FEAR. Have you ever thought about how powerful it is? Fear controls, limits, stops, perpetuates, and demands. The more attention we give it, the more controlling it becomes, the more desperate we become. It’s like drowning. Panic swimming for the surface barely able to escape the tug of the depths.
Even as I reflect my skin tingles with anxiety. My throat burns with that familiar feeling of doom. I know from experience that if I allow myself the opportunity to entertain fear thoughts, I will inevitably drown in my own created panic.
I’ve been here plenty of times before. I know the skin on fire, breathless, throat-burning, heart-pounding, body-trembling, feeling of desperation. I know it well. It was so intimately intertwined within me that I didn’t know I could exist without it. It was me. I was fear.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you can’t. Maybe this is new for you. Maybe anxiety is nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Even for those of us who have never feared before, these may prove to be challenging times.
This is a very real-time to feel afraid, to worry, to admit we aren’t as strong as we pretend, or as prepared as we had planned to be and to feel crazy from the racing thoughts that we can’t seem to separate ourselves from.
BUT. This is a very big BUT, it doesn’t have to be.
It’s taken me 45 years to be able to say this. We don’t have to be afraid. We can control fear and not let it get the best of us.
Understand that your thoughts contribute to your fear. Think about riding a roller coaster or traveling, they can both be viewed as exciting or scary. Starting a new job, having a baby, buying a new home, getting married. All of it is a matter of perspective and affects how you feel. How you feel affects your physiology and essentially creates the responses your body generates.
That skin-on- fire, breathless, throat-burning, heart-pounding, body-trembling desperation, was all me. I created it. I allowed myself to think about things that were scary, things I couldn’t control. I allowed myself to entertain “what if” worse case scenarios, in my mind. I allowed myself to attach meaning to my thoughts and create a cycle of one scary thought after the next.
But here’s the kicker, none of it actually happened. All that fear, all that energy spent, all the discomfort, all the tortured feelings of desperation, all of the doctor’s appointments, all of the sleepless nights, the hours crying and feeling crazy, alone, and unstable and NONE of it came true. None.
In Phillipians 4:6-8 Paul gives sage advice, he writes,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think of such things.”
Thoughts are thoughts. They float around in our heads like snow in a snowglobe. Its when we decide a thought has meaning, that it becomes important. So, since you have the option to think good things or bad things, why not choose the good?
I used to think it wasn’t that easy. I couldn’t just decide to think about good things. In fact, I didn’t have much control over the things I thought at all. I was right. I had never practiced controlling my thoughts. I had never practiced doing things that set me up to succeed in this area. I didn’t know I could.
The cool thing is, you can.
Here are some tips for things you can do to practice thinking good thoughts and learning to control your fear and anxiety:
- Get out of bed. That may seem silly but it’s true. Get up every morning and get ready for your day. Even if you have nowhere to go and nothing to do. The act of getting up and showering and getting dressed will help you stay in a positive state of mind. Don’t fall into the trap of laying in bed and losing all motivation or staying in your jammies all day. That will quickly spiral into negative thoughts and anxiety or depression, or both.
- Start your day on a positive note. Make a cup of coffee, read a devotional, or an inspirational blog, start a gratitude journal. Pray, meditate, go for a walk, practice taking deep breaths and mindful moments. Set the intention for your day to start out positive which will help you better manage stress throughout your day.
- Plan move breaks. If you’re one of the many working from home or sitting for long hours at a desk or computer, plan to take breaks often. Set your alarm and get up and move. It can be a simple routine of 5 stretching exercises or jumping jacks and arm rolls. Just get your body moving and your blood flowing, this will feed oxygen to your cells for homeostasis, and help keep your body and mind active. Do this several times throughout your day.
- Get fresh air. Go for a walk, or stand outside for a few minutes and take in some deep breaths. Try to focus on the moment. Listen to the birds chirping, or feel the sun on your face. Pay attention to the temperature of the air and the smell of the dirt. Imagine yourself breathing in good health and releasing stress and negativity. The fresh air will help you feel better and gives your body the oxygen it needs to stay healthy.
