peace comes from faith not fear. learn to handle fear

Handle Fear Itself

The way you handle fear just might be your biggest challenge in life. Not just right now, but in absolutely everything at all times. In fact, it might be the only challenge that really matters. (Well, that and managing shame, the other troubling emotion but even shame does not paralyze in quite the same way as fear. It’s not as contagious, for starters. More on that in a later blog post.)

When Franklin D. Roosevelt said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” he knew what he was talking about. It applies today. And yes, it does apply to fear around our money as FDR meant when he said it in his first inaugural address.

Now is a great time for people NOT to panic about the economy and about their money. History bears this out time and again: those who resist the panic and keep their wits about them are the ones who get the real pay off in the end. Especially when it comes to economic things.

No matter what you apply it to: health, relationship, wealth…everything we do is either in faith or in fear.

I mean it. Every single step, every move you make, every vow you take (sorry, I distract myself with song lyrics.) But it’s still true; it’s ALL fear or faith.

Every single thing you confront today is either done in faith or fear. You are moving through life in faith or in fear. Going to work, driving your car, flying on a plane, submitting that work proposal, trying to improve your health, talking about that thing with your boss, your mate, your sister, or your dad.

I guess you can be doing something in a trance as well, unconsciously. Yet underneath it, even your subconscious is in faith or fear.

It matters.

Facing Fear

When handling fear, you don’t need to shout it down or summon angels for help or start a war. That really just makes it worse. It’s like struggling in quick sand. Exactly the opposite of what helps.

Fear is just fear. It’s an emotion. It’s just like every other emotion. And that means you can notice it, say to yourself, “hmmm, that’s interesting” and allow it. Breathe. Let it go.

Just like every other emotion, fear gets more powerful and bigger the more space you give it. What you focus on amplifies. Every troubling nuance, when given attention, becomes something bigger and more troubling.

Good news: when you focus on all the good stuff, that grows too. Including faith. And faith is NOT just an emotion. 😉

Faith is actually a bit meatier. Now, I’m not meaning this in any kind of religious or spiritual sense. I don’t have to be talking from that perspective for this to be real because this is a truth that exists in the secular, human psychology perspective as well. It’s just true. (But if you have a religious or spiritual relationship with faith and perspective, you might already know what I’m talking about. And go ahead, draw on that as you reflect on this if it helps.)

Faith is more powerful than fear. You just need a tiny little bit of the stuff for it to grow. More than an emotion, faith is the expectation of things hoped for. In fact, one text calls it “the evidence of things not seen.” Did you hear that? Faith itself is the evidence of things not seen. Because the faith exists, (the positive belief, shall we say) the unseen thing actually IS. More than an emotion, faith is a state of being.

You’re either stuck in the emotion of fear or you’re in a state of faith.

Managing Fear with Faith

Making this distinction takes power from fear and gives it to faith. Think of fear simply as an emotion and faith as your chosen state of being and you are well on your way to complete freedom from the paralyzing effects of fear, my friend.

It’s that simple.

You know how to manage your emotions.

They’re just feelings you HAVE, and just like any other feeling you have, they will change. So you can tolerate the not-so-fun ones in the moment. They will change. Even the really hard ones based on real crappy things…like learning a mate cheated, or getting dumped, or losing a job, or having a loved one die… I mean those things truly hurt, AND those painful emotions do not stay as intense forever without your help.

Some of you know how to tolerate your pain, not just manage your emotions and that is a very necessary skill. Especially when the thing you feel is pretty unpleasant. And let’s face it, sometimes fear can be pretty intense and grab hold of you. It can seem once you’re in its grip, you’re trapped. But that’s not true.

Handle Fear Intentionally

Concentrate on the good. Count blessings. Garner joy. Repeat the positive. Avoid negatives and catastrophizing. In like fashion, avoid mockery and derision, conspiracy, and complaint. These are all quite a waste of your time and bring fighting energy to a thing that really doesn’t need to be a struggle.

Choose faith. On purpose. Adopt a few soothing mantras if you need them. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I believe in goodness. “Good things will come of this.” All shall be well.

No matter what phrase or phrases you choose, keep them around and bring them out as a habit, not just when things look dark or threatening. Notice the difference they make.

One woman I see often in the shared lavatory of my office building obviously experiences a lot of fear. She’s always worried about something: the weather, the roads, the soap dispenser, the flu. Her constant mantras are definitely affecting her overall mood, health, movement, and experience in life.

