By Ms. Paige Abbott, Registered Psychologist
Fear is an intense emotion that can come about unexpectedly in the wake of real or perceived threats. That’s right- even events that are not real or are never going to happen can arouse the same fear response as ones that are. Hence the acronym for fear ‘False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.).’
When faced with fear, people usually respond with: 1) Fight, 2) Flight, or 3) Freeze. All of these responses occur at a physiological level when our autonomic nervous system is engaged. These default settings help us get through acute stressors and deal with immediate threats. However, if this system is engaged for prolonged periods of time (as it is with chronic stress or when we are having a fear response to an unreal situation) it becomes difficult for our bodies and minds to function clearly.
Therefore, if you are experiencing F.E.A.R. it is important that you take time regularly throughout your day for self-care and to work on bringing your internal level of stress down. This helps take the body out of fight or flight mode which slows down the wear and tear that can happen when this system is engaged for too long.
Here are some self-care tips for dealing with F.E.A.R.:
- Take long, slow, deep breaths, focusing on bringing air into your stomach and chest. This rhythmic breathing sends your body the message that it is not in crisis mode and can start to calm down. Do this for 5 minutes at least 3 times per day to start
- Physical activity. Do mild activities like walking, pilates, or yoga to build strength and help bring your body into a natural state of equilibrium. Start by doing this for 20 minutes, 3 times per week
- Journalling. Writing down your feelings (including fears) and thoughts can be a helpful way to slow things down and get clarity on your situation
- Talk it out. Share your thoughts and feelings with your support people. It is relieving and you may get some helpful feedback
- Consider: is there action to be taken here? If not, then focus on acceptance
- Turn to your Higher Power support. When faced with F.E.A.R. is a great time to meditate, pray, and reach out to your personal Higher Power (nature, the universe, God, etc.) to remember that you are supported and are not going through this alone
- Develop a meditative practice. Consider learning Transcendental Meditation (TM) for regular practice, or go online and look up Guided Meditation or Guided Relaxations on YouTube
- Avoid using mood-altering substances or behaviours for ‘coping.’ These can actually aggravate F.E.A.R. and make other uncomfortable feelings more pronounced
- Remind yourself ‘that this is not real.’ Do not buy into the scripts that your brain is creating for you. It is possible to let these F.E.A.R.’s go
It takes regular practice of many or all of these techniques to change thinking and feeling so if you do not find immediate benefit or relief in these techniques, don’t give up. You no longer have to be a slave to F.E.A.R. if you are willing and trust in the process of healing.