathing technique. Slow breathing with long exhales mimics the body relaxation process. Once you practice breathing slow your body relaxes and more oxygen gets into your brain to think and come up with ideas.
These are 4 techniques that you need to combine in order to train your brain handle stressful and fearful situations and help you get through what it feels is impossible.