Just when you think life can’t get any harder, it does. Someone you love dies. Your boyfriend dumps you. You’re laid off from a job you’ve been working at forever. Or a dear family member is diagnosed with a rare illness.
It’s normal to feel fear when you’re faced with any one of the above situations. After all, life just became completely unpredictable.
Fear is a primary survival mechanism. Our brain’s No.1 responsibility is to keep us safe. When a situation like the above arises, life as we’ve known it is no longer true. Our world is turned upside down…and our brain freaks out! This is what we experience as FEAR.
Our first instinct is to push away what we’re afraid of. If you’re human, as we all are, your first thoughts are I don’t want to feel scared because it feels awful OR I must not think negative thoughts because I’m going to attract more fear into my life. That is not very helpful.
The human mind is like a bagful of monkeys. It does what it is meant to do: think. Thinking negative thoughts is not the problem. Attaching to negative thoughts is a problem. Acting on negative thoughts is a problem.
Don’t be afraid of negative thoughts. Just don’t follow the trail of your negative thoughts. Recognize that you’re afraid and shift your thinking into something positive.
This sounds simple. But it often isn’t. How do we deal with fear when our heart is pounding and our mouth is dry?
- Try not to control fear. Trying to control fear is like trying to push against a raging river.
- Try not to run away from fear. Fear is faster than you and will always outwit you.
- Try not to deny fear. Fear hates pretense. The more you try to wear the “I’m fine” mask, the harder fear will fight back.
Here are 4 steps to deal with fear when it rises within you:
- Recognize fear in your body. Fear has a powerful energy which you feel. Your heart pounds, your palms sweat, and your tummy cramps. When we try to push these sensations away, fear fights back harder. Pause and become aware of these sensations coursing through your body. When you create space for these sensations to move through you, the energy of fear is allowed a natural release.
- Allow fear to move. If sitting still feels too scary, go for a run, lift weights, do Jumping Jacks for 2 minutes. Do something to allow the energy to move.
- Do a brain dump. Open up your journal and write freely. For example, if you’re afraid of being alone, write down all thoughts related to it. I’ll have to do life all by myself. I won’t have fun anymore. I’ll be lonely all the time. Just dumping it all on paper is a great first step in getting it out of your mind. Otherwise it swirls and swirls collecting more fearful thoughts inside your head. Then ask the question: “What’s a gentler way to hold this thought?”
- Give it a few hours or come back to it later in the day. Reflect on the question: What is fear telling me? Fear always asks us to take some kind of action. Let’s work with the same example I’ll always be alone. Fear is asking you to take action on it. What might that look like? Maybe you can reframe your negative thought into a positive one and then identify an action you can take on it. e.g. I can make new friends. I like to bake. Maybe I’ll check out local Baking Meetup groups OR I love reading. I’ll start a Book Club with three women I know.
Here’s your assignment.
1.Identify one fear you’re struggling with.
2.Then reframe the negative thought into a positive one.
3. Think of one small action you can take on it.
Post your thoughts in the comments below.