Fear is in the air once again: An Ebola epidemic. ISIS atrocities. Another senseless school shooting. What’s going on here?
We want to feel safe. We want our families to be safe. Yet, every time we turn on the news (in all the many forms we receive it today), panic-inducing stories bombard our brains. We feel fear, even when authorities work hard to quell our fears.
Fear is addictive. It destroys our ability to focus on other matters. It’s immobilizing. It promotes panic. It cultivates hopelessness. So, how shall we cope when we hear about the terrifying events happening in today’s world?
First and foremost, you must find the adult voice in your head that is calming, reassuring, and hopeful. It’s there somewhere. And you must tell the scared child within you to listen to that voice. Really listen. Take those reassuring thoughts in.
Isn’t that denial, though? Bad things are happening. Frightening events are taking place. Yes, but that doesn’t mean we need to immerse ourselves in information overload that feeds the fear. We can choose what to pay attention to at any moment of the day.
Indeed, we must remind our brain that despite all that is going on in the world, we still live in an age in which we’re healthier, safer, richer and living far longer than previous generations ever dreamed of.
When fear reigns, all the excitement, enjoyment and juiciness is squeezed out of life. Then what remains? Just the everyday, mundane stuff and, of course, those awful moments, crises and tragedies that none of us can escape.
This is no way to live life. So, whatever is happening in the world, make sure you tell yourself that you will not let fear take up permanent residency in your brain. An occasional visit is okay and may be appropriate. But that’s it.
Tell your brain that:
- You will not exhaust yourself by worrying about every trouble, problem or calamity that is happening in the world.
- Since fear is contagious, you will spend minimal time with people who are fearful, negative doomsayers, and spend more time with those who are positive, optimistic go-getters.
- New risk is scarier than old risk. You’re much more likely to die of the flu than to die of Ebola. But since the flu is a “known” disease and Ebola is “new” (at least in the Western world), it seems more lethal.
- Your brain needs to let go of obsessing about danger that you can do nothing about. Instead, focus on what you can do (either individually or with a group effort) to help ameliorate a fearful situation.
- You don’t have to obsess over world events. You can turn your TV and digital devices on and off. You can consciously and calmly determine how much media exposure is good for you.
- You won’t allow yourself to live life in a helpless, vulnerable position.
Your brain will forever be grateful to you for all these good messages.