Making Friends with Fear

In these strange and unsettling times we find ourselves in, many people are understandably feeling very anxious and fearful about their future and concerned for the safety and well-being of their loved ones and the wider world. Fear is of course a very natural and human reaction to current events. So many unknowns and uncertainties to face with so much information to process. No wonder anxieties are running high!

If your fears have been triggered, self compassion is key here. Remembering that your brain isn’t interested in you feeling calm, peaceful or happy at this point, it’s only interested in your survival. So it is in its own way, trying to help you, by making sure you focus on looking for what could go wrong. When you’re in this place of fear or even terror, the last thing you need is judgement.

Imagine that the fearful part of you is about 5 years old (which they are) and what does a 5 year old child need when they are afraid? Comfort, care and reassurance that they are safe and all will be well. They need cuddles and whispers of love, lovely yummy food cooked for them (with the odd treat too), walks in nature where you show them the signs of Spring and hope, read books to them, watching funny films together, encouraging them to sing, dance and create. They need you to hold their hand. Treat yourself like the 5 year old that you feel like when in your fears. Tenderly and with such deep love. Showing that part of yourself, that they are welcome. All parts of you are welcome.

Below we offer you a brief guide to support you and your loved ones in managing your fears. The five pillars of support offered can be a great ‘first aid’ kit to help you to ‘make friends with your fears’.

1. MIND – Fear thoughts are very natural in times of danger or crises. The brain is hardwired for survival and the main survival responses are fight, flight or freeze. It’s helpful to notice which survival state you are mostly in and trying to have compassion for yourself as your brain is simply doing its job to keep you alive! The big issue of course is that the virus is invisible which makes it hard to ‘fight or flee’ from, which can add to our fears. Trying to resist or block fear thoughts is rarely helpful but it can be useful to observe your thoughts. Almost like as a separate part of you. ‘Oh here come my fear thoughts again…’ Becoming an observer of our thoughts is the first step in awareness. To recognise that they are thoughts rather than who we are. This brings with it more choice and freedom as to how we respond to our own thinking. One approach can be to refocus the mind on to your inner world, such as your breath or the energy inside your feet or hands. Meditation can also be very helpful here and there’s so much free online support available and not all of it involves sitting on a cushion. Personally I love my coffee meditation, sitting looking out my window at the view whilst savouring the taste and smell of my coffee! Bliss.

2. BODY – All of our fear thoughts generate feelings and emotions which live in the body, whether we realise that or not. Emotion itself means ‘energy in motion’ and we need to release any fearful energy from the body. Ways to do this can include shaking, dancing, running, walking etc. Anyway that works for you and helps keep your energy in motion. Emotions will come and go if we let them do their thing. Moving the body supports this process. Breathwork is also an incredible resource to calm and settle the nervous system with lots of free online support. Deep conscious breathing will make such a difference to how you feel. We also recommend trying cold water therapy! Turning your shower to cold at the end for 10 seconds and up to 1 minute (!) will not only help shift your fearful state but also has proven health benefits, boosting your immunity. Give it a go if you dare!

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3. NATURE – Our natural world offers such a huge support during these challenging times. Finding ways daily to connect with nature is so important. You can also bring nature inside in the form of plants and flowers to help you feel more connected. Walking in nature can provide the grounding you need to help bring yourself back into balance. Walks also offer a time for mindfulness and gratitude. First noticing what you can see, smell, hear and feel in nature and giving thanks each time. Whist also giving thanks for what you do have in your life right now. For example ‘I am grateful for the sun on my face, my health, my family and the technology that keeps us connected.’ Gratitude is so important at all times but especially when we are in distress. Let nature be your access point for gratitude and grounding.

4. SPIRITUAL CONNECTION – Now is a great time to explore a deeper connection within yourself and to life itself. Those with an already strong faith tend to fare much better in fearful times as despite the natural human responses to current events, they also hold onto a sense of a deeper meaning and invisible source of support (whatever that might mean to you). Perhaps now is the time to open your heart and mind to exploring what it truly means to live a Spiritual life. This approach can bring with it a feeling of surrendering to what is, with prayer, journaling and presence as a focus point. Listening to wise people on podcasts or reading their words in books, can also be a source of great comfort and more clarity.

5. SERVICE – When we refocus our attention onto others, it not only feels good but can also help us to regain some perspective on our own life struggles and fears. As we take the time to consider all those that are much worse off than we are, our gratitude deepens and we can then look for ways to help and offer support. The time and space that many have gained during the pandemic, offers a wonderful opportunity to look beyond ourselves to the wider world, asking the key questions that we focus on at the end of The Bridge Retreat. How can I love more and how can I serve more? To love and to serve can be the ultimate in overcoming a constant state of fear. Moving beyond the ‘small story of me’ to the much bigger story of WE.

Click the link below to watch Co-founder, Donna Lancaster who has made a free video of her talk about Making Friends with Fear.

Making Friends with Fear from The Bridge Retreat on Vimeo.