The Role of Fear
by Dan Gleason, DC
Fear is a state of mind and body that results from a perceived threat. It prepares one for fight or flight. It is mediated by the lower, reptilian parts of the brain and is amplified through the sympathetic nervous system, including the adrenal glands. Adrenaline is secreted into the blood stream and the nervous system, producing the characteristic pounding heart and increase in strength, blood pressure and blood sugar. These surges allow effective action when fleeing or fighting is warranted.
Chronic fear might be described as anxiety. The proper role of anxiety is to motivate one to take precautions—to stimulate one to be prepared for dangers such as famines, floods, wars or injuries. Being prepared, when done with the right mindset, can significantly reduce anxiety. Therefore, fear is appropriate when it motives one to be careful.
Fear is also warranted when there is an immediate threat, but it becomes destructive when elicited by things that are not immediate threats. Many chronic diseases are related to long-term fear. (But let’s not stress or have anxiety over that!)
The Triad of Health model for understanding what causes issues and what can be done to address them is helpful here. The three pillars of health are:
• Physical • Mental • Chemical
Physically people can act out stress. Exercise allows one to “burn off” adrenaline and to become fit, prepared to deal with threats real and perceived.
Mentally people can pray, meditate and use breathing techniques. There are also ways of gaining perspective so that the likelihood of harm is put in the proper perspective relative to risks people easily accept on a daily basis.
Chemically people can work on the diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is devoid of essential nutrients and loaded with empty carbs, overheated vegetable fats, preservatives, etc. Stress causes the body to “burn up” magnesium, potassium and B vitamins. Nutritional supplementation is key to combatting fear and stress. Nutritional testing is important to determine individual needs.
Getting enough quality sleep works on all three pillars.
It is a stressful time. The repeated news accounts of political and medical events increases fear. It is recommended to consume news in careful doses balanced with focusing on all that is good. Regularly expressing gratitude, listening to loved ones and trust can help counteract bad news.
Martin Seligman is the father of positive psychology for inspiration. He and his team postulate Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) in contrast to PTSD. His work suggests that people often come out of stressful situations better and stronger. He also suggests that Fight or Flight might come from the masculine side, but equally as strong in the face of fear is the more feminine, Tend and Befriend.
I close with an excerpt from Max Ehrmann’s 1952 poem, Desiderata.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410. See ad page 14.