How to Stop Fear from Holding You Back During Troubling Times
Living life in fear is no way to live, no matter what is going on in the world. Without a doubt, these are troubling times, filled with uncertainty, sadness, perhaps physical pain as well. Much of what’s happened is out of anyone’s control. The new reality of social distancing, working from home, constant hand washing and finding innovative ways to stretch groceries, paper products and cleaning supplies is enough to produce anxiety in any sane individual. Yet, coming to grips with fear is essential. Instead of struggling with this powerful emotion and allowing it to grow, do something to stop it. Here’s how.
What Is Really Bothering You?
While this may be the last thing on a to-do list, it’s important to sit down and identify what is really bothering you now. Just answering “COVID-19” is too broad, yet putting this on paper is a good starting point.
Before diving in, however, make sure family or business duties or tasks are taken care of. They must take priority. Then, feel free to devote sufficient time to centering on what’s most fear-inducing.
It may help to do this exercise with eyes closed. Think about what went on today that may have produced fear. Did something someone said (in the home, on TV, during Internet browsing, reading the newspaper) allow that knot of fear to metastasize? Did it mean reticence about doing something or shying away from any personal contact (even at a distance)? Write down specifics, anything that comes to mind.
The list will vary from one person to the next, although there are some common threads people mention about what makes them afraid. These include:
- I’m so fearful to be around other people, even with social distancing. What if I’m next to someone who’s got the coronavirus?
- I’m afraid that I’ll never enjoy success again and, with so many millions of people sick and tens of thousands dying from this novel virus, I feel guilty even thinking of personal goal achievement.
- Others probably think I’m a selfish person, so I’m reluctant to tell them what I’m thinking so they won’t judge me.
- I’m afraid for our children. What kind of world will they live in? What happens if we get sick and can’t take care of them.
- All I can feel is fear — about everything.
This May Seem Obvious, But When Did the Fear Begin?
To overcome fear, it’s important to pinpoint when it took over and began to handicap everyday living.
Some fears are universal, such as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear about disease, dying and death. Indeed, some of what’s now identified as fear may trace back to a dysfunctional home, childhood trauma, economic disadvantage, school bullying, the presence of a physical or mental disability.
Recognize that uncovering when and where the fear started and then focusing on the fear itself is likely to be painful. Dwelling on fear is unpleasant at best, yet getting past fear requires going through this process.