By Ella Miller
Fear is an emotion that serves the critical purpose of indicating a perceived danger or threat. Triggering “something’s wrong” causes physiological changes and shifts in behavior, such as fleeing the area of the threat or taking an aggressive stance as a form of protection.
Although intrinsically good, constant or frequent fear can have a negative impact on our mind and body. Fear is highly prevalent in today’s society and has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, among other causes.
Fear can negativity impact your physical health, as well as your mental health, attributing to immune dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, chronic illness, migraines, upset stomach, acid reflux, fibromyalgia, panic attacks, anxiety, depression and an entire list of health issues. That’s where mindfulness comes in. It’s important to identify when you are fearful and what/who triggers your fear, so you can to find healthy ways of coping and calming your mind and body. Below, you’ll find powerful suggestions to get your fear-releasing efforts going!
DO NOT LET OTHER PEOPLE’S FEAR BECOME YOUR OWN
As important as it is to identify and manage your own fears, it’s also good to be aware of people around you who perpetuate their own fear by “projecting” their fear onto you. These individuals are most comfortable when those around them are also fearful because it validates their feelings and makes them feel like they are not alone. Just by being around people who often talk about all the bad things that can happen, it is possible for your psyche to absorb their fear. This can happen so gradually, over time, that you slowly internalize their fear — even though it’s not your fear, it’s theirs.
Here is how to know if you are “absorbing” someone else’s fear:
• You agree with that person’s reasoning about being fearful and later regret it because it’s not in sync with how you truly feel inside;
• After spending time around that person, you feel less joyful, more worried — like the energy is being sucked out of you;
• You begin to feel agitated or moody in their presence and aren’t sure why.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM FEAR
1) Protective visualization. Visualization is powerful because uses your own positive energy to intentionally protect you from all negativity — including other people’s fears. Mentally imagine yourself totally enveloped in a strong, clear, acrylic egg. Mentally fill the egg with pure white light (white light is the space in our universe that houses positive energies). In your own words, think: “I am surrounded and protected by Universal white light. Only good shall come to me; only good shall go from me. For this I give thanks.” Do this any time you want to protect yourself from the negative energy of others or the environment. It's also a good way to start the day.
2) Remain detached. If you have a family member, friend or co-worker who has a tendency to become fearful about situations, it’s important to realize that their fears have nothing to do with you. Remind yourself that their issues are NOT yours. You do not need to accept fault for their issues. You do not need to internalize them. You do not need to try to fix the situation for them. You can listen with an empathetic ear because you care and/or respect them, but you don’t need to absorb their emotions in the process. In fact, there is nothing wrong with admitting, “I simply don’t feel the way that you do.” Anyone who respects and/or cares for YOU will understand and support that you are the master of your own feelings and responses.
3) Compassionately open their eyes to their behavior. The reality is that people who are prone to fear may be blind to their own behavior. Perhaps their fear manifested in their younger years and, over time, it became normal to them. Sometimes bringing awareness to this behavior can be eye-opening for them. This can be achieved by communicating compassionately.
For example, I had a co-worker who always thought the worst was going to happen, i.e. “We’re going to lose a client...” or “We’re going to lose our jobs...” or something to that effect. I had a discussion over lunch with this person about how their frequent negativity was not only unfounded (there were never any clear signs that we’d lose business or our jobs) but that I preferred to spend my energy on positive aspects of my job that I could control, such as taking classes to boost my skills, working on new business to gain exposure within the company, and mentoring junior team members. At the end of our lunch, my co-worker thanked me for showing how, when we spend time and energy fixated on what we have no control over, we are wasting precious energy and letting our fear win.
HOW TO HELP FREE YOURSELF FROM YOUR OWN FEARS
If you feel overburdened by fears and are ready for a shift in thinking, here are some ways that you can start to free yourself: 1) Be proactive, feel prepared. Many fears come from insecurity. This insecurity can be sparked by not feeling ready to tackle the unexpected. On the flip side, being prepared for the unexpected can help you counteract whatever it is that you are afraid of so it no longer has power over you. Here are a few examples:
• Scared about contracting flu or another virus? Be proactive by keeping your immunity strong through vitamins, healthy levels of activity, proper sleep, avoiding alcohol and drugs, etc. Diligently practice social distancing; protect yourself from respiratory droplets dispersed from people speaking, coughing or sneezing (just to name a few protective measures you can proactively take). • Afraid of car trouble or being stranded in your car? Be proactive by learning how to change a tire. Have a complete car/tool/safety/first aid kit in your vehicle; carry a supply of protein bars and extra water; keep tiny mylar emergency blankets/sleeping bags in your glove compartment; program the number to roadside assistance into your phone. Think about what else you can do to make you feel more prepared for an auto mishap. • Do you fear deep water? Be proactive by using deep breathing to calm anxiety, take swimming classes until you’re a strong swimmer, and demystify water through exposure techniques (seek a professional for Exposure Therapy).
2) Practice calming affirmations. Your body esponds to what your mind tells it. That’s why repeating affirmations in your head (or out loud) will have a calm, soothing effect on your body. When you improve your outlook through positive thinking, you will feel less stressed. An affirmation must be: (A) positive; (B) use the present tense, never the future tense; and (C) be something you can easily relate to doing or being. Here are a few affirmations that will build your confidence. Feel free to come up with your affirmation to best fit your unique situation.
• I trust that I have the knowledge and ability to get through this.
• I am brave; this is an opportunity to grow.
• I am strong enough to handle whatever comes my way.
• I have what it takes to reach my goal.
• Facing my fears is empowering and I am worth it.
3) Reduce stress with a breathing exercise. Deep breathing pushes oxygen into your muscles which forces them to relax. Doing this will rid your body of stress — especially the stress that comes from fear. Here is a quick and easy technique that will leave you feeling relaxed and clear-headed in no time: To get started, sit or stand so that your head, neck and torso are aligned.
Step 1 – Breathe in through your nose for the count of 5.
Step 2 – Hold that breath for the count of 5.
Step 3 – Breathe out through your nose while counting to 5.
Step 4 – Hold those empty lungs for the count of 5.
Executing steps 1 – 4 means you have just completed one round. Repeat these steps 2 more times for a total of 3 rounds. You will feel a reduction in stress right away!
NOTE: If you feel lightheaded using a count of 5, try decreasing to a smaller more comfortable number — you will get the same calming effect.
4) Shift to a positive mindset. This can be done by listing out (or saying out loud) the reasons you are grateful. Research has proven, again and again, that gratitude is connected to greater happiness. Gratitude, cherishing good experiences in life and focusing on giving thanks makes individuals feel more positive. It shifts one’s attention away from what feels troubling to what feels uplifting and energizing.
Bottom line, if you’re tired of getting stuck or trapped in fear, then finding ways to move through those fears will free you, so that fear cannot control you any longer.