Acknowledging and working with fear in a pandemic world

Every time your fear is invited up, every time you recognise it and smile at it, your fear will lose some of its strength.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Embrace 2020 as a year of a different kind of personal growth and learning

Whilst currently experiencing weeks of pandemic lock down and supporting my counselling clients, I have noticed both personally and professionally, that fear has been affecting many of us and it is a regular theme in my client sessions.

I would encourage anyone significantly impacted by their fear state to seek professional support, but here are some practical offerings and perspectives, which may be worth consideration.

Identify your fear and acknowledge it

Once you have awareness of your fear, you can take steps to reframe and/or manage it.

Take some reflective time to identify what is the fear you are experiencing. Writing a word dump on paper can be a useful start.

Acknowledge the fear, avoidance can compound the anxiety we feel around it.

Stay present with your fear feeling and practice acknowledging them, with a gentle and non-judgmental attitude. How you react to fear? Do you become anxious, angry or numb? Is your fear affecting others? How?

Make a commitment to yourself to acknowledge the fear and support yourself in managing it in a way that serves you and others productively.

Create the safest environment possible at home. If your home environment is not safe, take affirmative action by reaching out for professional support as soon as possible.

Practice self-compassion

Be gentle and realistic about your abilities, expectations of yourself at this time. Be conscious of pressures linked to perfectionism or comparing yourself to others.

Perspective is everything

Reframe your thinking.  Aim to view your thoughts and emotions as a challenge, not a threat; you are less likely to trigger the fear response (fight, flight or freeze).

Barbara Fredrickson states that ‘positivity broadens our perspective’.

Make a list of the personal freedoms you still have available to you.

Focus on what you have rather than what you lack.

Focus on the aspects of your life you still have autonomy in and choice around.

Control the controllable and avoid putting energy into events and/or things you cannot predict or change.

Be conscious of the difference between numbing and nurturing relaxation behaviours.  Research informs us it is not possible to numb a specific emotion; such as anger, you will also numb happiness and contentment alongside them.

Numbing behaviours can be detrimental to our health. We also reduce the ability to develop other coping strategies that benefit in managing our emotional state. Focus on ‘healthy coping.’

Acknowledge the pain you are feeling- express it safely in a way that releases but does not hurt you or others. Cry or yell into a pillow, hit a mattress with a wooden spoon, write or draw in a journal.

Information management

Be conscious of the impact the media, news and socials are having on your mood.

Fear can increase our focus on negative events and reinforce that the world is scary.

Re-think your need for information – does it help or hinder? Are you conscious of how information and people’s opinions affects you?

Take a newsbreak. Ask a family member of friend to inform you of anything you really need to know. Notice if this helps you. If not, aim to limit your news intake to once a day.

Structure your weekends differently to your weekdays.

Embrace a screen free day each week to develop other useful interests and passions, that can combat the fear response.

If you feel panicked or numbed by fear implement your comfort kit

To support the practice of self-soothing create a comfort kit. Plan and resource activities that can redirect your mood and increase feelings of safety, calm and enjoyment. Suggestions include;

  • Connecting in with loved ones
  • Having a warm shower
  • Creating and listening to music playlists/ listening to podcasts /reading books
  • Do a ‘I’ve been meaning to do that’ job around the house.
  • Getting out in nature – walking, meditating, breathing exercises
  • Give yourself a hand massage
  • Completing a puzzle, quiz or card game.

Remember

  • Place yourself in a safe environment.
  • Prioritise a stress-reduction lifestyle and fear-management approach that works for you.
  • Shift your perspective to a positive mind-set when you can.
  • Find meaning and purpose internally in each day.
  • Seek support from family, friends and professionals.
  • Embrace the power of nature.
  • Give to others; become connected to something outside of yourself.
  • Know it is possible to live a meaningful life whilst experiencing fear/s.

Stay well in heart and mind,

Sophie

Brown, B (2012) Daring greatly. New York: Gotham Books.

Fredrickson,B (2009). Positivity. New York: Three Rivers Press

Hanh, T (2000). No death, no fear: Comforting wisdom for life. Berkely, CA: Parallex Press

Southwick, S., Charney, D. (2012). Resilience: The science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. New York: Cambridge University Press

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