What to do when feelings of fear overwhelm you

Overcome Fear Of Flying Or Aviophobia For Good
Even when our world of work, travel, do things and achieve slows down, nature continues, the birds still sing, the trees still bloom, the water still flows, our cats still purr and our dogs still wag their tail with their tails, the earth still revolves on its axis, the stars and moon still illuminate the night sky, and the people still smile, cry, sing and support each other, as we have from the very beginning.

Wave of fear

Last Monday, I wrote a completely different blog post for this week, but by Thursday night, the world had changed so radically that the first draft of my blog was meaningless. That’s why I wrote the following after waking up Saturday morning. I hope it gives you some guidance and comfort as we move through this unprecedented challenge together.

When I received the email on Thursday evening announcing that the first case of the Coronavirus in my hometown had been confirmed and the schools closed, a wave of fear swept through my body. The announcement was a shock to my entire system, and I know I was not alone in my response. There was something about the school closures that suddenly made all of this real. Within a 24-hour period, we went from our normal lives, in which my husband and I drove our sons to their classes, we went grocery shopping, and did our work with clients on Thursdays during the day, to a situation on Thursday evenings where almost everything came to a standstill. . I went to sleep that night with a shocked feeling.

As I walked through a very busy supermarket on Friday morning, smiling at every person I passed and many of them smiling back, a wave of calm came over me – as I was reminded that despite this shocking and unprecedented crisis we going through, the world still continues. Later in the day, as I stood by a stream and watched the snow fall in wonderfully large flakes, while listening to the flowing water and the birds singing, I felt the other reality of our sojourn on this planet: the non-human that goes on unfazed, no matter how special this experience is for us humans.

It reminded me of these lines in Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, which you can read here:

Tell me about the despair, yours, and I’ll tell you mine.
Meanwhile, the world moves on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
move over the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile, high in the clean blue sky, the wild geese
are on their way home again.

As I lay in bed and write this in my journal, my cat is sitting on my lap and licking her tummy clean. I look out the window and breathe in the light mist from last night’s snow. I see a neighbor walking her dog, as I see her doing every morning. In a moment I will do some reading in my spiritual books and I will sit under my tallit (prayer shawl) to meditate and pray. I will open up to every experience that needs attention: sadness, peace, spaciousness, insight, fear and love.

Like so many of us, I have a list of people I hold dear as we endure this global challenge: my beloved husband, who has been an asthmatic all his life; my relatives and neighbors who are over the age of sixty and who are not in perfect health; my friends who are concerned about the financial consequences of this crisis; and anyone who struggles with anxiety in general and fear for his or her health in particular. I feel your fear and I keep it next to mine. I open my heart to the fragility of being human that is always part of our reality, but has been the focus of attention in recent days. I remember the words of Rabbi Moss from Sydney, Australia (thanks to the reader who sent me this), who answered this question

“This coronavirus event has really put me on the wrong track. I feel like I’ve lost all security. Nobody knows what will happen now. How do we stay healthy if we don’t know what’s lurking around the corner?’

answered with these wise words:

It is not that we have lost our sense of security. We have lost our illusion of certainty. We never experienced it to begin with. This can be deeply disturbing, or amazingly liberating.

Or both. It is disturbing because we are human. And it can be liberating if we focus on the habits and rituals that anchor us in the sea of ​​uncertainty that defines our daily lives. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to acquiesce in uncertainty. In fact, I would say it is the most difficult of all tasks as a human being. If we can get there, we will find peace. The rest of the time we need more practical ideas that can help us move from fear and panic to acceptance and tranquility.

Recognize fear of commitment

Working with the right dose of fear

Here are my suggestions for working with the right dose of fear (by which I mean the fear that is proportional to what is happening in the here-and-now):

1. When you feel the fear coming in, name it and validate it.

This can be like putting a hand on your heart and saying, ‘This is fear (naming), and of course you are afraid (validating). The whole world is afraid. It’s okay to feel scared right now. I am with you. I see you. I’m here.’

2. Notice what fueled the fear.

Have you read a fear email? Have you had a conversation with someone who is anxious? If you notice what triggers your anxiety, you can take steps to set the necessary boundaries to protect your mental space.

3. Take a moment to fully go with the fear.

I recommend practicing Tonglen, which is the simple practice of inhaling the fear and exhaling its opposite (love, hope, light, healing, comfort). Direct your breath directly into fear, imagine that your breath are the most loving hands in the world. Then send out love. The second step of Tonglen, which is vital and powerful, is to breathe in the fear of anyone who feels exactly what you are feeling right now (which is probably in the millions, if not billions), and breathe out love, healing, light. When we connect with the greater humanity, which is part of what is asked of us, we feel less alone and more peaceful inside.

If you find that normal, well-proportioned fear has escalated to panic and intrusiveness, meaning catastrophic, worst-case scenario thoughts or images have taken over, try one or more of the following:

1. Label the thoughts as intrusive and ask, “What is this thought that protects me from the feeling?”

Intrusive thoughts are protectors of vulnerable emotions. If you can soften in the tears embedded in the thought, the thought will settle down.

2. Move your body.

One of the quickest and most effective ways to dance with fear is literally: Get up and get active. Put on music and dance. Get outside if you can. If you can’t go outside, open a window and look up into the sky while your body is still moving.

3. Connect with the outside world for support and connection.

Call, FaceTime with a friend, connect with your partner, be present with your kids, cuddle with your pet.

4. Turn fear into a prayer, poem, or mantra.

Collect the fear and send it into a calming one-line mantra:

“This too will pass. Everything will be good, and everything will be good, and the manner will be good. (Julian of Norwich).

You have generations of ancestors behind you who encourage you with what they have to say to you: ‘Yes, we’ve been through hard times too.’

Or move on to a longer prayer or poem that is or can become a totem for you. Now that you may have a little more time, this is an excellent opportunity to memorize a poem or prayer. My go-to is Psalm 27. When a religious text doesn’t work for you, find a beautiful poem. Find a prayer that calms and confirms you and reminds you that you are held in the hands of something greater. When you memorize the poem, you put your brain to work in a good way. When fear is your default setting, this is a good distraction. Now more than ever, we need to consciously work with our thoughts.

5. (Re)discover healthy rituals.

Healthy rituals will help you ground yourself in the midst of all the turmoil. When my family went to Shabbat dinner on Friday night, as we have every night since the birth of our son, I could feel a layer of tension dissolve. The light of the candles, the traditional food and the prayers are all the same, even if the world around us is different than we have ever known. Connecting with the mundane and the long chain of rituals that your ancestors performed for centuries can always be deeply comforting, especially in times like these.

6. Give

Giving is a very effective way to get out of the turning circle of intrusive fear. Give what you can. Call a friend and ask how things are going. Give to a local charity, such as a food bank (even a few Euros will help). Send prayers. Send an email or text to someone who might need to know that someone is thinking of them. Provide support on a forum. Offer to pick up groceries for someone who can’t leave the house. Crises tend to bring out the best in people. Be that person and notice that your own fear decreases.

I send you all lots of love and blessings. If there was a time when our shared humanity and interconnectedness is more central than ever, it is now. This virus teaches us that we are one family and that we are asked to do our part in protecting each other: the young protecting the elderly, the strong protecting the weak, countries reaching across borders to help. Contrary to how it sometimes seems, people are deeply good, kind, generous and deeply concerned about the importance of all of us. It’s times like these when this becomes even more apparent. May we stay healthy and may a new awareness of unity and connection emerge from these difficult times.



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