On a global scale, many of us have found ourselves dealing with fear. You can either confront that fear and control it, or you can let it control you. I’ve had to learn how to face my personal fears over the past several years. I can’t say that I’ve perfected it, but I have learned a lot about how to identify fear and how to go about working through it. I’ll tell you more about the things that seem to be working for me and my family in a bit, but first, let’s look at how you can start dealing with fear in your life. By the time you are done reading, I want you to realize how to identify fear and how to deal with fear in several productive ways.
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Fear on a Global Scale
Fear is something that can either spur us to action, or it can hold us back. In recent weeks, the threat of the Coronavirus has monopolized headlines. If you need proof that fear can spur us to action, go look for toilet paper at Walmart. Chances are they are currently out.
People are scared of sheltering in place, people are scared of what will happen if we don’t shelter in place, they are scared of the virus, and on the economic impact on their families if they are no longer able to go to their jobs. There are some jobs that cannot be done remotely, and small businesses in particular, are taking a hard hit. Some people are more at risk than others, whether from current health issues or the jobs where they are more likely to be exposed. Taking precautions is a good idea. Panicking and falling prey to worry and fear is not.
Dealing With Fear instead of Being Controlled By Fear
The first thing we need to do in dealing with fear is to first identify it. Once you realize that you are reacting out of fear then, you can start taking steps to deal with it. Fear and worry often go hand in hand. Thoughts of worry will often start with the words “what if” and focus on something that may or may not happen.
Controlling our Fear
We as people have the unique capacity to control our fear. If you have ever ridden a rollercoaster, gone to a horror movie, or done something that you were afraid to do, then you have controlled your fear before. (You may have even called it “fun” afterward. ) I will cover fears that hold us back from our dreams in another blog post. For this one, I want to focus on the global-scale fear that many of us are facing.
How to Identify Fear
Sometimes fear is easy to identify. It makes your heart pound and you break out in a sweat and everything inside you tells you to run. That fear is pretty cut and dried. Sometimes, it’s more subtle and wears a mask. Some of the masks that fear can wear may look like:
- Choosing the path of least resistance
- Not giving 100%
Related: There is a whole chapter on this on my new book, “Self Discipline in 6 Weeks”
Dealing With Fear: Strategies that Work to Control It
Whether fear is because of a situation you can’t control, or fear of what might happen in the future, there are several things that you can do to control your fear.
1. Educate Yourself
First of all, when you are dealing with fear, I do not mean educating yourself by scrolling social media for all your information. Many people share good things with good information. However, keep in mind that most online articles try to make sure their headlines are enticing for you to click on. Sometimes the headlines do not always accurately convey the main idea of the article. Get your information from reputable sources, and realize that no one knows for sure what’s going to happen in the future. Other people’s opinions can be taken into consideration, but realize that they are opinions and not facts.
2. Turn Worry into Concern
My favorite definition of worry is “the habit of anticipating chaos.” (From Dr. Joeseph Luciani’s book) Never has that definition been more applicable than in present times. Worry statements often start with “what if” and they also tend to let your imagination run away with you. You start with one situation that is fact such as: “CVOID-19 has spread across the globe” and go to something that may or may not be true such as: “It’s the next Black Death Plague and we’re all going to die!”
When you worry, the emotions are often overblown in proportion to the actual current situation. It’s not constructive and does nothing to solve the actual problem. You might even find yourself worrying about a situation that you can’t control at all.
Concern on the other hand, is fact-based and the emotions are proportional to the situation at hand. It is characterized by constructive problem-solving. Concern might look something like “My kids are out of school and I am having to oversee their work. I need to find a routine so that I can carry on with the things that I need to get done as well as make sure they get their work done. We also need to find more things to do at home.”
Related: What to do when you worry too much
3. Set Priorities
The above example about trying to come up with a schedule or structure to my days with the kids and making sure they get their work done is something that I am facing at the moment, along with thousands of other families. I will admit to you that not much blog work got done last week, but that’s ok because in my list of priorities the kids come before the blog. Sometimes you have to choose between things and knowing your priorities upfront, makes that choice much easier.
