Did you know that persistence and resilience can be two of your most powerful allies when facing health-related fears? Fear is a common response to many different health concerns. How you choose to face your fear can significantly affect your health. If you’ve ever been confronted by a health-related fear, read on…
Facing health fears can be like facing the fear of riding a horse.
When I was learning to ride a horse, my instructor had a special message for beginners, “You can’t call yourself a ‘good rider’ until you’ve fallen off your horse at least 3 times.” Implicit in this wisdom was that when you hit the dirt (and it was inevitable that you would), you were expected to climb back on and keep going. Everyone in the beginner class understood that getting back in the saddle was something we would do without question, no matter how much wind got knocked out of us, or how much the fall hurt our bodies or our pride.
Falling off a horse can be scary and painful, as can any change in your health. The key to facing any fear, whether it involves horseback riding or a new diagnosis, is the willingness to get back up and keep going.
The willingness to take repeated action in spite of difficulty is persistence. Each time you repeat an action, you have the opportunity to think differently and experience the benefits of learning from your mistakes. The ability to adjust, make changes, and respond gracefully to adversity is resilience.
Learning to ride a horse taught me a lot about facing fear. Persistence and resilience proved to be my two most useful assets for conjuring up the intestinal fortitude to get back in the saddle after a fall. After experiencing the value of these qualities while learning how to ride, I believe anyone can harness persistence and resilience to more successfully face health fears.
Fear is a normal response.
Fear is a normal response to any real or perceived threat to personal well-being. It’s a built-in protection mechanism. Understanding this makes it much easier to observe your fears and let them go.
Horses are large, powerful animals that move quickly, so it’s easy to imagine being hurt in their presence. In other words, it’s rational to be afraid of them. Health issues are often surprising, expensive, inconvenient, life-altering, life-limiting, and can be related to physical pain and injury. Ultimately, they require change, which implies a journey into the unknown. So, it’s rational to perceive health concerns as threatening and worthy of fear, too.
Persistence drives repeated exposure.
Horse-related and health-related fears both can be described as fear-of-fear fears, or rational meta-fears. As such, they are likely to respond well to “exposure” interventions where you purposefully and repeatedly face the fear as a way to overcome it.
Exposure interventions are effective because of habituation. In other words, repeatedly doing the thing you’re afraid of helps you get used to it. Your nervous system won’t respond with fear and anxiety if the stimulus is familiar. Repeated exposure basically rewires your brain, or habituates your nervous system, to recognize the activity as routine and normal. So, science backs up the riding instructor’s wisdom: When you fall off a horse you have to get back on.
Being persistent and taking action repeatedly will help re-condition your brain in such a way that the fear is no longer so intense. Do a thing enough, and eventually the fear will no longer be there. Persistence is the driving force behind exposure interventions because you’ll need to face the fear many times repeatedly before you cease to respond with fear.
“Persistence is a secret weapon for everyone.” ~ Liu Wen, Supermodel
Resilience supports persistence.
So, persistence is the commitment to continue a course of action in spite of difficulty. And, resilience is the ability to recover from and adjust easily to changes, especially adverse ones. I like to think of it this way: Persistence helps us face our fears repeatedly and resilience keeps us from freaking out while we’re being persistent.Persistence helps us face our fears repeatedly and resilience keeps us from freaking out while we're being persistent.Click To Tweet
Harnessing resilience makes it possible to practice repeated exposure over a longer period of time. Actions associated with resilience include asking for help and changing or modifying the exposure methods as needed. Resilience gives us permission to question and modify our approach to being persistent. This can help soften the feelings of being re-traumatized by facing the fear.
The best part is, resilience feeds resilience. Every time you confront the fear instead of backing down, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. With every confidence boost, you become that much more resilient.
“The goal of resilience is to thrive.” ~Jamais Cascio, Author and Futurist
Persistence and resilience together create change.
Persistence and resilience can be used independently. But when used together, as powerful allies for facing fear, they become an almost unstoppable force for change.
With persistence in place, you’ll keep taking the action to face the fear. When resilience is applied to the initial event and to the results of the repeated actions over time, you’ll eventually overcome the fear. Persistence and resilience work hand-in-hand to help you face health fears, overcome health challenges, and meet health goals. Together, they are a winning combination.
Persistence and resilience are required to rehabilitate after a physical injury. Persistence and resilience are required to recover from an addiction. They are required to make lifestyle changes, to improve or reverse certain chronic conditions, and they are required to accept, adapt, and live well with a congenital, or irreversible, condition. The examples can go on and on. The point is that persistence and resilience make it possible to face health fears and take responsibility for your wellness. The bottom line? If you have some health fears you need to face, persistence and resilience can help.
“Fall seven times, stand up eight.” ~Japanese Proverb
How have you faced health health fears in the past? Have you used persistence and resilience together?
Last updated: 5-1-2019