I Did It! Conquering My Fear

Written by: Tara Lehman on August 4th 2017
All my life I have hated and feared spiders, and particularly those long legged, hairy, large and scary tarantulas.  I have seen them at events, in cages and even at birthday parties, where I have had chances with other onlookers to touch or hold one of those creatures.  My fear was so intense I could not even look at them or would shake my arms as I backed away as if it were walking up my arm.  That all changed in at Science North in Sudbury on July 29th 2017.

With my wonderful sister, her kids, partner and my daughter, we all drove from our cottage on Manitoulin Island to Science North for my nephew’s birthday.  I love this place and had been there a couple of years earlier.  Enjoying the hands on experiences there, I held a giant millipede, fed a skunk and held a snake – all without fear, but full of curiosity.  However, when we came near the tarantulas, I sped past them saying “yuck” without looking.

This year was different.  I had just started to read a great book on worry and anxiety by Dale Carnegie entitled: How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.  This is an old book and some of the stories I have to ignore (including parts of a chapter about housewives) as the book was written in the 1940’s.  I had only read a couple of chapters when we went, but I began to realize that us humans worry too much, including myself.

I thought, as I had to stop and watch my nephews hold the tarantula when we got to that part of Science North that day, ‘why can they do this and I can’t?  As kids, a lot of us have lesser fear of things such as spiders and bugs than we do as adults – I remember playing with daddy long-legged spiders without worry as a little kid.  I was proud of myself for having the ability to stop and actually watch my nephews hold this hairy bug, as normally I would have told them I would meet them at the next exhibit, then run!  The handler then ask if I wanted to try holding “her”.  I hesitated and to my surprise responded with: “I think so.”  What did I just say?  I was shocking myself, let alone the family around me.  I handed my sister my phone to take a picture, placed my hand on the table and told the handler I was ready.  The spider, which was very gentle and surprisingly light, walked onto my hand.  My sister took a couple of pictures and then I said: “please take it off”.  We then went on to the next exhibit, butterflies which are way more my thing, where my hand shook for about 10 minutes after that spider experience.  Even now when I look at the picture I can’t believe I did it, but am showing that picture to everyone with pride!

What happened in my mind that day?  I thought about how nothing horrible happened to my nephews, the handler was right beside me to take the tarantula off the second I asked him to, and he had told me that she was gentle and would not bite.  I asked myself, ‘In this situation, what is the worst thing that could happen?’  Well it may bite me.  ‘What were the odds of this happening?’  Very low or they would not allow her to crawl on people’s hands.  So, what was I all worried about?  Nothing really.  Processing the thoughts and likelihood of my worse fear happening helped me get over this fear.   I accepted the odds of anything bad happening as being really low and I faced my fear.  Would I handle a domestic tarantula again?  You bet I would!
Dale Carnegie has great ways in his book, on how to think about and overcome worry, most of which as still valid today.  I have created a thinking process tool to help with overcoming fears, from several of his tips.  Good luck and conquer those fears one at a time!

TLC Tool – Conquering Your Fear:
1 – Write down or ask yourself, “What am I afraid of in this moment?”
2 – Write down or ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that could possibly happen?
3 – Write down or ask yourself, “What is the likelihood that my worst fear will happen?”  This is where you need to analyze the situation as I did above.  My fear of the spider biting me was not likely to happen and if it did, there was plenty of help around.   If she did bite me and my fear happened, I was in a safe environment.
4 – Accept your analysis and prepare yourself to move forward – deep breathing works here too or having a safe environment with people around, such as in my situation.
5 – Ask yourself if you are ready to face it.   If not, try starting with a smaller fear.
6 – Face your fear with pride! Good luck!
Conquering Fear

What Did You Say? Active Listening

By Tara Lehman, Copyright 2018

Active Listening is key to any relationship, whether it be between husband and wife, parent and child, boss and employee, co-worker to co-worker or any other relationship or conversation with 2 or more people.  So, what is it and why is it so important?

Active Listening is about being present in the current conversation without judgement but with true interest in what the speaking party is saying.  It is about focusing on the speaker with both your ears and saving your one mouth for the appropriate time to speak or reply.  As the great Epictetus a Philosopher once said, “We have two ears and one mouth so we may listen more and talk less.”  This is very important so that you can hear and listen to understand the speaker.  While using your mouth to reply when needed but to reply to ensure you understand before making any decisions.  For example, if I say I am going to have the report ready tomorrow, you may hear tomorrow and have a preconceived idea that means at 9am.  I may mean tomorrow before we leave for the day at 4pm.  If we don’t actively listen to understand, we have heard that the report will be ready tomorrow, but we have not fully understood what “tomorrow” actually means.  If you are actively listening, you should not be making an assumption when that will be, nor should you have thoughts about how you will respond running through your mind while they talk (if you do, refocus on what they are saying).  When they are done, use this time to confirm what time we can expect it, so you both fully understand what the speaker is trying to convey.

