Fear is a constant companion for most of us when we’re going through a challenging time. It seems virtually impossible to stop the “what ifs” in our head once they start their drumbeat. “What if I lose my job?” “What if I can’t care for my child?” “What if I can’t make my rent or mortgage?” It may be normal to be scared, but taken to an extreme it will leave you paralyzed and unable to act to change your situation.
It’s difficult to make positive choices to steer yourself in a new direction if fear is gripping the wheel. I love the guidance about fear that author Sophy Burnham received from her intuition. She shares it in her book, The Path of Prayer. “Don’t fret,” said the voice. “You have nothing to worry about! Just relax and let things come along in their proper time. Let Quiet, Peace, and Harmony rule and avoid stressful situations. Let them be born, live and straighten out pleasantly, not with fretting or urgency but by simply accepting the fact — it will work out if you let yourself be led instead of trying to force matters. All is well and remains well.” Isn’t that incredibly comforting?
What do you want to do when something becomes overwhelming and you’re afraid? You want to run away! If only you had a magic wand to make the situation disappear. You wish you could click your heels like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and voila, you’re back in Kansas (or wherever safety resides.) What else can you do when fear has you in its icy grip? You can relax and embrace it.
Fear, or any other emotion, rarely stays static. It changes, moves, goes up and down, in and out. If you can simply accept fear and embrace it, it will begin to lose its power over you. I’ve found that if I can look deeply into the thing I’m scared about, rather than running away, I can shift its hold on me.
Try this: Ask yourself, “What am I really scared of?” and write down the answer. Ask yourself, “If that thing I’m scared of actually happens, what will I do?” Keep repeating this exercise until you’ve exhausted your possibilities of fearful outcomes. What I usually find when I do this exercise is that I end up feeling mildly amused by all the unlikely scenarios my mind can come up with.
Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself. ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” Fear is not something you fight. It’s something you make room for in your life. Embrace it and make it your ally, not your enemy.
Fear can permeate our mind if we allow its negativity in there for too long. It takes on a life of its own, convincing us of our own worthlessness and ineffectiveness. Popular speaker and minister, Joyce Meyer, writes “God doesn’t want us to be scared. But even when we do feel fear, we can choose to trust God and take action.”
I’ve found that the best antidote to fear is action. If you have become immobilized by fear, start asking yourself, “What one thing could I do today that would make me feel better?” It can be something simple and easy or something major and audacious. Your intuition, when asked a question like this, will begin to offer suggestions. It might be to have coffee with a friend, writing a note to someone you need to forgive, being brave enough to make an appointment with a financial planner, seeing a therapist or other healing professional.
Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Always do what you’re afraid to do.” Trust that whatever sparks your interest or curiosity is the right answer. It may not make sense, but do it anyway! That’s the way intuition works. You know something or feel nudged to do something, but you often have no idea why!
On the other side of every fear is freedom. You’ll find the freedom, in part, by taking action. It begins to get you unstuck from your old thinking, your old way of being and behaving that partially contributed to your current life circumstance. Instead of fighting with the fear, have it join you on your walk as you take an action journey.
The Small Step Action Plan
Robert Maurer is the author of One Small Step Can Change Your Life. I think it should be required reading for anyone who is experiencing a crisis or simply feeling stuck. His technique is undeniably simple. It also taps into your own inner wisdom to provide the answers you seek and helps you overcome fear and inertia. His philosophy is that small steps are things that all of us can do. They add up to big changes because they’re doable and manageable. Obviously, his book provides much more detail, but here’s a brief overview:
1) Ask small questions. “If health were my first priority, what could I be doing differently today?”
2) Think small thoughts. Think of a task or situation that makes you uncomfortable or fearful. Spend a few seconds (not minutes) each day on visualizing a successful outcome.
3) Take small actions. Examples: If your goal is to stop overspending, a small action might be to remove one item from your shopping cart before heading to the register. If your goal is to manage your stress better, a small action could be to take one deep breath.
4) Solve small problems. You’ll often receive intuitive messages about an impending crisis well before the crisis arrives. Don’t ignore early warning signs. Listen. Pay attention and act on the information you’re receiving.
Finally, whenever you find yourself experiencing fearful thoughts about your situation, bring yourself back to the present moment. Keep your mind focused on the many things you do have that you can feel grateful about. Everything else you need will follow. Gratitude activates your connection to God and all solutions arise from there.