21 Apr The F-word
Fear. Noun. An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.
Fear. Verb. To be afraid of someone or something as likely to be dangerous, painful or harmful.
I’m a worrier and get anxious about things when I cannot control them, so I plan and get organised to feel more in control of things. I generally don’t like surprises and prefer to know what’s coming so I can be prepared. I’m one of those people who packs a polo neck jersey for a beach holiday, just in case, and who looks at the menu of a restaurant online three days before we go out, just so I can start thinking about what I’m going to order. So, you can just imagine what’s been going on in this head of mine for the past few weeks!
We’re into our fifth week of working and living and teaching and learning and cooking and baking and crafting and exercising and everything else at home. Strangely, the four of us (five, if you count Max the Jack Russel) have settled into a routine and rhythm that now feels quite ‘normal’. Nothing close to the routine and rhythm we had six weeks ago. Certainly nothing close to what we would have expected if you’d asked us at the start of the year and probably nothing close to what our routine and rhythm will look like six months from now. And yet, we feel that this is our ‘new normal’. We adapt, we shift into this new space day by day, bit by bit until, after a few weeks, it flows, just like our ‘old normal’ did.
It’s the shifting, though, that is tough. It’s tough because we lose the equilibrium that we’re used to. It’s tough because we feel caught off guard when it’s a Wednesday and we can’t drop the kids at school, drive to work, have meetings, pick up the kids, take them to swimming and stop at Woolies for a roast chicken on the way home, because that’s what we do on Wednesdays. It’s tough because the work-home-family structures we’ve worked so hard to establish get knocked down overnight – the boundaries are becoming blurrier by the day! It’s tough because we feel unprepared for whatever might happen. It’s tough because we cannot predict or control the outcome. It’s tough because it’s the unknown and we can’t control the unknown. I have felt so many emotions all at once, but by far the biggest and most dangerous is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of what might be. Fear of what could happen. An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined.
Most of the time, for me anyway, it is imagined because what happens is that I read this article and hear that news clip and my thoughts are influenced by all the noise out there and I create stories and scenarios in my mind that are “what if’s”. What if my kids can only go back to school in July? What if I need to go back to work in the office and we don’t have anyone to look after the kids? What if someone in my family gets sick and I can’t get to them? What if, what if, what if? They build up like the great crescendo in the final song played by the orchestra in a dramatic opera until we can hear nothing else but the pulse of anxiety pumping through our ears.
But we cannot allow these “what if’s” to overcome us. We cannot allow the fear to consume us to a point that it steals us away from the people counting on us to show up. We should not borrow worry. I’ve felt all these fears, all the fears I know I shouldn’t, but I’ve fought them. They won’t just go away; we have to intentionally focus on making them go away. Have you heard of the acronym for fear – False Evidence Appearing Real? False evidence. False. So how do we block out the loud orchestra of anxiety? We find truths. We find facts. We find blessings and joy. We find these things in our lives and we focus on these things. It’s not easy, it sometimes is a fight, but it is possible.
So, here are some things that have helped me in my fight against fear, that might help you too.
1. Start your day with gratitude. We all have at least one thing to be grateful for. If we have breath in our lungs, we should be grateful. Make a list of three things that you are grateful for and remind yourself of these throughout the day. Tomorrow, chose another three. When we are grateful, fear disappears, and abundance appears.
2. Start your day with truth. For me, this is spending time in Scripture. For you, it may be positive affirmations or meditation. Whatever it is, do it early in your day, so these truths go with you through the day.
3. If you don’t pray, meditate. Not only once, but throughout the day. Set reminders on your phone, set triggers for yourself – like turning on a light, drinking a glass of water, to remind yourself to pray.
4. Surround yourself with people who lift your spirits and influence you positively. If you’re surrounded only by the stress and negative talk of others, you will be influenced by their anxiety and fears. It’s contagious!
5. Do something that brings you joy. Dance, sing, bake a cake, read a story with your kids. Whatever it is that brings you joy, do it and watch how your fear evaporates.
6. Do something that you can control. Clean out the cutlery draw, the sock draw, sort the bookshelf into alphabetical order or colours. These small things that we can control bring us a small sense of peace that can overshadow our fears of what we cannot control.
Most of the time, we create our own fears. If we create them, we can break them down. We break down the false evidence with the true evidence, with the joy, with the prayers. Each and every time.