Managing Stress and Controlling Your Fears

The situation is chaotic and the best thing we can do right now is to be at home. Self-isolation is a word that needs to be our mantra now, we must protect ourselves from this deadly virus. This situation is stressful, and everyone is scared. The best thing we need to do is to learn to manage your stress and control your fears.

The Effects of Fear

The first part of dealing with fear or stress is understanding the effects it has on the body.

Fear is a perfectly natural and healthy reaction for your body to have. Fear or Stress will increase blood flow into major muscle groups, focuses your senses, and increases pulse. All this is to prepare your body to perform at its best.

However, the reaction comes at a price and if left unchecked can have a disastrous effect on the body and your decision-making process. The higher the level of stress the worse the experience can be.

In the excellent book “On Combat” author Dave Grossman (an American Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Rangers and combat veteran) details the effect of heart rate on the body in combat situations.

Grossman defines five conditions of physical and cognitive function based on heart rate.

– White: 60-80 beats per minute. Normal Resting heart rate.

– Yellow: 80 -115 bpm. Fine motor skills start to deteriorate

– Red: 115 – 145 bpm. Complex motor skills deteriorate. Increased cognitive function and reaction time.

– Grey: 145 – 175 bpm: Cognitive Processing Deteriorates, loss of peripheral vision, loss of depth perception, loss of near vision, auditory exclusion

– Black: 175pm + bpm. Irrational fight, fight, or freeze, submissive behavior, voiding of bowls.

Generally, the higher the heart rate the more your body must rely on instincts and less on rational thought.

Grossman defines the red as optimal condition for combat or survival. Here performance and cognitive function is enhanced without massive loss of motor skills.

In condition grey soldiers can still perform basic rehearsed tasks, whereas black is dangerous.

Once you understand your bodies reaction you can start to take steps to preempt the effects of stress and combat its effects.

Combat or Tactical Breathing

Breath control can be used to manage and reduce your heart rate. However, to do this you must pay attention to the bodies early warning signals and act before it’s too late.

If you realize you are losing control you can use “tactical breathing” or “combat breathing” as described by Grossman to reduce your heart rate.

Here is how to do tactical breathing.

Breathe from your diaphragm. Your stomach expands, moving out to make room for the air, as you breathe in, and contracts as you breathe out. Tip: Think of your stomach as a balloon filling with air as you breathe in, and emptying smoothly, automatically as you breathe out.

– Breathe in through your nose to the count of 4.

– Hold your breath to the count of 4.

– Breathe out through your lips to the count of 4.

– Hold your breath to the count of 4.

– Repeat until you feel your body and mind relax.

The length of breath can be varied in tactical breathing, but the goal is always smooth, continuous cycle of breathing.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

While tactical breathing is an effective option for stressful situations, the hard work should have been done prior to the event.

Practice and repetition of simple skills are essential to be effective in combat situations. To perform under the most stressful situations all skills should be completely internalized.

There is no such thing as rising to the occasions. If you have not internalized a skill you will not be able to perform it under stress. Instead you will resort to your base instincts, commonly freezing, hiding or running away.

To internalize a skill will take many hours of repetition (some say as many as 10’000 hours) before you can perform under any circumstance.

Keep It Simple

One big people with many self-defense instructors is they make things to complex. Remember you will lose fine motor skills when your heart rate reaches 115 bpm and gross motor skills at around 145 bpm.

You will not be able to perform elaborate techniques under stress.

Have you ever nearly had a car accident, felt adrenaline rush through your body and found your hands shaking afterward?

This is like the feeling of being in a high stress situation. Think about that feeling and would honestly be able to put your key in the ignition and start the car with ease? Would you even be able to find the key?

Any self-defense technique should only really on simple efficient movements drilled multiple times.


You can get an idea of how you will react to combat by putting yourself in challenging situations and breaking your comfort zones.

For example, if you’re scared of heights go skydiving or rock climbing. If your scared of water, go swimming or diving.

This will give you same feeling as in combat. You can become accustomed to how your body reacts and using strategies to control your stress.


Ultimately, your survival in life or death situations comes down to two key factors. The right training and your ability to control your stress levels.

Are you prepared?

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