Adopt some positive ones and make them a habit. You’ll reap the benefit of those as well.

Handle Fear with Your Brain

It’s amazing how research and clear thought can keep gnarly emotions at bay. Some of you #brainfirst people already know that. (The downside we talk about sometimes in therapy is too much intellectualizing, too much “thinking your feelings” when those puppies were meant to be felt, enjoyed, and even shared, producing connection, intimacy, and interdependence.)

But at times when the fear factor threatens to overwhelm, there’s nothing like good rationale and clear thinking for truly clearing the clutter and helping one breathe and get back to balance. Take, for example, this Washington Post article explaining why it’s so crucial to slow our movement at times when a virus is on the loose. Good research, informed thought, and measured response help all of us make good decisions and formulate a plan.

And when you’re feeling fearful, having a plan is comforting.

Handle Fear with Movement

That’s right. Move your body. (And if you’re slowing your movement to help slow the spread of coronavirus, move your body within those parameters. I’m heading to pick-up that Kroger order later, for example. I’m not going into the store…because I don’t need to. )

So, if you are slowing your movement, working from home, suddenly with kids home from school, think about your movement and making it intentional. Plan to exercise in the house. Or go out for a walk or run and don’t stop for a chat with the neighbor. Wave. Smile. These are good.

Clean, de-clutter, and organize some more. Knock yourself out and disinfect. Again. Physical movement like this can increases hopefulness, add to lightness of being, keep you from getting cabin fever, and underscore a sense of control.

Just check with yourself to be sure the ways you are moving within your own parameters really ARE serving you, helping keep you measured and well, and feeding your faith, not the fear. There’s no need to be frantic in these movements either.

There you have it. Go with faith, my friend. As much as you are able. And then the rest of the way, when you’re having a hard time with faith, be comforted. You’re not alone. We are in this together. (And that goes for ALL of life, not just virus-time.)

As always, let me know if I can help. I’m here for you. And because I truly believe it is the most responsible and community-minded action, I’ll be seeing you in my virtual office for now. Don’t worry; you’re going to like it too. Plus, I’m here at the blog, on Facebook, and on Instagram…and just a phone call or email away.

Keep the faith. Chin up. Rely on your brain. Move intentionally. You got this.

make behavior change easier woman on bed contemplating behavior change

Behavior Change: why is it so hard?

Behavior change might be on your agenda this time of year. Maybe besides losing the holiday weight, it’d be nice to drop a few additional pounds and get in shape. You’ve been swearing you’ll afford that vacation and this is it! Maybe this is the year to find love or really improve relationship once and for all. You’ve said it before but this truly is the year to pay attention to your health, finances, or relationship!

I know you’re ready and you’ve been trying really hard for the past couple weeks.

Still, some stats tell us only 8% (or up to 18% in the optimistic findings) successfully keep our New Year’s resolutions. If you’ve almost given up already, you’re not alone.

But don’t let the statistics fool you. Humans are highly capable of behavior change. It’s part of what separates us from other life forms.

The way you go about doing it is what sets apart those who manage to transform their lives (er, their bodies, bank accounts, or relationship experience) and those whose movement in the world remains relatively the same year after year, decade after decade.

Successful Behavior Change

It helps to understand some things about the human animal. We were made to conserve energy. Keep that in mind when you decide what and how to change and make it as easy on yourself as possible. You’ll give yourself the best chance of making that change permanent and be more likely to achieve your desired outcome.

Here are three great things to do to make it as easy as possible (and 10x more likely it will stick.)

1. Combine behaviors

Combine an already-habit with a desired one for easy behavior change. For instance, examine what you do automatically that produces a “good” return on your investment. It might be brushing your teeth. Do you automatically brew coffee first thing? Maybe it’s watching your favorite show. Every single one of these things you do “almost without thinking” has a positive return for you (or you wouldn’t have made it a habit in the first place.)

Just so you know, I am not arguing the good in caffeine or TV viewing… or brushing your teeth, for that matter. I’m not arguing anything. The point is to pick something that you do automatically and that you LIKE because it’s pleasurable, easy, or has a good payoff…even as small as liking the feeling of a clean mouth.

Now, marry that to something else beneficial. Maybe you want to drink more water. Or add a daily stretching routine. Maybe you’re trying to add some meditation. Do it while the coffee brews. The stretches don’t have to be long. Even three minutes of meditation makes a difference. Getting hydrated in the am while the coffee brews is a perfect time for that. Meditating while brushing your teeth? I say it’s possible.

