What is fear? Fear is a Fantasy Explosion Altering Reality. When we are operating from a place of fear, fantasy has taken over. Our minds are fixated on everything that could go wrong (fantasy). We run the scenarios in our minds over and over (explosion). Our bodies begin to react by tensing up. Our minds race and our stomachs are in knots. We begin to act as if the fantasy is taking place (altering reality). At this point, we are no longer in control, and F.E.A.R is affecting the many aspects of our being.
The Effects of F.E.A.R
As F.E.A.R sets in, it has a profound effect on our mental state. As the thoughts rush in, it is difficult to separate fantasy from reality. We are unable to think clearly as rational thought is stifled by a flood of potentially undesirable outcomes. As we succumb to the thoughts of all of these negative possibilities, we enter a vulnerable state where things like anxiety, depression and panic can take over. At this point, we are operating from a diminished mental state, and are not in the best place to be rational or make decisions.
As we grapple with what is happening mentally, our emotional well-being is a target of F.E.A.R as well. Feelings of frustration, helplessness, inadequacy, guilt and anger can set in. When I am emotionally drained, I tend to shut down and isolate. That behavior leads me to feeling lonely and misunderstood. We are all different; so exactly how each of us is affected varies, but you get the idea. Our bad thoughts are leading to bad feelings, but it does not stop there.
F.E.A.R hits me hardest physically. My ability to eat is impacted. My stomach alternates between a painful burning sensation and cramps. I will either sleep excessively or not at all because my mind is in overdrive. At this point, I am a wreck and spiraling out of control. There were many points along the way where I could have exited my self-constructed misery. However, I am now at a crossroad. I will either do nothing and allow full blown depression to set in or fight my way out of it. I am not alone in this struggle. We have all been there to some degree and must remember that we are one decision away from getting off this slippery slope and returning to solid ground.
We have thought ourselves into states of mental, emotional, and physical turmoil over something that has not happened. It is time to regain control! This is where the work begins:
- Start with the breath. This chaos started in the mind and that is where the solution lies. Slow deep breathing will quiet the mind.
- Inhale for 4 counts
- Hold for 7 counts
- Exhale for 8 counts
- Repeat until you feel the calm begin to set in
- If you are not able to control your breathing yet, back up and control your thoughts.
- Think of:
- 3 things you can feel
- 2 things you can hear
- 1 thing you can smell
- I have seen variations of this exercise, but the point is, you are no longer thinking of the bad things that may happen.
- As your mind quiets, return to the breathing exercise again.
- Think of:
- What are strategies that calm you? Here are a few possibilities:
- Move your body
- Think of 3-5 things for which you are grateful.
- Gratitude is a powerful mood stabilizer
- A positive and negative thought can’t co-exist
- Gratitude changes your focus
- Revisit your history
- Hard things have happened before, and you got through them
- Remind yourself of how resilient you are, and rest in that strength
- Tap into your higher power
- Listen to uplifting music
- Move your body
The New Reality
The reality is that F.E.A.R is a made-up problem that has real consequences. Once it takes over, it is a battle to get back in the driver’s seat, but it can be done. Stay connected to your thoughts and feelings. Notice when they are moving you in an unhealthy direction. Make the decision sooner rather than later to regain control. Our new reality is that we can control what seems uncontrollable. We can quiet our minds, sooth our spirits, balance our emotions, and return to a healthier place physically. We can do this one thought at a time. We maintain control of those thoughts by trying the techniques above and many others. There are countless books, articles, blogs, podcasts, etc. on techniques that can be helpful. My sincere hope is that I have added something to the conversation that is helpful to you. Control your thoughts and stay in the now. Live in what IS happening instead of worrying about what MAY happen. You can do this one thought at a time!