Fear can first manifest at any time in our lives, and it does! How do you deal with fear and how do you move past it?
When deciding to apply to nursing school; when we’re accepted; and when we’re actually sitting in that classroom.Fear then emerges when we take exams, write care plans, and then when we walk into that first patient assignment and we feel like we have ten thumbs and know nothing. After graduation, Impostor Syndrome kicks in and we wonder why anyone would trust us with their lives, and we think we learned nothing in school and shouldn’t be anywhere near patients.
Fear then continues to manifest in our lives:
- We fear getting married, having children, and watching our parents age and die.
- We fear our own deaths.
- We fear for our children.
- We fear for the planet, the country, the poor, the war-torn, the disabled, the lonely.
Once we’re ensconced in our nursing careers, fear can take hold in oh so many ways:
- The first time we do a certain procedure
- Performance reviews
- Wondering if we should go back to school
- Paying back loans
- Fear of burnout
- Fear of conflict with particular colleagues
- Fear of the future
Fear can be motivating or demotivating, and I want you to consider fear’s motivating energy. Susan Jeffers, PhD wrote the book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway“, and that perspective can be helpful (unless you’re afraid of doing a procedure that you’ve never done without any help or training — that’s a healthy fear to keep you from doing something stupid!)
How can you overcome fear? Here are a few pointers:
- As always, I’m a big advocate of psychotherapy and counseling, so that’s one avenue
- If you have fear about the direction of your career, you can talk to me or another career or life coach who can help you unpack your fear and shake it loose
- Self-awareness and emotional intelligence are keys to dealing with fear
- Fear can sometimes be a warning that something isn’t right, so you can use your fear as a catalyst for change
- Gather your allies and friends and loved ones around you, and lean on them for support in fearful times
- Limit your exposure to things that produce more fear (e.g.: the news)
For one mentee of mine, her fear manifests in terms of choosing to relocate to a big city she doesn’t know very well in order to attend a very well-respected NP program to which she’s been accepted. Her fear is daunting to her, but she’s a savvy, brilliant, resourceful, and emotionally intelligent self-aware young woman who’ll do amazingly wherever she is because she makes friends easily, is relationally intelligent, and has a strong support system.
If you’re feeling fear about your career, first try to unpack whether your fears are founded in reality.
- Is your hospital in financial trouble and merging with another facility, meaning many jobs will be cut? That’s a reasonable fear.
- Are you being bullied at work and you fear stepping foot in the door? That’s reasonable.
- Are you fearful because next week is your first time being a circulating nurse and you’re anxious about doing it right? Do you know your stuff? Is the fear manifesting because there’s some crucial skill or piece of knowledge you just don’t have, or is just garden variety jitters?
You may not always be the best judge of the relative reasonableness of your fears; this is where a therapist, counselor, coach, mentor, or trusted friend, colleague, or loved one enters the equation.
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway is often a good strategy, but I also want to reiterate that having fear about doing a certain procedure necessitates getting to the root of your fear, and if it’s because you feel ill-prepared, that may be worthy of digging deeper and accepting the fear as legit.
Fear is a signal; it’s up to us to decipher the signals at any given time, and sometimes we need help because we’re just too close to it and someone objective is needed to step in.
So, when you feel fear, check inside and see where it’s coming from. If you don’t know, enlist help in figuring it out and don’t allow hubris to get in the way — pride should not be a factor here.
And if you can handle the fear on your own, go for it. Fear can be a great teacher if we can listen well and glean the lessons that we’re being taught.
Humans are wired for negativity and fear because, when we lived on the savannah, fear kept us vigilant and alive. These days, we don’t have saber-toothed tigers, but we do have climate change, political and social problems, a competitive job market, and rapidly changing healthcare technology and demands that can keep us on our toes.
Feel the fear, and allow yourself time to digest what it means. Act when you’re ready, and sit back and think and feel when you’re not ready. And remember, asking for help and admitting your fear is a true sign of strength.
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