"When you come to the edge of all that you know, you must believe in one of two things: there will be earth upon which to stand,  or you will be given wings." Anonymous


Learn to Trust Yourself: Coping With Uncertainty

Do you doubt that you can survive whatever might come when considering a new venture or life change? You are stronger and more resilient than you were taught to believe. Few know how to deal with fear of failure and rejection. As children, we see criticism as equivalent to personal rejection of who we think we are. We learn to shrink our wonderful dreams into milder versions, or relegate them to fantasy. If the rejection was frequent, we learn to suppress our enthusiasm lest we reveal our flaws.

Believing we can handle whatever comes is something we learn as adults. We can face the possibility of hard times, even failure, when launching a business, inviting a new relationship, or taking on a personal challenge.

Everyone needs great courage to plant the seeds of their dreams. Those who succeed are seldom confident at the beginning of a challenge. They learn to use tools that help them manage the natural fear created by uncertainty. This is what “real grown-ups” do to be successful. They handle the pressure and complications as they arise.

Confidence is the Result--Not the Inspiration--of New Ventures

It’s natural to feel hesitation when considering moving toward anything new. We’ve all been victimized by the grand illusion that it’s necessary to feel confident of success before trying something new. Most of us pretend to have more trust in others and confidence in ourselves than we actually feel. We were fooled by how well others could act assured even with insecurity.

Young Joan Baez thought people could see her knees knocking together in fright, Frank Sinatra needed people to push him on to the stage, and Anne Lamott reached into the mail slot to try to retrieve her manuscript. Icons of extraordinary talent reveal how uncertain they are in the beginning of every project.
Although it feels good to know we aren’t alone, we still must face our personal fears. Once we make the commitment, the deep division within each of us can become filled with anxiety. Voices we barely recognize shout we can’t handle the stress that comes with quitting smoking, getting married, starting a business, or writing a book.

Build Confidence By Saying YES!

There is a formula to increase your confidence. It begins with the willingness to leap into a new idea knowing you could fail. The slim thread that keeps you safe is the belief that you will survive the failure and still be lovable. You are much bigger than any idea you will promote. All you need is the courage to commit, and take the first step toward your dream.

  • Courage lets you to face the fear of making mistakes, which leads to
  • Success and Failure. Learn from both, and you develop
  • Experience. Taking increasingly complex risks brings
  • Success. Achievements results in increased
  • Confidence. With confidence you dare take new risks.And so you need
  • Courage... and the cycle begins again.

Manage the Stress Response to Increase Your Courage

The physical reaction to possible danger has been demonized as unhealthy stress. Far from being unhealthy, this magical reaction is essential to survival. The chemistry that results when facing the unknown arises instantly and is designed to be metabolized within a few hours.

The harmful results occur when stress chemicals that were meant to disappear are allowed to accumulate. This creates a strain on the system, and destroys rather than preserves the life force. The signal to turn on the mind/body response to possible danger has to be beyond conscious control. The reassurance of safety, which clicks the off switch, is conscious and requires specific steps.
In early cave dwelling days, danger was life threatening. Saber toothed tigers came and we fought, hid, or ran way. They left and we relaxed. Today the switch is flipped with something as mundane as the thought you might be late to a meeting. We’ve learned to predict and anticipate possible dangers far into the future. This results in a steady flow of chemicals that if not turned off, produces a toxic stew called accumulated stress. Unfortunately, there is no automatic off, we must do this deliberately each time the switch is flipped.

Stress chemicals are triggered every time we try something new. Add fearful thinking about ourselves or others and this translates to the body/mind that something bad is about to happen and we may not survive. It gears us up to fight, flee, freeze, or faint. We have capacity for every response, although we each develop a preference learned early enough in life to seem “natural.”
You might think it a grand idea to never feel fear. Those who prefer a tidy life without risk never experience the joy from exploring the outer reaches of the comfort zone, the land where dreams come true.

A New Approach to Handling the Unknown

Imagine a pencil lying on a blank sheet of paper. There is no chance of breaking or wearing out unless it is picked up. The right amount of pressure will produce the lines and shading to produce a picture or the start of a poem. However, the more the pencil is used, the more it needs to be sharpened. Too much pressure will break off the point, and not keeping it sharpened will wear it down to uselessness. Our body/mind needs this same care.

In the next few pages you will learn how to appreciate your body’s ability to challenge danger, and keep a healthy perspective to prevent unnecessary accumulations of stress.

