How I am Dealing With Fear. 5 Steps To Feel Better In Times Of Stress.

giant yellow duck in a calm pond
Duckling Inn Taiwan - a calming place

Most of the time I’m pretty calm and don’t get carried away by drama. But the last day or two I have been noticing an anxious feeling in my stomach. I have been reading more ‘news’ than I normally would and my conversations with others have often been around cancelling travel and preparing for some fictitious future catastrophic situation that might eventuate. I feel like I’m in a constant state of fight or flight. I know that I have to change how I see this fear - it’s not good for me or those around me. This is how I’m dealing with it (It’s also how I coach people to deal with uncertain situations when travelling):

1. Notice that I’m feeling fear

Sometimes I don’t notice an anxious feeling right away but I do notice when I react negatively in situations. I might feel anger or frustration towards myself or someone else in a situation that I would normally be more understanding or patient. This is a sign that I need to pause and reflect. I have been practicing this for a while now and I’m gradually shortening the time between my initial automatic reaction and my process of noticing my emotions and reacting in a more generous way. The shorter this delay, the less time I spend in the negative flight or fight reaction, the better I feel and the better I can make others feel.

2. Acknowledge that it’s ok for me to feel fear

Despite many years of reflection and self learning, the old fashioned social construct that men should always be in control and not be scared of anything sometimes still rears its ugly head in me. Sometimes I just don’t have it all together, sometimes I don’t know what to do, sometimes I get scared. And it’s ok that I’m scared. I know that it’s my lizard brain trying to do what it thinks will keep me safe. But often my lizard brain is reacting in a way that’s not useful or powerful for me to lead my best life.

3. Break down where the fear is coming from

Once I have noticed and acknowledged it’s ok to feel fear then can I start to deal with what’s causing the fear in a way that’s healthy, powerful and makes me feel good. I reflect on the story I’m telling myself - what thoughts are causing the fear. I find it useful to think about the three reasons fear shows up.

a. Fear of Loss - Losing something I already have or think I have. Money is a big one here for many of us. Our super fund might be losing value on paper. We might have to reduce work to part time. As a travel related business the corona virus situation is very difficult financially. The way I’m dealing with fear of loss is by changing my perspective and focusing on the opportunities. I’m seeing this as an opportunity to add value to people, to contribute more - to provide information or perspectives that are different to the gloom and doom. I’m focusing on the increased time that I have to spend with my family. It’s also a great time to learn better how to deal with unknown situations. I have confidence that those whom I love will be ok even if they catch the virus. Of course I don’t know what will happen but choosing a positive attitude makes me and those around me feel so much better than ruminating over something that is not likely to happen.

b. Process Pain - This shows up when I’m thinking about how bad life might be as the virus progresses. It’s a fear of hardship. Once again, I choose not to catastrophise, but life could get a bit more difficult in the next couple of weeks. I choose to know that we’ll get through this difficulty and that it will make us stronger and more connected as we help each other. I have dealt with hardship before and I can deal with it again in a very positive powerful compassionate way.

c. Outcome Pain - Sometimes I can get scared about what’s on the other side of this. Will there be lasting damage, will our business recover, will our finances see us through. I deal with these questions in the same way as the others... looking at the opportunity. I think we will come together, be more compassionate and support each other, learn better how to work together, be more connected. I think there will be a time of growth after this is over. I don’t know any of this for sure but I am sure that whatever comes up is something I can deal with in positive ways. I’m not burying my head in the sand - I’m making reasonable plans and contingencies and these involve dealing calmly and reasonably with real things as they arise - not some sensationalised future catastrophe that looks like a Hollywood movie.

4. Connect and share openly with someone I trust

My wife and close friends help me to keep perspective on what’s important. By talking through my fears and how I’m dealing with those fears helps me to reduce the anxious feelings. The worst thing for me is isolation so I’m making extra effort to connect with those around me.

5. Be a role model

As much as I rely on those around me - I realise that they also rely on me. I can be a voice of moderation amongst panic. A voice of opportunity and positivity. I think energy is infectious - I’m determined to spread as much positive energy as possible.

I decide (and I firmly believe it’s a choice) to be calm, positive, compassionate and to contribute good energy amongst the chaos and uncertainty - I invite you to make the same choice - energy spreads so let’s make it good energy.

The world needs us to be our best selves right now.


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