It’s Okay Not to Be Okay: How to handle your fears
When was the last time you were afraid? These days, fear is something that has been so prevalent in adults and kids alike. For many of us, this COVID-19 pandemic, the lockdown orders, the economic and medical crisis, having our lives turned upside down and the uncertainty of everything have unleashed all kinds of fears in each of us.
Fear is our natural response to threat. It’s built into each and every one of us for the sole purpose of protection. What is important to understand here though is the difference between rational and irrational fear. A rational fear simply means that the cause for fear is evident and some degree of harm is justifiable. An irrational fear on the other hand, is something we create in our minds that are unlikely to cause us any type of harm. This is the kind of fear that keeps us from living our best life.
Fear usually shows up in the following areas of our lives, especially for parents. See if any of these worries sound familiar to you.
Health. What if my kids get sick? What if I get sick and die, who will take care of my kids?
Relationships. I don’t want to trust this person because I might get hurt. What if my spouse cheats on me? What if my kids hate me?
Finances / Career. What If I don’t get to provide for my family? What if we lose everything we have? What am I going to do if I lose my job or if my business goes bankrupt?
Spirituality. What if I don’t live up to the standards of my faith? What if I am not teaching my children enough to be faithful?
Many of us have never allowed ourselves to fully experience our irrational fears. What we try to do instead is to push it back. We go from one distraction to another, anything that will keep us from acknowledging that we are scared. It’s almost become taboo in a world where strength and power are acclaimed and applauded, to conceal or repeal our fears. Parents most especially do this because they are afraid to appear vulnerable and weak in front of their kids.
The fact of the matter is people who are perceived to be strong people are the ones who are possibly suffering the most. Trying to look great on the outside and seeming to have it all together can cause a tremendous amount of stress on any human being. It starts to make people feel alone, and inevitably makes them feel worse.
This translates to the lessons we could possibly be teaching our children. It’s as if we are telling them “Hey honey, be like mommy (or daddy). When life gets tough and when you’re scared, just pretend that you’re not.” Sounds crazy, right? Sadly, as a life coach, I have seen this type of situation one too many times.
I have struggled with fear pretty much all my life. My earliest memory of fear as as a child was having my mom get taken away from us or that she would leave us. As a teen, I became fearful of dying. My biggest struggle came in 2008 when I experienced my first panic attack. I was in the mall and suddenly felt dizzy, weird, terrified all at the same time. Back then, I did not know what a panic attack was. Since that episode, I was in and out of the hospital and this went on for several months. It was the worst time of my adult life, I was in such a dark place, confused, scared, alone. No amount of prayer, rest or encouragement from friends and family were helping me.
After all the struggling, fighting, pushing against it and hoping this foreboding feeling would disappear, one day I just decided to surrender to it. Surrender to death if it was here to come and take me away. Ironically, the moment I surrendered was also the time I started to make progress and began the long road to recovery. I was able to get some control over my life back and experienced some type of normalcy again little by little. Sure the panic attacks would come and revisit once in a while, but I acknowledged it without resistance and I never let it overpower me again. Until it just never came back.
I had found a way to loosen fear’s grip on me and I had never felt more alive and excited to live life again! I am in no way telling people to disregard signs of real emergencies happening in your body that needs immediate medical attention. I am speaking of irrational fears and the sensations that come with it.
Once we understand that fear can be our friend, we stop judging it when it shows up at our door. Instead we say hello and allow it to come into our life. We ask ourselves why it’s here and what we can do to address it, not get rid of it. Take six deep breaths, say I am safe, I am loved, I’m okay. We may be surprised that after a while, it will naturally leave. It always does. The struggle only happens when we rush to the door to barricade it once it knocks, and spend so much time and energy fighting it off.
In this time of pandemic, fears (both rational and irrational) are heightened, and for very good reason. Now that you have an idea about dealing with fears, here are some other tips that can help you get through these challenging times:
1. Always focus on things to be grateful for — big and small. Gratitude is a gateway for blessings.
2. Be kind to yourself. Before we can be kind to others and expect kindness from others, we have to be kind to ourselves first.
3. Limit your exposure to news and media. Staying connected and updated is enough, but don’t obsess over and don’t believe everything you see, read and hear. Do some fact checking.
4. Remember fear weakens your immune system — what will keep it strong is focusing on something inspiring, uplifting and turns you towards gratitude
We don’t need to keep it together all the time. It’s really okay to not always be okay. I believe whatever uncertainty, fear and doubt we are experiencing in our lives is an opportunity, a gift or a blessing in disguise.