Begin Now

In this fast paced world, you can’t possibly register each blip on your stress meter. You often don’t even know you are holding tension until someone suggests you take a deep breath. Next…

Breathe twice while reading this sentence. Allow your eyes to soften their focus as you relax the muscles around your eyes. With each exhale, imagine you are sitting beneath a gentle waterfall that washes away your tension. Visualize a soft energy flowing from over your head, down your face, torso, belly, hips, legs, and feet. Think of how small your burdens and worries are. Return gently, keeping as calm and clear of tension as you dare for the rest of this article.

Congratulations! You have just metabolized a good bit of accumulated stress that you were probably barely aware of, yet was doing real damage in your body.

Accumulated Versus Acute Stress

Most studies about stress focus on problems created by accumulated stress, which is better defined as “strain.” Epinephrine and other adrenal-based chemicals are powerful and positive when used and then released. Constant tension and worry create a toxic soup where the body cannot recover and heal. Emotional and physical ailments develop over months and years due to believing we are unable to cope with perceived demands for performance.

Change any habits that lessen your optimism and overall well-being. Continuous management of outside stress needs your personal experimentation to find the ideal systems right for you. Daily practices such as yoga, meditation, and exercise, along with diet changes and calm lifestyle, are terrifically effective. It is just as important to acknowledge and turn off the acute stress response before residue is added to accumulated stress. This is NOT a substitute for frequent deeper practices, but instantly responding to spikes in your stress response will bring major benefits. If you leave your Tai Chi class already worried you’ll be late for a meeting, you’re refilling your stress quota before you empty it.

Find and Acknowledge Your Unique Stress Response

Ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 12, how stressed/tense am I right now?” How stressed do you feel when you hear phone ring? Do you automatically drop everything and run for it? Can you imagine the benefits of taking two calming breaths and relaxing your physical armor when hearing it ring?

Much of what makes our lives busy doesn’t have to be toxic. Yet many overreact in a pattern that undermines our attempts to grow and change. The first step to adopting a better response is to become aware of your current habitual reactivity.

What is Your Stress Style? – A Self-Discovery Quiz

Recall a recent situation when you thought someone was critical or rejecting you. Examples: unfair blame, perceived disrespect, not keeping promises. Use a scale of 0 (Not me!) to 5 (Are you reading my journal?) to reflect how descriptive each is of your response. Scoring is at the end.


____ I get angry so fast, I can’t control it. I feel like breaking something or hitting someone.

____ My heart instantly hardens against someone who hurts me. I feel cold, unloving.

____ My whole body gets hot. I want to scream, even if I control it.



____ I’m out of here! I might even leap from a moving car if it’s bad enough.

____ I want to just walk away. I think never want to see them again.

____ I can’t stop talking. My mind is going a million miles an hour.



____ My mind is a blank. I can’t think of a thing to say.

____ I feel punched in the stomach, unable to move or talk.

____ My heart is beating fast, my mouth is dry. Sometimes I feel like a robot.



____ I can’t remember what is said when people are angry. Sometimes I even get woozy.

____ My body feels like Jell-o. My knees buckle or I can’t stand up.

____ I just wait until the bad part stops, then act like nothing has happened.

Scoring: Add up your scores in each of the four categories. Rank your response from most common to least frequent for you presently. Notice how it may have changed from your childhood pattern, and again as a younger adult. How would you like it to flow?

How Do You Currently Reduce Acute and Accumulated Stress?

Write down brief answers. This will increase your motivation to adopt healthier responses.

1. When you tell yourself (or others) how stressed you are, how do you describe it? Be specific as to physical, emotional, spiritual, sexual, creative, mental measurements.

2. What do you believe would help you de-stress daily? What do you actually do?

3. Is there a particular stress reducing activity you would like to do/explore? What is stopping you?

4. How BAD does it have to get before you admit you can’t handle the tension and pressure?

5. What do you fear will be the cost if you don’t adopt a new attitude and set of behaviors?

The Power of Addressing Acute Stress Immediately

There is an important reason to notice and reduce the acute tension and stress. If it is noticed and then released, the tension and momentary hyper-vigilance will serve their purpose, but not accumulate toxins in your body. When you do not relax, the level of “normal” physical tension keeps rising, exhausting the adrenals and telling the brain you are in danger 24/7.

How To Turn Acute Stress Response Off Before It Accumulates and BEcomes Strain

The following techniques give you instant methods to reduce acute stress the moment that you no longer need it. When you believe can do something about the response, you will be able to acknowledge the tension and pressures that are driving you. Denial isn’t always your friend.

1. Locate and Assess Your Stress Response Throughout the Day

  • Ask yourself throughout each day: “On a scale of one to twelve, how stressed am I right now?”
  • Notice where you feel it and what affect it has on pain, breathing, and your overall attitude.
  • Let go of what you can with two full breaths and rebalancing your posture with small stretches.