- Set a personal challenge for the next week or two. Drink more water, or watch less TV. Walk daily. Do something kind for a neighbor. Just remember to set measurable goals. If you’re going to drink “more” water, how will you know it’s more? Be specific, I will drink 4 glasses of water each day for 14 days. And track it! If your goal is to watch less tv, then set limits for yourself, I will watch 1 hour of tv per day for 14 days. Again, track it! If your goal is to walk daily, how far will you walk, or how much time will you walk for (10 minutes? 20 minutes?). Time yourself, make a list for each day and check off when you’ve met your goal for the day. If you’re doing something kind for your neighbor, set one kind act per day. I will bring one roll of toilet paper to one neighbor each day. Or I will call one person who might need something each day for 14 days. Set realistic, but measurable goals and DO THEM!
- Exercise. I can’t stress this enough. Exercise does so many good things for our bodies, but most importantly it gets our blood flowing which feeds our cells with oxygen and helps to remove waste from our cells. This is important for our bodies to stay healthy, fight disease, and boost immunity!
- Eat healthy foods. Make healthy snacks, Eat a daily fruit or vegetable. Try to add healthy choices at each meal. Eating healthy will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to regenerate healthy cells keeping you strong, healthy, and free of sickness.
- Pamper yourself. Self-Care is important for feeling good. Bring beautiful things into your view. Flowers, a picture you like. Make your bed, clean your kitchen. Clip your toenails. Start a stretching routine. Whiten your teeth. Give yourself a facial. Practice Facial Yoga. Give yourself a pedicure, take a bath, pluck your eyebrows or your nose hairs. Drink a cup of green tea and read a book for pure enjoyment. Listen to music. Do things that make you feel uplifted and good about yourself. DON’T CUT YOUR BANGS (you will regret it). Self-care can increase serotonin levels and help you stay positive in your outlook.
- Get good quality sleep. Start a sleep routine. Go to bed at a reasonable time and get up at a reasonable time. Most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep. Plan accordingly. If you have trouble falling asleep, drink some decaffeinated tea. Do an activity that’s easy on your brain away from your bed. When you’re ready go to bet. Keep the tv, iPad, phone, and lights off. During deep sleep is when your body releases growth hormones to repair and renew your muscles, bones, and cells. Going to bed on time will keep the hunger hormone (grehlin) from activating, which will keep you from eating at night. It will also keep leptin, the hormone responsible for making you feel full, from shutting off. This will help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your body in peak repair mode for injury or disease.
- Finally, if you still find yourself thinking fearful thoughts, give yourself permission to let it go. Acknowledge it, and then tell yourself you don’t have to be scared of it. It’s just a thought. Let it float away. Practice thinking about what you’re thinking about. Keep a thought journal. Write down what you were doing, what you thought about, how it made you feel, and rate it on a scale of 1-10 for how it affected you. Practice replacing it with a realistic but less scary version of the thought. Then rate it again. Allow yourself permission to think it and move on. For example, “What if I get coronavirus and die?” Rate: 10, I feel really scared, desperate and out of control when I think this. A more realistic thought is: “I might get coronavirus but most of the population that get it, recover. I am likely to recover without any major complications.” Rate Now: 5. “It’s normal to think this and to feel scared. This is just a thought. I can choose to do something else and not think about this further. I am doing everything I can to stay healthy and take care of myself.”
Battelling fear isn’t just about our thoughts or controlling what’s going on around us. It’s more about controlling our reaction to this world and controlling how we feel within. Set yourself up for success. Practice makes perfect and you will be better equipped for future challenges. Look at this as an opportunity to be a better version of yourself while creating a better world for yourself.
Remember fear is just a symptom of the thoughts we think. It has no power unless we let it.
2 Timothy 1: 7 (NKJV) For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.