Even though we know that fear is not where we want to be for a variety of reasons (it causes illness and disease, it takes us away from the joy of life, it just plain feels like crap) sometimes it attacks out of nowhere and places us in its grip before we realize what is happening. Think back to 9/11 and what you experienced when you first heard about what had occurred. That is the assault on your body and mind I am speaking of.
Last night I was on the computer having a lovely chat with my son who is currently in Thailand. With a 15 hour time difference and both of us busy in our schedules, we don’t get this opportunity nearly enough. I was in true joy and bliss, it couldn’t get much better. My back was to the TV but I could hear the 10 o’clock news going on in the background. There was suddenly BREAKING NEWS! The Bothell police were looking for 3 masked men that had just committed a home invasion, breaking down the front door, tying up the 3 people inside and stealing valuables and electronics. Well, I live in Bothell so my ears abruptly perked up! However Bothell is quite large geographically so the odds of it being nearby were slim. I turned around to look at the TV screen as they were putting up a map of where this occurred. Uh oh, just a few blocks from where I live.
I could feel the fear monster begin to attack my body, starting in my feet and rising up until it pounded through my head. As I stood up to walk towards the TV (why do we think putting our nose 2 inches from the TV will give us more information than just sitting where we are?) my legs started feeling like jello, I unconsciously grab my stomach, my throat begins to close up and I can feel my heart beating out through my ears.
Anxiety is caused by fear of the (unknown) future. Have you ever had a panic attack? That is what caused it. Anxiety begins with the symptoms described above so I knew what was coming if I didn’t calm down immediately. I had to get rid of the thoughts running through my head that these masked men were coming to my house to take me hostage and possibly kill me. I know that may sound a little extreme but that is what fear does. It takes control of your mind and the worst case scenario suddenly starts playing out in your head. You can literally hear it, see it, smell it and feel it as if you were sitting in a theater and it was playing out in Dolby stereo on a huge screen in front of you. Every sense and emotion is amplified.
If you don’t start here, you won’t get any further. You need to focus on your breath. I sat down, closed my eyes and started doing some four-square breathing. In through the nose to the count of 4 – hold it to the count of 4 – exhale through your mouth to the count of 4 – rest to the count of 4. And start again, repeating as long as you need to until your focus is only on your breath and you don’t feel your heart pounding through your throat any longer.
GET CLEAR ON THE FACTS
Fear can also stand for False Evidence Appearing Real. So I asked myself, is it true that these men were outside my house ready to break down my door or strategically planning to do it later as I was asleep and truly helpless? The answer was no (or at least probably not!) So what are the FACTS in this situation? Well, first of all they were blocks away during the invasion not right next door, they probably had a car if they were taking valuables; they know the police are looking for them, and they have probably driven far away by now to a different area or city to escape being caught. Once you become clear with the reality of the facts, you can proceed to step #3.
TALK YOURSELF DOWN OFF THE LEDGE
The opposite of fear is love and they cannot exist in the same space at the same time. So put your hand over your heart and get yourself back to that place of calm, serene love. Talk to yourself as if you were trying to comfort a child. Have compassion for yourself. It may take a little more conversation from your heart to your brain to get you where you need to be, so just breathe and focus on what is true. Take your mind to a “happy place” (mine involves being on the floor surrounded by babies, or puppies or kittens!)
It can actually be quite humorous to look back later at the story you made up that created such fear, sometimes to the point of embarrassment. This just happened last night and I already find it funny. A few years ago I would never had shared the experience I described above to anyone. But now, I freely share all situations that I find may be valuable to others. I know I’m not alone in getting caught up in the tornado like effects of a fear storm. And I hope the tips I shared above will help you next time you feel it happening to you!
Is there anything you do to help get rid of your fear? Share it below! Someone else may find it valuable as well!