Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Fear Virus

This thanks to Carol Burbank, my Reiki Master, trainer, mentor, and dear friend (check out some of her upcoming events at www.storyweaving.com!).........


Last month, I caught the fear virus. It had me really down for a few days. It started with a radio news program – partly speculation, and mostly bad -- and escalated because a few friends on my callback list vented their own anxieties, from babies to budgets. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to listen – it was that every story I heard that day woke up my own stories, my own anxieties. They began to niggle at me, then nag, then weigh in on every mental conversation. The virus had taken hold.

I went through the usual stages: denial, major panic, depression, minor panic, my own venting and finally, obsessive planning. Then I did the right thing: I had a good dinner, watched a dumb movie with old friends, took a deep breath, and asked for help with the things I couldn’t handle. The next morning I made a list of first steps to deal with the pressures, which seemed smaller than before. I took the first step. I was tired, but I knew I was recovering.

What does it take to shake off the fear virus, or better yet, immunize ourselves against it, in these uncertain times? Whatever the challenge we’re facing (or avoiding!), this is probably the first question we need to answer if we’re going to deal effectively with the uncertainty around us. When we let hard times drive us into fear, whether it’s fear-based action or fear-based inaction, we move away from solutions and into chaos. With chaos comes stress, more fear, and larger problems.

What does it take? Persistence and patience. Good will towards ourselves and others. Courage and practicality. And the ability to ask for help when we need it, as well as the willingness to do everything we need to do so that, step by step, we become more grounded in the possibilities offered, the actions required and available, the solutions we can build immediately and over time.

For those of us who are still pretty stable, facing the uncertainty of the future with a solid base, fear makes us underestimate ourselves, undermines that real stability and replaces it with an imaginary weakness. This kind of ungrounding is just as dangerous as panic in the face of a real challenge, because it makes us withdraw, contract and immobilize when we don’t need to be that small, when we’re really not so limited at all. In the end, this kind of fear limits our future strength by creating a convincing illusion that blinds us to who and what we really are.

In the classic science fiction novel, Dune, meditators chant, “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death….” Franklin Roosevelt said, memorably, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

When you feel the shiver of the fear virus, resist! No matter what your situation is, too much fear will only make it worse. Try these three steps.

1. Take a deep breath, into your hara, your deep belly. Take another deep breath and affirm, “This feeling of fear reminds me to stand strong and be resilient. I pay attention to what’s important. I take action when I need to, using all the resources available to me.”
2. When you feel strong, when you remember that fear is only a reminder that you need to pay attention, decide on the first step you need to take to address your situation (only the first step – the second step will become clear and possible after the first!), and take it immediately.
3. Get help to manage your physical, emotional and spiritual health!

-If chronic stress is breaking down your immunity, get a massage or a reiki session, work out at the gym, go dancing, take a walk, get moving and let it go!
-If you need someone to help you think the problem through, find a coach, a pastor or a friend to walk the path with you. You don’t have to be alone!
-If you’re challenged physically as well as emotionally, consult a physician or a therapist. Sometimes a check-up, or a few grounding sessions will help you remember your strengths and identify simple steps to boost your psychological and physical health.

It’s hard enough to deal with uncertainty when we’re healthy. Don’t let the fear virus derail your life! Resist, recharge and refocus!


YoLinna said...

Wow, Great post-- I needed that! You are amazing. Sending you peace and love, L

McBee said...

I remember after 911, the fear and paranoia was so thick, it felt like a great tide. I knew I should not give in to panic, still it pulled at me.
It's not surprising, when those around us are feeling the same strong emotion, that we get slipstreamed into it. All it takes is a little push and we just get carried.
I think now it is more important than ever to face down those nudges and be ready to reach out to those who are already being swept away. To be the safe harbor and not the rushing sea.
1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”