Categories: Health

Halloween special | Is running scared bad for your health?

October 24, 2016

Halloween is here with scary zombies, fit mummies and pleasant goosebumps . But is there a downside to fear? Can running scared be bad for your health?

What is the best way to get rid of a demon?

Exorcise a lot!

Experiencing feelings of fear and anxiety can be traced back to our earliest human development with our ancestors relying on these primal emotions to keep them alive. To learn from such primitive fight or flight reactions has enabled us to evolve as a species.

Fast forward a few million years and we still very much experience the same feelings, albeit not quite in the same situations! Faced with a scary or high pressured scenario causes the all-too-familiar feelings of increased heart rate and blood pressure and sweaty palms. But are these effects a positive or negative? Should we embrace it or try to ignore and suppress it? Does it impair performance or enhance it, and with the advent of running apps and mass participation events where we’re chased by zombies to make us run faster and therefore work harder, is being scared during training something we should even try and provoke?

Fear and performance

Our mind (mental and emotional state) can significantly affect our body and therefore our ability to perform.

Our mind (mental and emotional state) can significantly affect our body and therefore our ability to perform.

At one end of this concept we have positive emotions and high energy which are associated with feelings of being alert, enthusiastic, lively and energetic, which in turn results in feeling in control, focused, calm, muscles relaxed, which will lead to the highest probability of outstanding performance. Conversely at the other end of the spectrum we have negative emotions and low energy, which are associated with feelings of annoyance, disinterest, boredom, lack of drive and motivation and being irritated, which in turn results in feelings of muscle tension and lack of focus, which ultimately leads to the lowest probability of outstanding performance.

We can find ourselves at either extreme or anywhere in between, so as you can see, fear causes our body to feel unprepared for imminent performance and as a result we don’t execute movement or skill correctly.

Dealing with fear

There is a difference between real fear and those aforementioned pleasant goosebumps. A virtual zombie run can feel more like a challenge than a genuinely scary situation in which you’re afraid for your life. Fear is not a positive emotion, but excitement is.

Replace the feelings and emotions associated with fear into positive energy. Tell yourself that you’re excited and ready to go and that your heightened awareness is your mind and body preparing to execute at a high level. Using self-talk to calm yourself down with phrases like “I need to relax” notifies the brain that something is wrong and that you’re fearful of an upcoming event, which in turn reinforces negativity and detrimental feelings both physically and mentally. So the next time you face such a situation take the view that being scared is your body and mind getting ready to deliver at your highest level.

Replace the feelings and emotions associated with fear into positive energy.

Perhaps not the first person you’d think of to hold your hand when watching a scary film, making your way through a haunted house, or answering the door to some scary trick-or-treaters, Bear Grylls is however someone you would trust in a scary situation in the wild. “I’ve learnt to manage that fear. I treat fear as an emotion that’s there to sharpen me for what I need to do. It’s my body giving me heightened senses and a good awareness so I can do what I’m about to do in a heightened state…Fear is something that can serve me rather than dominate me”.

When your body is bombarded with adrenaline and your brain with dopamine, the response is an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, pupil dilation and expansion of the airways pushing oxygen to your muscles. If faced with a genuinely scary situation your body will be preparing its fight or flight response, however if we recognize the scare as safe, the sensation of being pumped up can actually be a pleasurable one.

So running scared isn’t bad for you per se.

So running scared isn’t bad for you per se. The human species has used this emotion for millions of years to recognize when it’s time to get out of a sticky situation. Repeatedly being subjected to genuine fear in a dangerous environment may not be advisable, however with the correct mind-set feelings of fear and being scared have the potential to benefit the experiences you find yourself in.

Whether you’re running away from zombies on your phone or real life ghouls and ghosts this Halloween, embrace the fear. Turn it into positive energy to train like you’ve never trained before.

Happy Halloween!