The Problem with Fear - Covid 19 / Coronavirus
Updated: May 3, 2020
Sure, this might not seem like it fits into my niche. But it does, it SO does.
Those of us who struggle with anxiety may see death around every corner right now. We watch the news, we read every post on Twitter and Facebook and are freaking the eff out. We're worried we're going to die, that our kids are going to die, that our parents and friends and neighbours are going to die, or that they're carrying the virus and don't know or do know but aren't telling us and we're ALL GOING TO DIE.
The information we have received from experts and the government has been nothing short of confusing and often downright contradictory, freaking people even more the eff out. So what are we right now? We are afraid. What if I told you I'm not afraid of Covid-19? I'm not scared at all- not even a little bit.
Don't worry, I'm not that donkey out there who doesn't care and is totally ignoring the social distancing rules and licking gas pump handles or going out if I have any symptoms. I'm washing my hands more and I'm conscious of space and who is more vulnerable. I'm conscious of the reality and brevity of what's happening in the world right now, but I am NOT afraid.
I refuse to live in fear.
Now, let's dive into the reality of that statement a bit... I am afraid of a LOT of things. I'm scared of the dark, of moths, of balloons in the hands of children (because I HATE the anticipation of them popping), of dying (not of being dead, but of a terrible prolonged death), of something awful happening to my daughter, of being force-fed brussels sprouts, and of being seen as stupid. These are all of my fears, some of them more reasonable than others, but I DO have fears. I am working hard not to live in fear; I'm one of those weirdos who thinks that potential death is around every corner, at every intersection, every bridge/overpass, every alley... who knows what's there, right? We have so little control in this world over what will happen to us on any given day. An old friend of mine often says the phrase "you could get hit by a bus", and it's true, ya know.
(If you've seen the movie, she doesn't really get hit by a bus...)
So, back to the world right now... and let's talk fear. Fear isn't just something you feel, it actually affects your body- negatively. I won't get into every biochemical explanation behind it, that's what google is for, but to put it simply- extended feelings of fear that aren't kept in check are bad for you. Fear is a chain reaction, of sorts, in your brain in response to stimuli, according to How Stuff Works. You're frightened, maybe by a scary movie, a loud noise, a moth, and your brain starts the whole fight or flight reaction by releasing chemicals. And when you read the headings of all of the articles and don't actually read the content, or dive into what they're actually saying, you're harming yourself. Let's be clear, friends, the media isn't posting stuff that isn't sexy or sensationalised, so let's be the smarty pants we are and be objective.
Why is it important to be objective and keep our fear in check? Fear weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, and decreased fertility. It can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death. So take a breath. In. Out. Do it again. There you go... feel better?
According to a study completed at the University of Minnesota, "To someone in chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that. Moreover, fear can interrupt processes in our brains that allow us to regulate emotions, read non-verbal cues, and other information presented to us, reflect before acting, and act ethically. This impacts our decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions and impulsive reactions."
What I take away from this statement relates to how I've seen people respond lately, how they behave... Every time I'm in the grocery store, I ask the cashier if people are being kind to them, and the response has, almost every time, been some sort of "well, for the most part, but people seem so afraid and this seems to make them angry".
And that's another thing- anger isn't a real emotion, or at least not what is called "primary emotion". Anger is often a response to fear- fear of death, fear of looking stupid (like I said before, one of my biggest hangups), fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, and the list goes on and on. Think of the last time you were angry- mine was when a neighbours cat came into my yard and attacked my cat and my daughter was out there; my cat just had a little scratch but my daughter was very frightened. I knew where the cat lived, too, and I wanted to storm down to their house and shout all sorts of things at these people. But the thing is, I wasn't actually angry; I was afraid that my cat was going to be hurt. I was afraid that my daughter was going to be hurt. I was even afraid that someone was going to accuse me of being a bad mom for not having eyes on my child every second of her life.
So the last time you were angry- what really happened before the anger? Fear? Disrespect? Frustration?
Now that you've got that on your mind, take 3 slow breaths again. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.
I don't want to get you all riled up. I just want you to look inward, to be objective, and to feel what you're really feeling and allow yourself to feel it.
I'm saying you're allowed to be scared. You're allowed to feel hurt, to be frustrated or not know what's going to happen.
But please don't stay there. It's unhealthy not only mentally but physically. Work with me to be conscious and aware but not fearful.
Fear is heavy. Put it down.