By Ginny Vose, Clinical Mental Health Counselor
How To Manage The Fear Factor
Fear is a factor in all of our lives. It seems that fear has been prevalent all around us since the virus changed life as we knew it. We all stayed at home because of fear. People cleared the grocery store of hand sanitizer and toilet paper because of fear. We all said that we wanted life to get back to normal. I have read countless social media posts of people boasting about what they will do first when we are truly “free” again. After the 14 day lock down turned into 30, we were told that businesses would begin to open again and life could begin to go back to normal. Then everyone began to fear something else- going back to life too soon. Many people are choosing to rejoin life more slowly and as their own wisdom would have them do. With fear all around us, how should we respond to it? Allowing fear to manage our lives is not a healthy way to live. Furthermore, it will keep us from living our best lives.
So how do we manage fear so that it does not manage us?
Your Body on Fear
When you are afraid, your brain sets off an elaborate and coordinated set of responses to help you stay safe. Fear kicks the fight, flight, or freeze response into overdrive. When afraid, blood flows away from the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for the executive functions of logical thinking and planning. It is as if this part of your brain goes “off line.” This is why you sometimes do not feel that you are thinking clearly while you are afraid. The deeper, more animalistic part of the brain, called the amygdala, takes over. All of your body’s responses get diverted into simply staying alive. This fear response is designed to deal with imminent dangers. You might feel a knot in your stomach, tingling in your hands or feet, or feel that your brain is fuzzy. It is only natural that in the world we are now living in, we have all felt more fearful. Is it possible that you have felt some of the following fears?
Fear of the Unknown
All of us have to find ourselves wondering from time to time as to what life is going to look like now that we are living in a world with the virus. Are we ever going to live as we did before the virus hit? Are we now going to live in a “new normal”? Should I get vaccinated if and when the vaccine becomes available? I know that I have even felt the fear of wondering if the media was being truthful or if there really was “fake news” circulating. Those thoughts can run around inside your head at night and keep you awake. A good coping skill to help combat the fear of the unknown is to always check the facts to see if this fear is valid. Think about what you are thinking about. Write down the parts of this pandemic that are really frightening to you. Then ask yourself some questions.
1) Is what I am thinking really true?
2) Is this thought rational?
3) What is the likelihood that this fear can actually become a reality?
4) Does believing this fear serve my best interest?
5) Does believing this fear help me to get what I want and need?
If you answer, “no” to any of these questions, you can know that it is probably not true. Examine that thought for truthfulness and helpfulness. I once heard an acronym for fear. Sometimes fear can be False Evidence Appearing Real. If after you have examined that fear, you find that it is invalid, you can easily let it go.
Fear of Going Out
Others of us may be facing the fear of going out in public again. This fear can be crippling and keep you from actively pursuing your life. One way to cope with this is pick one place that you feel is most safe and just go out for a short time. Just because you feel fear does not mean that it needs to control you. I once heard a story about an elderly lady who shared with her friend that she was afraid to go out and do things after she lost her husband. Her friend gave her some very basic advice. She said, “Why don’t you just do it afraid?” In the case of going out after the virus once again, research and make sure to take safety precautions such as masks, gloves, and frequent hand washing. Use your own wisdom as to the safety precautions that you feel are necessary. Make a plan to go to one place that you feel most safe. Then, do it afraid! Even if you go for just a few minutes at first. Once you start taking a few steps toward going out again, each time that you go out, it will be a little bit easier.
Fear leads to anger at others who are going out
It may even be possible that you feel anger at others who are going out. This is only natural as well. It is very possible that the anger you are feeling is rooted in fear of the situation and the circumstances that it has created. A coping skill that could help with this is to make a list of things that you can control, such as what you can do to keep yourself safe, and research that you can do to keep yourself informed. Then make a list of things that you cannot control, such as other people’s responses, opinions, ideas. When you look at this from a perspective of what you cannot control, it will help to let it go.
When Fear Takes Over
We will all feel at one time or another. In the time of crisis, it is much more ubiquitous than ever. But remember that simply because you feel fear does not mean that it needs to control your life. However, if you notice that fear is crippling you and making it difficult to live your life, it may be time to come and talk with someone about it. At Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling, we have counselors who can help you to manage your fear and find useful tools to manage this crisis!
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Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling (#JCAC) is a warm and family orientated counseling practice in Alpharetta, Ga. We offer online counseling services in the states of Georgia and Florida. We offer in-office counseling service at our Alpharetta office which is conveniently located to serve Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and Cumming, Ga.
The JCAC Counselors specialize in counseling services throughout the lifespan! We offer play therapy, counseling for children, parental support, adolescent counseling, mental health services, couples counseling, premarital therapy, and individual counseling for adults.
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