20 Oct Managing Fear in Order to Live Consciously by Elana Clark-Faler, LCSW
Fear is sparked by a perception of danger or threat. The reaction of fear changes the metabolic and organ function of a human being, and other mammals. Fear responses then lead to a change of behavior creating fight, flee and freeze responses when there is a perception that an event will become traumatic. We modulate or manage fear through the process of our cognitions and learning. This is how we have came up with irrational or rational fears. An irrational fear is given a label, such as a phobia or anxiety disorder. Rational fears are often validated and considered understandable (until the emotion paralyzes someone from functionally optimally).
Fear has served us for the survival of our species. It is a response that keeps us evaluating if something will be risky to our lives. We are constantly evaluating our safety. We are one of the few species who is concerned with death and dying. Fear is an emotion that causes a survival mechanism to kick-in to protect us from our fate. So having some fear is natural and is used as a signal to communicate a need for a defense to protect the self.
The problem comes into play when we are looking at most situations as a possible threat. You have an argument with your partner. You’re angry with your boss. Someone honks at you from another car. Everyone will respond differently to these threats, because everyone has a different tolerance level and everyone has different life experiences that will cause specific reactions that are unique to your world view and life experiences.
How do we manage our fears, so they don’t interfere with our goals? There isn’t an easy answer to this question. I think one of the skills to manage fear includes living consciously. Many of us are distracted by our computers and smart phones. We are living a life that has little breaks, or time to spend with the self. Living consciously starts with being in-tune with yourself and your environment. Being awake and focused on the NOW. It’s the difference from being awake versus asleep. Many of us are dissociated from life, and our own bodies. We are living mostly in our heads and feel our bodies periodically.
Living Consciously starts with making a choice, versus letting life happen to you. You make a choice to actively participate with being present, to lift the fog. It’s sometimes difficult to live a wakeful life, because you become more aware of your thoughts and environment. I find it to be very helpful to let go of judgement and criticisms of yourself and others when practicing being awake. This is difficult for many, because our thoughts might be very loud and unbearable. This is why it’s important to develop mindfulness skills. Seeing your thoughts as “things” not the truth of who you really are. Develop a new, kind and warm dialogue is really important. Imagine a sweet nurturing mother talking to you in your head. She might say, “You made a mistake.” “Now, let’s get up, dust ourselves off and try again.”
Developing a practice of conscious living might look different for everyone. Ultimately, you want to take control of your life versus drifting through life not knowing what to do or where to go. An example of a disciplined practice might look like the following:
- 15 mins of morning meditation right when you wake-up
- Eat a healthy breakfast (with live foods)
- Drink plenty of water each day
- Listen to conscious and supportive podcasts
- Stay present in the car, don’t allow yourself to drift off into thought. Keep bringing yourself to the moment
- Take breaks and lunch
- Take time each day to be disconnected from your phone
- Schedule a time to review social media, versus checking out throughout the day to kill time
- Set goals for yourself. Then ask yourself if your actions support achieving your goals. If they aren’t, let those behaviors go
- Eat a healthy dinner
- Have a night time ritual or routine to prepare for your sleep
- Journal feelings daily (15 mins)
- Have a therapist to speak to weekly in order to have a place just for you
- Problem-solve effectively by thinking of the desired outcome and brainstorm options that will assist with achieving your goal
- Be mindful with all activities, don’t allow yourself to check-out
Remember, living consciously will not be achieved overnight. It’s a lifestyle of stringing together skills and activities that support you being mindful and conscious in your daily life. It’s an art that is perfected through your practices. Start today, and if you drift off the path, simply come back to the moment.