When Fear Overwhelms
Bad things are happening. All you have to do is turn on the news to find out the latest casualty count and geographic location. No one is immune – it’s a global epidemic and we’re all in this together.
If we’re not careful we can convince ourselves that danger lurks just outside our doorway. Unfortunately, for some of us that may not be far from the truth. This requires mindful focus and the courage to make hard choices. For the rest of us, it’s a psychological choice to realize that feeling in danger and actually being in danger are not the same thing.
When bad things happen, the first thing we often ask ourselves is “Why”. This inquiry ends up in the same destination time after time – nowhere. We spend precious hours of our lives in the endless loop of obsessive thoughts believing that we can somehow achieve a false sense of safety if we can just figure out the algorithm. The answer does not change. There is no predictable algorithm for evil. There is no way to achieve certain safety. Safety is an illusion.
So what can we do when our fear overwhelms us to the point that we never want to leave our bed again? That’s when we must meet ourselves exactly where we are. We don’t try to be anywhere else but right here.
First, we look inward.
We allow ourselves to feel exactly how we feel. If we are afraid, we feel afraid. We write it out – exactly as it is in our minds: “I’m afraid that I’m going to die today. Nowhere is safe anymore. I feel like there are terrorists lurking outside just waiting for me to open the door. What is going to happen to us all? How did we get here?” until it is all spilled out onto the page into the light. We use this method anytime our brain feels too full to function. If we need to, we speak to a trusted friend or counselor who can help us pour our worries out into the light and let us know that we are ok.
We take good care of ourselves with tenderness and grace. We give ourselves time for a nice, long, hot shower with our favorite shampoo. We stand in the stream of water and just enjoy it, right where we are, focusing on every place that it flows down our body. We wrap ourselves gently in our favorite fluffy robe or towel and make a nice hot cup of tea. We drink it in our favorite chair. We breathe deeply. We ask for extra snuggles from our dog, children, partner, or ourself. We go to bed early with a few drops of lavender or perfume on our pillowcase. We purposefully focus on the things we are grateful for at this moment.
Then, when we feel stable again, we focus outward.
We change our “Why” to “What”. “What can I offer”? We open our eyes and look around for the needs that we can meet - in our home, in our community, in the world. One act of love at a time. Don’t underestimate the impact of any offering: reading a book to a child, taking your dog on a walk, planting a flower or vegetable, helping a neighbor, meeting a friend for coffee, smiling at someone – all of these simple acts performed by many create a conglomeration of concentric circles of love radiating through our universe. When we feel ready to do bigger things, we do them. We keep showing up just as we are time after time after time.
First, we take back what belongs to us – our own power – by taking good care of ourselves.
Next, we transform that power to love by giving it away to those who need it.
We shift our focus inward, outward, inward, outward. One act at a time. One step forward. It’s enough. It’s the only way we will heal ourselves, each other, and the world. We can do this, together, through love.