Active Listening, according to Mindset (Sweden), is about three things: Paying Attention, Showing that You Are Listening, and Providing Feedback.  So how do you do these things?

  • Remember you have two ears and one mouth
  • Don’t let your mind wonder while the speaker is talking. Focus on what they are saying.  If it starts to wonder, refocus.
  • While they are speaking, don’t formulate a response in your mind at the same time. This means you are not listening to what they are saying if you are thinking of a response already.  Your response should be formulated only after they are done talking
  • Do not cut the speaker off as this can be interpreted as you not really being interested in what they have to say
  • Use body language to show you are listening – i.e. nod, smile, look at them directly, don’t fiddle, don’t look at your phone, etc
  • Ensure your posture, whether sitting or standing, is open and inviting – don’t cross your arms across your chest, for example, as this is seen as a closed posture
  • Listen! Use the power of silence
  • Ask questions if you do not fully understand – remember listen to understand and reply to be understood and to clarify or summarize what you heard
  • Respond in a manner and tone you would expect from someone else
  • Look the speaker in the eyes
  • Summarize what they said how you have interpreted it to ensure you are getting their message. In the above example, perhaps ask: You mentioned you can have the report done tomorrow.  Can you tell me what time tomorrow I can expect the report?

Active Listening takes practise and does not necessary come to everyone naturally or easily.  If you are prone to cutting people off, you may need to start with recognizing you are doing this, apologize when you do and re-focus on what they are saying.   If your mind starts to wonder or go through the long list of to do’s you have, while you are talking with someone, simply let the speaker know that you missed part of what they said, apologize, ask them to repeat while you focus and practice your Active Listening.

The next time you are in a conversation remember you have two ears and one mouth and use them appropriately – listen to understand their side or their perspective, then speak so they fully understand yours.  You may not ever agree, but at least you can both appreciate the other’s point of view.

We have also created a YouTube video on Active Listening to complement this article.  You can watch it on our channel at youtube.com/twinlifecoaching.  Be sure to subscribe so you can see new videos when they are posted.

Don’t Forget To Breathe!

By Barb Chapman and Tara Lehman

Copyright 2018

Do you ever find yourself breathing quickly or even holding your breath during stressful moments?   Do you lay in bed at night with your mind and heart racing together?  Could you use a quick relaxation technique?  Don’t forget to breathe!

Everyone has moments of anxiety or stress in their lives.  Some situations can cause short term anxiety for a few minutes, where other situations may cause days, weeks or even months of high stress.  Being mindful of your physical symptoms of stress or anxiety and how it affects your body (i.e. quick or shallow breathing, anxiety attacks, seeing stars, tight or sore muscles, etc) is very important to your wellbeing.   Recognizing that your body shows physical symptoms of stress, allows you to understand that your body sometimes requires intervention to calm down.  One way of providing an immediate physical calm is deep breathing.

If you are a yoga or meditation fan, you probably already know how to do intentional deep breathing.  Just use that practise every day or during high stress moments when you just can’t calm down.  Not a yoga master?  No problem.  There is a simple approach that you can do anywhere at any time.  People may not even know you are doing it.

How do you deep breathe?  There are many ways, but here is one that may help.  Stand or sit in a position where you feel comfortable and alert, but not slouched.  If you are able and where safe, close your eyes for this exercise – this is best done in a sitting position.  Open your eyes any time you feel that you become unstable.  Put your hands on your abdomen to ensure you are breathing the breath in to your stomach and not your chest.  Breathe in slowly for a count of 3 seconds, ensuring the breath reaches your stomach – your abdomen should extend, shoulders should stay down.  Then breathe out through your mouth for 3 seconds, while doing this being always mindful in relaxing your shoulders and tense muscles.  Take a 3 second break before repeating 3-5 times.

After doing this exercise, you should feel an immediate reduction in tenseness of muscles and a reduction in the speed of your breath.  This exercise can be completed several times during the day.  Ever thought about sharing this activity with others who may feel stressed or anxious?  It may be beneficial for everyone to join in this activity.

If you feel there is any other reason for your physical symptoms or you are unsure if this exercise is for you, please seek medical advice.  This exercise is not meant to help any medical conditions, but to aid during stressful moments in time.

For a demonstration on how to do deep breathing, check out our You Tube video (don’t forget to subscribe).  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6fvKnYz18QeaSmgfCpDlBQ