5 ways to help manage FEAR (in adults)
By Jo Devin - Positive Living Skills Team
Fear. An inevitable and inescapable part of life, and right now globally and locally, fear is rising.
Over the last few years in Australia we have experienced the worst drought in our history, the worst fires in our history and now COVID-19 has been declared a serious global pandemic and it’s hitting our shores.
We are living in extraordinary times and we do not know what the future holds next week or even tomorrow. So how do we get a handle on our fear? How can we stop it from hijacking our thoughts and squeezing all the enjoyment from our lives?
People who learn to manage their fear, especially in uncertain times such as these, build their own personal strength, find more resilience, feel more empowered, and support and inspire others to do the same through their words and actions.
So how do we do it? How do we handle or manage our fear in these unprecedented circumstances when panic is all around us?
In her best-selling book ‘Feel the Fear, and Do it anyway’, Susan Jeffers recommends to firstly acknowledge that you are feeling fear, then take just one step forward anyway. It’s amazing how courage shows up when we take action.
And in this situation while the fear isn’t about public speaking or starting your own business, that ‘step’ that could stop the fear monologue from playing in your head could be to take a walk in the fresh air near your home.
While no one can predict the future or control outcomes, there are some tips that might help you to manage your relationship with fear, even now.
1. Make the conscious decision to focus on what IS working in your situation right now and then make time to remember or highlight those things. You simply must MAKE time to focus on what you can be grateful for, even in the most frightful situations. And there is always something to be grateful for, and unfortunately situations can always be worse.
Your immune system can become compromised when you’re worrying or in fear so when the fear is about a health pandemic it’s even more important that our focus is directed in positive ways. The thing that we need in times of a health crisis is our strongest possible immune system. Make time to count your blessings every single day and stay healthier.
2. While it’s important to keep up to date with the latest information at a time like this, make a deal with yourself to limit the amount of news you watch. Of course, with a situation like this it is everywhere – on your TV, in your social media feeds, on your email, and sometimes it can seem that the media feeds on panic and that can really increase anxiety levels at times like these.
Once you are up to date with local area news, travel bans and event closures, do something you enjoy. It can be really helpful to try and schedule time each day where you watch or read the latest updates, and then change your focus and watch an uplifting movie, read a good book or play an old fashioned board game as a family.
3. Keep bringing yourself back to the present moment. Fear is generally in the future, where we worry about what we will face or how we will cope if we are more impacted by the situation than we are now, or how we would feel if we realised that we had carried an illness to a person at risk who couldn’t handle it like we could, or if we are a person at risk and we come into contact with the virus.
All these potential outcomes can raise our stress and anxiety and fear levels, leaving us overwhelmed or for some paralysed with fear or experiencing a mounting panic. If we focus on our breathing, and close our eyes and practice mindfulness, we can bring our fear back into control. All we really have is endless moments of now, and now is where love and peace and happiness is.
4. Stay connected. In this time of recommended moderate to extended social distancing, with many of us being forced to work from home or stop working for a period, we can feel isolated and alone. This is where the positive side of Social media can help us support each other. Reach out and message a friend, call them on the phone, talk and support each other with positive words and thoughts, and remember to reach out to Lifeline or Beyond Blue or other professional support organisations. You are not alone and there are others who want to support you and listen. Reach out.
5. Be KIND and respectful; ALWAYS
We have all seen the recent panic buying behaviour, and maybe we have participated in it in some way. Literature calls this reactance, where our behaviour is unpleasant and in response to offers or rules that we see as threatening to our behavioural freedoms. Then this behaviour can actually cause the event that is feared – a shortage – to be created. Fear, panic and scarcity can mix and then human beings can start to exhibit behaviour that is simply not kind.
Take a moment, take a breath, take a pause, find the space between stimulus and response, and find the distinction between reaction and response.
And just be KIND. ALWAYS.
And finally, in this time of social distancing many of us who are used to hugging and handshaking and feel connected by touch will find it a challenge.
Next time you see someone you know or love and you would normally run in for a hug, try a Namaste instead.
"Namaste" - the divine in me respectfully recognizes the divine in you.”
We are united, we are the same, we are one.