2. Skills That Turn the Stress Response Off in Three Minutes or Less

1. The Instant Calming Sequence (from The Other 90% by Robert Cooper)

  • Continue breathing, consciously increasing the breadth and depth of each breath.
  • Lighten the tension around your eyes by shifting back and forth between a longer then shorter focus
  • Release physical tension by balancing your posture, and envision yourself beneath a waterfall of calming energy that washes down all unnecessary fear or anger.
  • Ask yourself about the current stressor, “How big a deal will this seem in a month’s time?”

2. Warm Your Heart (from Heart Math by Childre, Martin, & Beech)

1.      Close your eyes or softly focus on a pattern or pleasant object.

2.      Recall a pleasant memory (petting your dog/cat, a pretty scene, a wonderful taste).

3.      Direct your breath to the mid point of your chest.

4.      Focus on your heart and imagine you can breathe in a way that involves the heart, such as breathing with your heart, through your heart, or around your heart.

5.      As you continue breathing with your heart, notice the warmth being generated.

6.      Expand and direct this warmth to any area of your body/mind that needs calming.

Developing Faith in a Positive Future

Uncertainty is the underlying principle in any new situation. If you believe things will work out, you’ll be more relaxed going into each of life’s experience. Practice believing the surgery will be successful, that you’ll definitely find a much better job after being laid off, and your kid will return home in good shape. You have the power to make your life far less stressful.
Given that you can’t really know such things, what can you do that balances a positive attitude with realistic thinking?

1. Choose to trust. Stress is a complex of many powerful feelings. Repressing or denying them increases accumulations of stress chemicals. You can reduce negative effects of stress more quickly by allowing the feelings to wash over you.
Admit feelings of fear, anger, concern, hurt, sadness, guilt, and inadequacy. Let them flow, write them down, and speak them aloud. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to happen instead? What am I willing to do in order to make that possible?” Do you have a new role to play or action to take? Or, if you are truly powerless, acknowledge that you can’t change anything. Focus on what you can accept and remind yourself “This, too, shall pass.” 

2. Envision a desirable future. What would the next six months be like if you could design it? What would the life you truly want look, feel, sound, and taste like? What would you be willing to give up to have it? What habits or behaviors are you willing to change to bring about this wonderful difference? You will increase self-confidence and focus with such visualizations, and reduce the power that tension and stress have when you deny your dreams. 

3. Turn your negatives into positive goals with small, distinct steps. Those who have clear goals experience less stress than those who feel entrenched in day-to-day responsibility.

  • Turn each problem into a challenge. Put your soul, not your brain, in charge of your problems. Anxiety transforms easily into enthusiasm and excitement when you decide to be in charge of your future. Write a list of what is overwhelming you, and write a step by each one that will move you into action.
  • Focus on what you love about your life. Write names, your health, your freedom, people whom you can count on, material possessions (from iPods to gym memberships to your home) that bring you joy. Note the specific habits and opportunities you take for granted. The attitude of “I cried because I had no shoes, then met a man who had no feet” creates a revolution of spiritual gratitude. Look at the rest of the world. Are you not blessed?
  • Take a small step toward bigger destinations and adventures. This lifts your spirit and cuts down stress. Make a short list (no more than three) of experiences you want to have in the next year: a camping trip, a friend or family member to visit, a vacation spot, a language or art form to pursue, etc. Take one action that will move you toward each. Call the teacher or family member, research locations for the outdoor adventure easiest for you. Camping this year will make the bigger adventure (the Alps(?) Nepal(?)) more attainable. Making a plan to see a friend across the country will help you imagine the challenge of planning a trip around the globe.
  • Acknowledge your longing for authentic expression. Do you want to write, paint, or volunteer your skills without regard for pay? Don’t ignore the deep hunger for creative expression or achievement in business, love, or life that you deny because of practical implications. Make sure you try and taste everything that truly calls to you. This is your primary job in life: to embrace every opportunity to be fully alive, and to encourage and support those you love to do the same.

Control Stress By Remembering That You Are Not Stuck

Within each of us is the dream of a remarkable life. Your experiences are limited only by the meaning you bring to them. If you have made a series of choices that stop you from feeling fully alive, it is your responsibility to question each one and make a vital recommitment or a careful reconsideration.
Accumulated stress results from an unhappy career, relationships, self-destructive habits, and unhealthy obligations. People often settle for a miserable life. When they develop a life-threatening disease, have a car accident, or fall into a toxic love affair, they see what is truly important to them. By then, it can be too late to honor what they most desire.
Take extra breaths, challenge old beliefs, and ditch unhealthy habits. You can then turn around any mental or physical condition that is holding you back, and confidence and self-trust will blossom.