These are difficult times, there’s no way around it.
Many of us are spending a lot of time in fear and anxiety. Fear is miserable. I know that we don’t WANT to be living in fear, but our brain tells us that it is rational fear, so it must be useful. It isn’t. It’s not helping. Fear won’t keep you safe.
When we are afraid, our brain floods our body with emergency chemicals (think adrenaline, cortisol, corticosteroids). When we stay in fear for a sustained period of time, that’s stress. Stress weakens us – it doesn’t really strengthen us. It actually weakens our resistance. Stress hormones suppress our immune system.
Fear will not help you make better decisions or take care of yourself or others. When we live in a prolonged state of fear, our most basic responses are not logical; they are predominantly versions of fight or flight. Instead of making rational decisions, we begin to make random decisions. We aggressively begin hoarding things. We think that stocking up on toilet paper and antiseptic wipes and canned foods – enough for the apocalypse, even though it’s not an apocalyptic event – is going to somehow make us safer.
And unfortunately, fear is more contagious than any virus. We don’t even need physical exposure or real contact for it to spread. Fear feeds on fear. And fear is born pregnant, like tribbles only nowhere near as cuddly.
I hope those are enough reasons to help you see that fear isn’t helping you. If you really want to help yourself and your loved ones, you need to take control of your life and reduce the amount of time you spend in fear.
I have a few recommendations on how to do that:
- Give yourself permission to remove yourself from things that trigger your fear response. This could be news, social media, or even other people who are currently caught up in fear (you can do this kindly.) If you feel you need the news, don’t watch it or listen to it, but read instead. Be selective about your sources – skip over articles and social media posts that might trigger you. Funny thing – your brain is telling you that you need to be informed, and it’s really looking for good news, but the truth is that you won’t find much good news in mainstream news – it doesn’t sell ads.
- Focus on small things that you can do right now. Adding some reassuring habits will create evidence for you and your brain that you ARE doing something. You’re not 100% helpless. Some of these habits could be linked to the common sense preventatives, such as picking your handwashing song and starting a routine, or making your own hand sanitizer scented with your favorite essential oil (crazy easy). Make some probiotic rich pickles. Deliberately add in self-care habits – things that reduce your stress and increase your health. You know, things like breathing, eating right, getting plenty of sleep, reading for pleasure, listening to music, getting in nature.
- Add light. Open the curtains, pull up the shades. Turn on the lights when you are in a room. We are getting more light at the end of the day now, so enjoy it. Look for the light. Look for the positives – in spite of, in the face of – find an upside. Gratitude and kindness are a form of light. Be kind.
- Use color. Yellow is the color associated with both fear and joy – which means that the antidote to fear is joy, and can be accessed through yellow. So if you want to use some yellow Color Thinking and surround yourself with yellow, do it! Daffodils, mustard, sunflowers (give yourself flowers) or sunshine. Brighten things up, dress in some yellow – even if it’s your socks! Spice up your food with mustard or tumeric or saffron. Let yellow remind you of the things that make you joyful.
- Be prepared with something to say to calm yourself in the midst of anxiety. When I was freshly recovering from addiction, I was haunted by anxiety in the middle of the night. My life was a mess and I no longer had my trusty old coping mechanism, so there were plenty of things I feared. But there wasn’t much I could do at 3 am except be afraid, so I came up with a routine. I looked at how I had handled myself that day, had I stuck to my new habits? I decided on ONE thing I would do the next day, so that I would have a plan but it wouldn’t be overwhelming. I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could, and that I needed to rest so that I could be at my best – for me and the people that needed me. Then I repeated my mantra until I could sleep. For me, the Serenity Prayer was my mantra. I highly recommed it.
Hey, listen. The people most threatened are currently the weakest among us. They need our help and support, not our panic. We need to be our best, strongest, most rational and compassionate selves. People are counting on us!
If these words helped you, please feel free to share them with someone you know who might need. That’s one kind thing that you can do. And if you have additional, positive ideas, please share them in the comments!
And remember: in all things – progress, not perfection!
Love and light, Maggie
p.s. The colors are changing. Winter is not coming, the onion is.