It’s really easy to get caught up in the news cycle, the climbing numbers, the things we don’t know. It’s really easy for fear to get inside of us – our heads, our hearts, our homes. And none of that is long term good for any of us, so tools to manage the fear mind become essential.
Breathe. Take a minute to turn off and turn away from all of the media and just observe your breathing. If you’re breathing high and tight in your chest, maybe a little relaxation to draw your breath deeper and slower. Give it a minute, breathing deeper and slower. You can repeat this exercise any time you need to.
Anxiety triggers our fight-or-flight (adrenaline) system. Continuous adrenaline causes metabolic changes that are not good for us – arterial and venous narrowing to drive up our blood pressures, cortisol to cause abdominal fat accumulation, all kinds of other things we generally don’t want. So breathe – several times a day, whenever you think of it – to give your system a break.
Change your position, your view and/or your soundtrack. Most of us are chronically in one position when we’re processing scary stuff – move your body, take another position for a moment. If you’ve got pretty much one view where you usually sit, deliberately move your body to get another point of view – all the better if it’s a window with a nice landscape, but even considering the pattern of paint cracking or a piece of art or a book that you haven’t looked at in a while is a change. What you’re trying to do here is to break the pattern of stuck that most of us fold into in times of great fear. Museums are putting their collections on virtual tour in this time of pandemic – you can see things you’ve never seen before, and maybe you’ll like one or more of them! Changing your soundtrack gives your subconscious different tools for coping – turning away from the 24/7 news cycle and towards maybe music you haven’t heard before or for a long time, a chance for exploration if you’re up to it or memories of happier times if that’s what you need. Break the stuck, do something different.
The fear mind will continue to gibber from time to time; that’s to be expected. These tools and the ones to come will help with that. But don’t just dismiss it – listen consciously to the gibbering from time to time. Some or lots of it is just scary what-ifs, but there may be some information in there that you need to actually pay attention to and deal with. Old traumas may be triggered, and this may be your chance to calmly and lovingly attend to healing them. One of the best self-healings I ever did involved traveling back to the child I was at time of that trauma and just holding her and loving her as the me I am now would treat any similarly injured being. Just those few minutes of holding and visualizing the long-ago me being held helped to heal very old wounds and open up current opportunities I could not have even imagined. One other kind of thing the fear mind might be gibbering is actual current facts that you had looked away from because you couldn’t cope right then. Actual facts are good things to have, so it’s good to pay attention to the bits you might have missed.
is any calming mantra that works for you. This step is well partnered with the breath exercise.
Pieces of written wisdom. Two of my favorites are the Litany Against Fear (Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965) and the Desiderata (Max Ehrmann, 1927).
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann © 1927
my own experience with a gibbering fear monkey. Found myself compulsively going to the grocery store every few days, even with a full fridge and freezer. Stopped myself about the third trip to ask the gibbering fear monkey what that was about. He finally showed himself, and told me his name. He is rooted in a long-ago episode of food insecurity, and in growing up with Depression-era survivors. After the conversation, we came to some agreements and things became much more rational. May you have similar successes with your own gibbering fear monkeys!
Best and blessings – Dana Morgan © 2020