The Beautiful Balance Between Courage and Fear | BetterTogether3

Watch: Cara E. Yar Khan's TED Talk: The Beautiful Balance Between Courage and Fear

Born in India and raised in Canada, Cara E. Yar Khan has always loved helping people in need, spending time with loved ones, traveling and Latin dancing. Leveraging a knack for languages and a curiosity for different cultures, she earned a Master’s degree in public policy and went on to live in Ecuador, Panama, Angola, China, Madagascar, Mozambique, Thailand and Haiti. At age 30, she was diagnosed with a rare muscle-wasting disease. Nevertheless, she continues to live an active life and shatter the stereotypes of people with disabilities. Today, she works at the International Human Trafficking Institute, an initiative of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

Activity: Grounding

At times, our bodies can kick into a fight or flight response and our systems become activated – seemingly outside of our control. As scary as these moments can be, there are things you can do to physiologically return to a more grounded place. If you’re feeling the telltale signs of fear responses (increased heart rate, shallow breathing, tightness in muscles, etc.) try out one or a few of these exercises. 

  1. Humming: This will not only encourage you to breathe at a measured, slow pace, but it will also stimulate your vagus nerve. 
  2. Square breathing: This technique asks you to breathe in for four counts, hold your inhale for four counts, and exhale for eight counts. There are helpful visuals that can assist you in remaining steady. 
  3. Diving Reflex: If you feel yourself getting caught on the hamster wheel of anxiety and feel the  need to reset, stimulating your “diving reflex” is a great option. Physically, the diving reflex slows your heart rate, increases blood flow to your brain, and relaxes your body.  Here are a few ways to stimulate this reflex: 
  4. Splash cold water on your face from your lips to your hairline (or where your hairline once was!)
  5. For about 10 seconds, hold a plastic bag of ice cubes or an ice pack to the same area of your face and hold your breath simultaneously. 
  6. Surrounding your tongue with liquid. Try holding room temperature water in your mouth and focus on the feeling of your tongue submerged in the water. 
    1. Co-regulation: this is a great strategy if you are with a safe person and feel unable to self-regulate your body’s fear responses.  Co-regulation is the process of finding attunement to someone else’s emotional and physical state. This can be harmful if someone around us is extremely angry or upset, but helpful when there is a situation where someone is able to help bring us to a more grounded state. Not all co-regulation techniques require us to be in proximity to other humans – nature and animals can also provide powerful support in regulating. 


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