Oh, it’s you again. Hello, fear.
Whether you’re fearful of getting sick, you’re currently dealing with a health issue, or you’re scared and struggling in other areas of your life, I want you to know that you’re in good company.
I also want you to know that learning how to overcome fear IS possible. And that doesn’t mean burning it to the ground every time it rears its ugly head. Sometimes it’s as simple as working WITH your fear rather than against it. Because fear contains powerful messages. When we’re courageous enough to be with what scares us, we can awaken our intuition and create a new path for healing.
Don’t judge your fears, invite them to tea!
It’s common to belittle our fears and try to prematurely cleanse them away. But just because we’re afraid, doesn’t mean we’re toxic or failing or falling off the spiritual wagon. Fear is one of the many colors in our emotional palette, and it’s often there for a reason. There’s nothing weak or less evolved about being frightened. And like I said, you’re not alone. We’re all scared. No one is fearless.
Anyone who lives with cancer (myself included), will tell you that figuring out how to overcome fear is an ever-evolving practice. Sometimes the shifts happen quite easily, other times our fears refuse to be rushed (and they really hate being trivialized). It took me years to have a realistic perspective about my own health terrors. And let me be honest, I’m still working on it. Though I had the same information that I have now, time and experience have had a tremendous impact on how I work with my fears.
Fear is normal and, to a certain extent, it’s important.
We can thank fear when it makes us get a lump checked or tells us not to walk alone down that dark alley. We can have gratitude for fear when it shakes us awake or jolts us from complacency.
But while fear can play a very valuable role in igniting action, we can’t let it run our lives—especially if our fears are totally unfounded or irrational. Once we receive the message (the aha!), we need to disable the fear alarm, turn it off, cool it down. Because no one can thrive in a constant state of panic—our bodies aren’t built for that (and neither are our spirits).
So, how do you get what you need from fear without letting it pull you under? Here are some of my go-to methods…
How to Overcome Fear: 9 Simple Tips to Set You Free from What Scares You
1. Bring yourself back to the present moment.
The here. The now. The pillow under your butt. The ground under your feet. The real reality. Unplug the movie in your mind and pet your dog. That’s real. That’s what’s really happening.
2. Open your heart.
You know those fluttering feelings in your belly? Instead of getting hysterical, just sit with them. Breathe through them. Deeply. Slowly. Continually. Have the guts to stay there longer than you’d like. If sadness comes up, let it be there. If anger comes up, that’s ok too. Tears will probably follow. This is the ripest place. This is real and raw and wonderful. Congratulations! You’re licking through your own noise to get to the Tootsie Roll at the center of the spiritual lollipop!
Once you’ve made contact with what’s coming up for you, ask fear what it’s trying to say. Request that it communicate in a calm, coherent way. Don’t rush it. (Unless, of course, Freddy Krueger hops out from behind the next tree, in which case you should save the analysis for later and run very fast!) But if the monsters are only in your very colorful imagination, have some R.E.S.P.E.C.T., mind your manners and don’t interrupt. Let fear speak.
4. Do an intuition gut check.
Make a determination about whether your fear is constructive or destructive. Journaling can be a really helpful way to get clarity on this. If you agree with the fear, begin to explore how you can make a healthy shift. If you don’t agree, you can simply decline the opportunity to react. Instead of indulging yourself and peeing in your new pants, soothe your thoughts like you would soothe a nervous 5-year-old. Hint: If you’re having a hard time determining what’s constructive versus destructive, a good therapist can help you with this. Mine sure helps me!
5. Identify fear fantasies.
Fantasy and imagination are our most powerful, creative resources. It might make you relax a bit to realize that fear is actually creative. What?! Think about it. What’s more creative than writing elaborate stories all day?
To give you an example of how fear fantasies can spiral out of control, let’s take a quick tour down one of my irrational fear rabbit holes: An impending doctor appointment. All I could think of was how my disease had progressed and that I’d like to invite you all to my funeral. What kind of food should be served? Should there be a DJ? No, that’s not serious enough. Who should get my good jewelry? My mom and my sister. Will Brian remember to feed Lola and Tara? And Brian is so lonely. I love Brian, and I miss him. Maybe he should start dating again. But not someone younger than me. OH MY GOD, Brian is dating a hot 20-year-old! I hate Brian.
When I’m able to grab myself out of those loops, I usually have a good ole laugh, acknowledge the underlying anxiety, and head to Target for some trash mags or watch a great movie (while holding Brian’s hand). However, if I’m unable to see my fantasy for what it really is (stress), then the next time Brian asks where the almond butter is, I’ll tell him to ask his new lover!
The key, of course, is to flip fear on its head by choosing a more positive story. Think you’re not experienced/good/young/smart/fit/well/whatever enough? Think again. You’re all that and more, dear one.
Another way to gain clarity is to get back into your body through movement. Activating our bodies changes our perspectives. A walk, a run, a bike ride or some inversions (they really help!)—whatever it takes to snap out of the fear feedback loop.