Stress. Anxiety. Worry. Whatever you name it, however you frame it, wherever you feel it, fear can wreak havoc on your life and your health. Consider a few of the classics: Fear of aging. Fear of loneliness. Fear of not having _(fill in the blank)_. Fear of losing _(fill in the blank)_.
Fear is one fickle mistress who can certainly work to our benefit at times, compelling us to action or helping us avoid real danger, but more often than not, it is nothing more than us simply dreading the worst case scenarios that may, let’s be honest, never happen. Even so, fear can leave us, at minimum, dejected, at worst, paralyzed by the anticipation of losing something important to us or not receiving our desired outcome, object or relationship in some arbitrarily self-imposed timeline.
Lately, fear has been a big thing for me. I’ve been stumbling upon blog posts or conversations around fear, which was quite timely, I must say, as I have been picking my own fears apart as of late. Most recently, my fear flaunted its cagey nature, and I found myself in the throes shortness of breath, anxiety, impatience, general discontent, and emotional eating. And like most of you are probably also familiar, I noticed this antsy discomfort leak into other areas of life and start to take a serious toll.
Here’s the sitch: Four months ago, a pipe broke and a moderate flood ensued; the necessary repairs have only just kicked-off. Then, the dishwasher broke. The vacuum died. A sliding glass door was in such dire need of replacement that tending to it could no longer be postponed.
These projects require financial outlays, as well as emotional, mental and time investments. (Not to mention a good bit of emotional support from family & friends, and maybe a little, ahem, wine… Just sayin’)
With all of these events, I felt … off.
If we pick it apart, we can easily see that most of my frustration lie in having no control. I had no control over the contractors who, only in my perception, should have moved a little faster; of course, the actual expenses of the work, though affordable, still caused me worry, and I heard the all-too-familiar voices pipe up, “what if something else happens, will you have enough? You won’t be able to have all the other things & experiences you want to have. You’ll be trapped by lack of money. What if you’re always trying to catch up? What if it’s not good enough? You’re supposed to be farther ahead than this… etc. etc. etc.”
You might as well have called the Maytag man because I was on a non-stop spin cycle, worrying, and with no end in sight!
Yet, as I waded through the muck, I was <gasp> in complete denial about my level of stress and fear! Can you believe that?!
It wasn’t until I began experiencing irrational anxiety in other unrelated areas (work, relationships, self-image), and my chiropractor voiced her concern over my obscenely tight shoulders/upper back and severe adrenal dysfunction, that I knew I really was in the midst of a fearfest.
So, I had to wonder: What can I do? What can any of us do when the inevitable weight of life bears down? It’s inevitable, so how do we cope for a healthier, happier well-being?
First thing’s first, BREATHE. When fear catches you on our heels, breathe. Recognize fear is not reality, but a defense mechanism – often driven by our ego – to protect us. Pause, acknowledge your feelings, realize this reaction is in some ways a blessing, and carry on.
Journal. Explore your fears through writing and see what comes up. Whether you write a letter to yourself offering advice, or writing to yourself from your Higher Power reassuring you that you are cared for and provided for, grab a pen and see where the words take you!
Meditate. For those of you who enjoy sitting quietly with your thoughts, update your mental talk-track with mantras like those from Martha Beck found here. Replace any fearful statements with loving-kindness wishes & blessings for yourself and breathe easier with some of the weight lifted from your shoulders.
Choose different words when thinking or talking about your fear – whether self-talk or commiserating with friends. Our fear is a story we tell ourselves. Substitute the all-too-common “why is this happening to me” with “why is this happening for me?” What can I learn from this challenge, or what can I learn about myself by looking at why I may fear the outcome? Reframe, reframe, reframe.
For those of you with kids, here is an opportunity to help them expose their fear for what it is, like a monster in the closet. Ask questions, like What color is it? Does it have a name? Where do you feel it? Encourage them to look at the fear in the face and experience it, knowing they are safe, supported and out of harm’s way. This exploration is like peeking behind the curtain at the Wizard of Oz. It removes the veil of mystique, dissolving the fear in most cases… Come to think of it, shouldn’t we all do this, no matter what our age?
Fear, uncertainty, disappointment, unpredictable twists and turns, they’re all part of the show. The up’s and down’s are inevitable, and we have very little control over much more than how we respond. That FDR knew what he was talking about, “the only thing to fear, is fear itself.”
Why not lift the veil off our fears, let them unravel, and allow ourselves to be joyfully & fearlessly surprised by the adventure as it unfolds?