4. Focus on What you Can Control
While we are dealing with the fear of a global pandemic, there are many things that are out of our control. I don’t know what the future holds. I know they are working on a cure as quickly as possible, but that’s not in my control. What I can control are things like:
- Making sure my kids have a routine for doing schoolwork while they are not at school
- Making sure that I have adequate supplies and food
- Keeping a positive attitude because my mood set the tone for the whole family
- Coming up with activities to keep staying home interesting
- Where I go and when/if I go
- Staying home and keeping the kids home if someone is sick
- How clean my home is
- How often we wash our hands and establish good hygiene practices
- Making sure that I get outside time each day when possible (It has a mood-lifting effect)
- Keeping my body moving and making sure I get adequate exercise each week
- Practicing mindful eating
- Planning and preparing healthy meals
These may seem like little things, but it is often the little things that make a big difference. When you know you can control these small things, it somehow makes the rest of the big things seem more manageable.
5. Steer Your Thoughts Towards Good Things
I think now more than ever we have to guard our minds. It’s easy to get caught up in panic and bad news. But we must steer our thoughts towards good things. It’s one of the secrets of cultivating positive thoughts. Our happiness not so much what happens to us, but how we react to it. You cannot control what other people do. You can only control your own actions. Focus on those and on cultivating those positive thoughts and attitudes. Whether we look for good or we look for bad, we will find it. As always, the pandemic is going to bring out both the best and the worst in people. What do you want to spend your time looking for?
6. Keep a Journal
A journal is a great tool for dealing with fear. It allows you to process emotions and clarify your thoughts. It’s good for your mental health to get them out and down on paper. Somehow, it seems like it gets them out of my head. There are many different types of journaling. Some are just free writing journals, which is one of my preferred types. That way I can just write down whatever random thoughts pop up in my head. You can also do a gratitude journal or a bullet journal. There are manly journal prompts that you can use to help steer your mind towards good things and to help you process negative emotions. (There are some in the VIP Library for free. Sign up below! )
7. Give Yourself Grace
Try to remember to give yourself grace when you are dealing with fear. Fear is a natural emotion. It’s ok to be scared. What’s not ok is to let fear control you. We are making many changes in our lives and with changes, we have to adapt. It’s ok to not get everything right the first time. We often learn by making mistakes. If you tried cooking a new meal and it was awful, that’s ok. Try again and see if you can do it better the second time.
8. Establish a Good Routine
If your routine has changed, then it can throw you for a loop at first. As soon as you can, try to establish a new one that fits your new situation better. This applies whether you are working from home, trying to homeschool kids or have a new routine from a life change for whatever reason. Once you get in the groove of doing something in a routine, it becomes easier.
9. Exercise Common Sense
I know, sometimes common sense isn’t so common. However, we all have the ability to think clearly when our emotions are not in the way. Think through what you are doing. What precautions do you need to take? Be aware of when you need to wash your hands, stay home if you don’t feel well, and remember your elderly neighbors and your parents. Be kind. Go out of your way to do good.
10. Pray About Your Fear and Trust in the Lord
I saved the most important one about dealing with fear for last. Through all the news headlines, the grocery store shelves that are growing barer by the day, and all the bad news, this verse of scripture from 2 Timothy 1:7 keeps going through my mind.
He has all the power in heaven and earth. He is the Great Physician. We are supposed to display love to one another and use the sound mind that he has given us. There is great power in prayer. When I find myself overwhelmed, scared, uncertain about the future, and overburdened I find a quiet place where I am alone, I get on my knees, and I earnestly and sincerely pour out my heart in prayer. I know that he understands, he loves me, and that he cares. He’s also in total and complete control even when I don’t understand what’s happening or know what the future holds. That, my friend, is the best advice that I can give you about dealing with fear.
Related: 18 Bible Verses for Hard Times You Need to Read
20 Helpful Tips for Living With Anxiety
The Last Thing that You Need to Know About Dealing With Fear
While I wish that I could give you a quick “fix-all” solution, I can’t. It’s going to be a process and something that each person will have to work through themselves. Different people will react differently. Some will be angry, some will be experiencing anxiety or bouts of depression, some will be flat out overwhelmed, but some will go out of their way to help. The stories about those people that go out of their way to help – they are the ones who we will remember and whose stories will encourage us along the way.
Remember that there are things that you can do in order to control your fear, but most of all pray about it and put your trust in the Lord. Try to steer your thoughts towards good things and make the most of this situation. We have been given a huge gift of TIME with those that we hold most dear. When you look for the good things you will find them.
References: Coping with Fear in the Face of a Pandemic: Psychology Today