Life is frightening on many different levels right now. For most of us, while we have our ups and downs, many of the threats that we read or hear about usually do not end up affecting us to a large extent. But this time it is different. This time the threat of COVID-19 is very much real and it is affecting each and every individual across the world. For some individuals, it is a matter of life or death while for the rest life has changed completely (at least for a while).
However, whether it’s real or imaginary, fear is very much a part of every day life. It is hardwired in our brain and has evolved over the history of mankind to protect us against any threats and to ensure our survival. Fear plays a critical role in our survival and irrespective of whether it is a physical trigger like a snake or spider or an emotional one, our response is very much similar. When we do not feel emotionally safe, our body reacts in exactly the same manner as if it were faced by a tiger.
Fear and anxiety are very closely connected but not exactly the same. You may feel anxious about a job interview but not really scared of physically going for the same. I have written about this topic earlier in my post “5 ways that you can manage your fear and anxiety during this crisis“.
There is not a single day that goes by now that I do not feel scared. If I see my son sneezing (he has asthma) or find myself feeling a bit down with a bit of headache, I am 100% sure that there is something wrong. What if one us comes down with a fever? What if a family member needs to be hospitalised and we cannot even accompany them to the hospital? What if I lose someone that I love or care about and I can only watch helplessly from the sidelines?
So many “what if” scenarios run through my mind almost every day. Whenever I catch myself doing this, I take a deep breath. I show myself some compassion for feeling like this instead of criticising myself for being scared. I notice my thoughts and bring myself to the present moment where everything and everyone is well.
I realise that no matter how hard I try to keep things at bay, my energy levels and my thoughts do and will continue to be affected by what is going on in the world right now. I realise that I need to give myself some grace and permission to take a break when I need and slow down.
What are you really afraid of?
This post is less about fear and more about what meaning we give to it. If you were to really sit with yourself and pause to reflect on what is really going on underneath your fear you would most likely find that your behaviour was rooted in one of these.
A fear of…
Having less of something
Never having something
(Courtesy: Leslyn Kantner, Licensed Professional Counsellor and Psychologist)
If I am to be really honest with myself, what I am most afraid of nowadays are three things
Will my family (especially my mother and my inlaws) be safe from the virus?
Will I have enough time to practice Health Coaching and writing the way I would like to in the near future?
I am afraid of the world being very different from when we entered lockdown and will never quite go back to the previous “normal”
Recognising your fear is the FIRST step
For far too many of us, we are so disconnected from our own bodies that we really do not understand or appreciate the grip that fear has on us. If we have not taken the time to slow down and recognise how fear looks for us, we cannot really hope to do much about it.
One of the most effective ways of noticing your fear is to pay attention to how it feels in your body.
When you are feeling scared…
Does it make your heart beat faster?
Does your chest feel tight and your breath become shallow?
Does your stomach and fists clench?
Or do you notice any other physical reaction?
Once you have been able to identify some of the ways that your body reacts to fear it will be easier for you to face it. When you do notice your body reacting this way you can also visualise an alarm bell going off in your head and focus on finding a way to switch it off.
Ask yourself these questions-
Am I afraid of something that can happen right now or something that I envision happening in the future?
Can I do something about it to change what happens?
Be kind and let go
Once you notice how it feels for you, show some kindness to yourself for feeling scared. If you are feeling scared right now because of what is going on in the world, that is completely normal. It just proves that you are human just like the rest of us!
If you would like to show some compassion to yourself, place a hand on your heart and feel the warmth of your hand as you breathe in and out. Acknowledge to yourself “I am scared. I am afraid. It’s ok to be scared.”
Let go of any need to control your fear or change it. Let go of your need to do anything about it. Be curious but at the same time try not to control or change how you feel.
Fear gives us energy
While our fears can paralyse us, fear also contains a great deal of energy which can become a source of courage. We can find ways to harness this energy and use it to serve us and others. However, it is by learning to face our fears that we can loosen its grip over us; by moving through fear and facing it even when we are most uncomfortable.
This way, over time we can find a way to make friends with it and learn to acknowledge it without getting swept away by its strong undercurrents. With practice, we can also create space for this strong emotion so that we can hold it gently without getting overwhelmed or paralysed anymore. Infact, we can also harness its energy to emerge on the other side and discover fearlessness.
In this fearlessness, we find the strength to come together during the darkest of times. We know that physical separation cannot stop us from finding ways to support each other. We know that we can get through this together since we are not alone anymore.
“Only when it is dark can you see the stars”
– Martin L King