What About Fear?
I talked to a youngster the other day about his fear--“I am afraid that my life will be terrible—that I will always be lonely”. When Joe, 17, feels that way he is filled with a sense of hopelessness and anxiety.
Jill, 57, has just been diagnosed with arthritis in her back. She is afraid that as it gets worse that she will be able to do less and less. She worries about the future.
Kim’s mom is 90 years old and lives with her in her small home. She dreads the day that her mom passes away. She knows that it will come, but she can’t imagine losing her.
Tim, 18, is afraid that he won’t be able to manage college courses. His high school performance has been pretty poor and he wonders whether he can really achieve his academic and vocational goals.
Fear is something that we all live with. It is an unwelcome visitor at our table. We wish that it would just leave us alone. Yet, it is an experience that all of us have. It is something we must learn to live with.
What do you do when you are afraid? What should you do? What shouldn’t you do? These are perennial questions.
- Identify what you are feeling. I had major foot surgery several years ago, and a couple of months ago my rebuilt foot developed a new pain. At first, I tried all kinds of approaches to deal with this new pain. Finally, I had to acknowledge that I was really afraid of what was happening to my foot. Now, I was ready for the next step.
- Ask yourself—“What do I want to do about it?” The moment you ask yourself this critical question—you are now in control of your life! You can choose what you want to do. There are many choices and possibilities once you acknowledge your fear and explore possible responses.
I realized that I needed to visit my Orthopedic Surgeon and face whatever might come. As soon as I made the appointment, I felt better. Of course my wife reminded me that she had told me to call him two months earlier!
- Make a list of possible choices. For some fears, there is nothing to do, but take several spoonfuls of “acceptance”. This medicine is hard to swallow, and doesn’t go down very easily. I always make a face when I take this drug! There are many things that we cannot change—growing older, finding new wrinkles on our face, aches and pains, or loss of function. Finding a way of making the best of these unalterable changes is helpful. If you can do something to slow these boulders down, do them!
After acceptance kicks in, focus your attention on something else. You have to acknowledged your fears, accepted that they exist, and now you are ready to do something else (mow your lawn, wash the dishes, make a pie, turn on some music, eat some chocolate, dance, or take a nap).
- Sometimes it’s about taking action. There are often paths that you can take that will lead you out of where you are and into some other place. Fearful about losing your job? Look for a new one. There are often actions one can take that will set something new into motion.
- Sometimes it’s just about giving yourself comfort. Wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug! Talk to a friend about your experience. Pray. Eat. (Don’t drink). Listen to music. Go for a walk. Take a hot bath. Do something nice for yourself. Do something nice for someone else.
Fear is part of this mortal coil. It comes with being alive. Learning how to cope with fear is an important utensil to have in your toolbox.
What helps you when you are afraid?