And yes, combine a good thing with a less healthy habit: drinking a beer after work for example. If you already drink the beer, adding the additional more healthy behavior will, in fact, still make a significant difference.

2. Small behavior change first

… because small behavior changes last. (See what I did there?)

We all get pretty gung-ho when it comes to behavior changes. And yes, when you get good insight and put action to it, you will see some pay offs that make a difference right away.

But do not underestimate the power of small, incremental changes added over time. These will change your life. And if you combine them with things you already do, you will barely feel the difference.

Don’t believe me? I just committed to contributing an additional 3%…just THREE percent… to my long-term investing. At a super-moderate yield, in ten short years, that 3% alone will net an additional 75 THOUSAND dollars. SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND BIG ONES. And that’s not even combining it with other investing. That’s JUST the 3% figured alone.

Not a friend of compound interest yet? You need to meet.

I will barely feel that three percent allocation. In fact, I pretty much won’t. It’s being moved from one account draw (where it earns absolutely ZERO) to the other.

Is that the only financial change I’ll make and call it good? No. But I am not all black and white and hot and bothered about this one either. I am not waiting until I have something HUGE to invest. I am not requiring myself to get all my ducks in a row before I start moving small amounts that will make a big difference. Which leads me to this:

3. Conquer all-or-nothing thinking

It never helped anyone. Ever. Honestly.

All-or-nothing thinking just keeps people stuck. It keeps them having the same experience in life and in relationship over and over and over again. It fosters paralysis. And a collasping, “ah just screw it” response when a little snag comes up.

Just change one little thing today. One little thing next week. (Not tomorrow either…give yourself at least a week if not THREE weeks to make a real adjustment.) At the end of the year, that’s 52 (and if you did one every 21 days that’s still SEVENTEEN) additional corrective improvements. That’s a lot of improvements.

It’s not true that you need to figure it all out or make drastic changes or that you can’t move until everything is prepped and ready to go. It’s not that six sessions of marriage or relationship counseling will transform your relationship forever. (There should be some movement in six sessions, and you should gain insight but a lot of that is going to be small, internal, and make the biggest difference implemented in real changes practiced over time.)

Look, we love dramatic transformations. We love rags-to-riches and underdog victories and come-from-behind wins. We love get-rich-quick schemes and fast happy relationships that form and gel into a “happily ever after” in an hour and 43 minutes. That’s all good. These are pretty sweet stories. But they are not common, realistic, and they are not even the whole story.

Gentleness, my friends, is the key to getting over black-and-white or all-or-nothing thinking. Just try being gentle and rigid at the same time. You can’t. You CAN, however, be gentle and loving while being firm at the same time.

Gentle is key in Behavior Change

I know some of you think you need to be hard on yourself to get results. You think if you’re not punishing or pushing yourself, you’ll wimp out and cave to the other extreme. That’s the very nature of all-or-nothing thinking and it does not serve you. Not sure what gentleness looks or sounds like?

It’s a good loving, inner cheerleader. One that doesn’t let you off the hook (indulgent or permissive) and doesn’t have you feeling like a piece of crap (harsh and shaming.) It sounds a bit like this: “hmmm, my pants are tight. Back to salads and fruit for lunch and no snacks from the break room. You can do that.” And then when considering the snacks while walking by them says something like, “You’re good. That impulse will pass in a few minutes. Keep walking.”

That gentle voice does not say things like “Holy crap, you’re fat! You deserve to wear tight pants as a reminder to get your ass in gear.” And then, walking by the snacks says “Your damn pants are tight. Don’t even look at those cookies, Fatso. That’s right, keep walking.”

One of those voices is loving and the other is not. Loving always wins in the (short and the) long run. Choose loving, gentle, and firm. No matter what the topic for your desired behavior change, gentleness will serve you. Harshness will just add to you feeling worse. Who wants that?

You can do it.

Real change happens over time when it’s combined with other habits, starts and stays small and incremental, and allows for gentleness in the process. Real change is woven into the fabric of daily life and compounds into transformation over time.

Need help? Of course, I’m here for you. Whether you want help setting incremental, helpful goals, being accountable to someone, understanding how gentleness works in your life and inner dialogue, or finding the right approach to meeting your goals and objectives, I am here to help.