There are many ways to release fear, anxiety and stress, and I will introduce you to the best I know. But first, it’s important to experience your emotions, even the unpleasant ones. Feeling your feelings is essential for your well-being, especially during a time like this.
Unless this is something you’ve already learned and mastered, this might sound pretty preposterous. After all, we’ve been trained by society to avoid our uncomfortable emotions at all costs. Why would we want to actually feel them?
Well, for starters, they get more powerful when we don’t stop to acknowledge them. These emotions are trying to get our attention for a reason, and when they fail, they try harder.
Unless fueled by our often meaningless thoughts, particularly ones about the past and future, our emotions are usually quite intelligent. Fear can prevent us from doing something that would put us at risk for harm. Anger can propel us into action we wouldn’t otherwise take, like leaving an abusive relationship. Sadness can help us move through grief, instead of lodging it in our bodies. Regret can help us make better choices in the future.
When acknowledged, our more negatively-based feelings can teach us what they’re meant to and move through us, the same way positive emotions do. The difference is that we tend to either shut the negative ones down, which makes them grow more powerful underneath the surface, or we feed them with our thoughts.
When we feel appreciation, we don’t usually think much about it and we certainly don’t try to escape it. We don’t wonder why we feel appreciative; we simply experience it. It’s a feeling that moves through us. Four minutes later, we may have forgotten we felt it. But four minutes, days and even decades after something triggers anger, we may be even angrier, due to all the thoughts we collected about the incident. Thoughts that are often not even true.
The same goes for fear. Unlike anger, which is generally about something that occurred in the past, fear is about something in the future. Unless a hungry lion is staring you in the eyes and assessing your prey-potential, your fear is not about your present moment.
If you don’t stop to feel your feelings, like fear, they will get more powerful. Fear-based thoughts don’t like to practice social distancing. They usually invite a lot of friends to the party. Before you know it, you are spinning out about a worst case scenario that will hopefully never even come remotely close to passing.
That’s when fear turns into emotional congestion. What can you do?
Clear Your Traffic:
When you notice you feel fear, you can pause to explore it. Ask yourself what you were just thinking, and challenge your thoughts.
Maybe you’re concerned you are going to lose your job. That’s a rational and understandable fear in today’s world. If you catch that line of thinking early enough, you can question whether you have substantial evidence for this fear. Even if you do, while the fear is mild, you can be compassionate and encouraging with yourself. You’ll find another job. One you’ll like even better.
Maybe you’ll get back in touch with your passions and a dream you’ve had on hold all these years. Now might be your chance to actualize it!
If you don’t catch the fear in it’s early stages, more fear-based thoughts will join the originals. Before long, you’re not only mildly afraid you’ll lose your job, but panic stricken about a long list of even worse circumstances, based on just that one that hasn’t even happened. The more logs you throw on the fire of fear, the more quickly you’ll burn away your peace. What if you can’t stop thinking?
Another great way to get to know your fear is to actually feel it. Where is it in your body? Is it in your gut? Your chest? Your neck and shoulders? When you locate it, take some deep breaths into your belly and imagine sending the oxygen to that area. If you’ve heard the phrase “breathe into your fear” and wondered what that meant, this is the gist.
Ask your fear what message it has for you. Whether legitimate or irrational, it is trying to protect you from something.
Is there something you can do about in the present moment? If so, taking action might help you feel better. There are often many things you can do to help yourself feel safer. When there aren’t, there are other ways to release your fear.
I’ll start sharing them soon.
Reach out if you’d like support.