The Paramedic and His Quest For a Fearless Life
by Jasmin Pedretti
Chris Breen is a paramedic, a father and husband, and a friend to many.
He has assisted at terror attacks in Melbourne and saved lives. But one of the biggest battles he faced was the onset of anxiety and a severe panic attack disorder that lead to years of wrangling. After study, contemplation and countless hours of work, Chris has developed a new paradigm for helping others not only cope with anxiety but to lead A Fear Less Life
When did your panic first present itself?
The first time it presented itself was when I was about 26 years old and travelling overseas.
What is something many people might not know about fear that you could educate them about?
Everybody’s natural response to fear generally is to fight it. They fight two things, the thought and the sensation your body produces. A lot of people don’t realise when you encourage and accept the feeling, paradoxically, it reduces the negative feedback loop of fear, because your body responds thinking there’s a continuous fear stimulant. So, most of us feel anxious and then try to fight it. This fuels the fear versus going, yep, I’ve got a bit of anxiety, I am feeling a bit stressed right now, I’m going to work with it.
If you could say one thing to that young man on the tube in London, your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t worry; you will find the answers. Even though I had a medical background, back then, I really wasn’t aware of what was going on. I couldn’t find the answers- why was this happening to me? How did this happen? How could I make it stop? It was completely debilitating to put it mildly. So the short version is- I had to go on a bit of a quest to find out, investigate and test methods to help myself.
This was a mountain climb. But I was successful. Then it came to the point where I wanted to show other people how to do the same. More research and education, and more experience in psychological studies and evaluation which lead to writing about it and creating some steps. This developed into finite resources to live a life with less fear and a better quality of life, management is key.
We hear so much about men needing to communicate more. But if you haven’t done much of this growing up and have been influenced by society to hide strong emotions – how can men start to talk more about anxiety?
Lately, I think there’s been a big push for mental health, especially for men. Also, a lot of AFL footballers and cricketers are coming out and indicating that they have some mental health problems. Younger men and kids start to see their idols affected and I think that opens the forum of discussion to go, hang on, these superhero sportsmen aren’t well. That allows for it to be more accepted and I think we’re moving away from the whole ‘it’s just in your head’ or ‘you’re weak’. It has become more freely spoken about part of life. I think there’ll come a time when talking about how you feel authentically will become the norm.
What is your favourite healthy habit?
Definitely boxing on Monday nights.
Do you believe people are suffering more now, or simply talking about it more?
I think that people might be potentially suffering more now because of our current lifestyle, our diet, genetics. I believe anxiety was often misdiagnosed previously. But I believe our lifestyle and technology may have impacted our mental health because no one shuts off. This isn’t something you can quantify right now, but many people in this field will tell you our modern world is overwhelming to our system.
You didn’t have any resources that related to your specific experience at the time, is this what lead to A Fear Less Life?
Yes, because I thought if I can dig myself out of this hole and work out how to fix myself, I had a responsibility to share this template and see it help other people. When this first happened to me, there was not a lot to support you. It’s certainly improved, but there’s a long way to go. I’ve got a template that may help.
You have an Instagram account A Fear Less Life, and you speak at different events, what is your main message?
Allow people to understand, generally from the anxiety basis, what it is, where it comes from, and what you can do about it, in a simplistic form. I do that because these were the questions I wanted answers to. I had a medical background so you might have thought I’d have more of an understanding, but I didn’t. It’s giving people knowledge, and the power to make decisions about how they think, act and feel.
Your favourite way to chill on weekends and why?
Go surfing in the summer. Otherwise, it’d probably be socialising with friends, or just spending time at home pottering around the house.
Tell us your perfect day?
Be associated with great, positive, healthy, happy people. Maybe start with some exercise in the morning to get my endorphins going. Eat clean. And then of course have some great coffee and then at the end have a couple of social drinks.
Who inspires you most?
I’ve got lots of people who inspire me. My mum because she never gives up and she’s got certain physical conditions and health problems that she refuses to bow down to.
My wife, Tanya; she’s amazing with everything she does across the board and Kirsten does with all the trials and tribulations she goes through. (insert editor- thanks Chris x)
Treehouse or Cubby-house?
I think I’m a bit more of a dare-devil, I’d go up the tree for sure.
A Fear Less Life is a community dedicated to educating and helping others walk in the face of fear and and manage anxiety. Chris is a key note speaker who candidly talks about his personal experience combined with his life’s work to effectively help others who are struggling with anxiety and mental health hurdles. If you’re Chris Breen and the resources aren’t out there, you create them yourself. To get in touch with Chris visit his Instagram Account https://www.instagram.com/chrisbreen_a_fear_less_life/