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.
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.