Welcome to this weekly online resource. Wellness professional Jo Foster, offers self care tips through her insights on mindfulness and positive psychology, her weekly online yoga classes and nutritious recipe recommendations. 

This week we will begin considering how we can develop, preserve and enhance confidence. Enjoy!

  • Shallow and uncontrollable breathing 

  • Unclear thinking

  • Dry mouth

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • Impaired sense of time

  • Muscle tension

  • Loss of balance

Just reading these words makes me feel uncomfortable! Have you ever experienced these symptoms? Most of us have, these are the symptoms of fear, which typically occur when we feel under threat.

There is nothing that knocks confidence more than, when faced with a situation where we desire our best performance, we are instead incapacitated by fear and falter or freeze. So why does fear occur and how can we limit its effects?


The fear response

Fear is the body's way of turning on "Fight or Flight" mode. This instinctive response to threat, creates powerful, physical and chemical changes in the body. This primitive response is actually an "enabler", designed to promote our quickest and strongest responses to ward off life threatening danger. However, in this state our clarity of judgement is often impaired as the amygdala (the survival focused part of the brain) takes over from the frontal cortex (responsible for information processing, problem solving, memory and more). So we become more reactive but potentially less rational. 

Fortunately, for most of us reading this today, when we experience fear it is not because we are faced with mortal danger, but rather because we have created a negative perception of future outcomes. We have imagined a future where we underperform with disappointing consequences.

To take on fear and win we have to allow ourselves to see the positive outcome and what it takes to make that the reality. Nelson Mandela famously said that "courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Taking the edge off fear

The 4 p's:

1. Perspective. Think of a scenario that makes you nervous. Now ask yourself:


How this moment will seem to you when you look back at it in 10 years time?

This is a useful question to ask yourself when you are preparing for an important conversation or event, whether this is in your personal life or career. It is a simple question that helps you gain perspective. (Be sure you put you optimist hat on when you conclude on your answer!)

2. Power pose. We discussed the power that resides in our posture earlier in this series (see here) Adopting the behaviour and appearance of the most capable and valuable version of yourself, helps turn this into a reality. 

3. Pace yourself. We tend to rush when we are nervous. So before you begin or respond to the scenario that brings you fear, create a pause. Take a slow breath, it may feel like an eternity as your mind may be racing. Intentionally slowing our breathing and speech enables us to gain composure, clarity and control in the situation. You will not sound slow, remember your sense of time is impaired when in a fear state.

4. Practice and prepare. If you know you are going to be facing a challenge that makes you nervous, take the time to know your material. Winging it is a risky strategy, it is easier to feel confident and perform at our best when we have dedicated time to knowing our stuff. Practice what you want to say and think about how you will respond when faced with the unexpected. If you feel that having prompt cards or notes is helpful, (incase the memory ducks out at that critical point!) then have these to hand, you probably won't need them but it's reassuring to know they are there. 


Don't over prepare. It's important to set a limit on your preparations, if you spend too much time imagining negative scenarios to be ready for, then you may amplify your fear. So compartmentalise how long you give yourself to prep and critique and then move on. 

Remember, fear is an illusion, a very powerful one that the mind creates. However, it is the way you perceive the experience that shapes the outcome. If you replace the negative expectations with positive expectations, then you become faced with a golden opportunity. Your heart will still beat fast, your palms will still sweat, time will still disappear in the blink of an eye, but you will triumph. 

"courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

panoramic shot of worried lecturer suffe

Vegan Dairy-Free Banana Chocolate Brownies by Spruce Eats

When it comes to being prepared for an event that makes you nervous, nutritionists suggest reducing caffeine and sugar intake on the day of a performance (and alcohol, "dutch courage" won't help you perform!). These brownies however have slow release energy from the Bananas, are easy to digest and so don't zap your energy and the dark chocolate is proven to enhance brain performance. Perfect!

So pop a square of this "ready for anything" treat in your lunch box!