As we enter a new month in a new world crestfallen by a global pandemic, the amount of fear present is palpable. Extreme uncertainty, facing our mortality and the concern of financial ruin will do that to a person.
I have experienced my own flavors of fear over the past two months. The sensations are intense and the feelings can be so dominating that, left unchecked, I become blinded by my fear.
Luckily, we all possess the ability to check our fear so it doesn't control us! Managing our fears starts by inviting our awareness to simply notice our feelings, thoughts and sensations in the moment. This is a really important first step because for many of us fear might be disguised, like a wolf dressed up in sheep's clothes, we mistake the way fear influences us.
That's not to say that we should ignore our fears altogether, cast them aside and suppress the feelings. Our fears are an important indicator. And we must be mindful and intentional with how we respond.
In early March, my fear told me a story that I needed to stock up on food. The story went like this, Grandmom always said you should have at least two weeks worth of food stored in your house and you do not have that Ariana, you are putting your family at risk. What if you get sick and you can't go to the grocery stores? What if society collapses because of this pandemic and you'll be out of food?
As long as I let that fear dominate my mind I was blinded by it. The only thing I could think about was getting to the grocery store to stock up on food. I had restless nights of sleep. The story of my family starving to death played on a loop in my mind. It was intense and uncomfortable. My whole body and mind were completely fired up, ready to act based on this fear.
It might sound extreme and I would argue, we all have such extreme thoughts and stories in our minds eye right now. The trick is being able to stop listening to the story of fear on a loop. To stop being blinded by the fear, letting it drive your behavior so you can think rationally.
Some people reading this might think, your Grandmom's right, you should stock up on food. And as I got a handle on my fear, by writing in my journal to understand my feelings, and engaging with my rational brain (AKA my executive brain) I agreed that preparation was prudent. Not only was it rational to expect that this virus would disrupt our lives, it was also rational to acknowledge if we got sick we would need to quarantine for a few weeks thereby not being able to go to the grocery store to get necessities.
I set my expectations. Rationally speaking, and based on what we were seeing in other countries we could expect the grocery stores to remain open. That meant I didn't need to be excessive in my purchases, causing other people to go without. In other words, I went to the store with the belief that I could have the food I needed on hand and my neighbor could too, that I didn't need to get in a fight over anything on the shelf.
This crisis is offering all of us an opportunity to better understand the stories of fear triggered within us so we may self-regulate to best navigate this situation. As a species, we have the potential to rewire our brains so we engage our executive brain when we have an experience that triggers fear. Our executive brains enable us to think rationally and empathize with others. Our primitive brains, which are hardwired to manage our threat responses when we experience fear, cause us to fight over toilet paper (last I checked, TP won't save your life).
The invitation I'm offering is to use this crisis as an opportunity to be a better human by self-regulating your neurochemistry. Should you choose to step up to that challenge, here are a few reflection questions to ponder (or write about in your journal).
What heightened concerns have you experienced during this pandemic?
What thoughts have dominated your mind by playing on a loop, agitating you?
What sensations do you experience in your body when you have intrusive thoughts?
What if you stepped back to look at this situation from other perspectives?
What are the facts of this situation, what does the evidence say?
What's Rosabella Consulting Up To?
We have Virtual Journal Jam coming up on Monday May 11 at 10am MST (Noon EST) where I will show people how to use their journals to manage your fears so you're responding intentionally and rationally instead of reacting rashly from the primitive brain. More information and registration is online here.