“It was the middle of the night and my little one was struggling to breathe. We rushed to the ER, and it turned out to be a severe asthma attack. Everything turned out fine then, but I haven’t been the same since. Now, it’s like I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
When will the next emergency happen? I know that my fear is irrational but I can’t stop worrying.
How can I let go of the worry and regain some normalcy in my life?”
Sometimes we distract ourselves with “irrational fear” because we may not know how to deal with actual fear. If that thought resonates with you, take a moment to gently check-in with yourself and see if what you’re actually afraid of is admitting that you’re vulnerable; always and everywhere, we humans are vulnerable.
And that’s a good thing.
When you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, backed into a corner by fear, vulnerability is your guide to a restored sense of balance. Vulnerability asks you to acknowledge that you are human and that, sometimes, you’re not going to feel as though you’re in control of a given situation.
Vulnerability, however, is not weakness.
It is truth.
Reconnecting with the truth empowers us to rise above our “irrational” fears. When each of us reconnects with the truth—that we are all vulnerable—we reground ourselves.
Some call it “grounding” or “mindfulness” but whatever you call it, getting back to a place of internal balance starts by stopping. Once you slow to a stop, you can begin to get a clearer picture of why fear sometimes becomes irrational.
Consider these two steps in your investigative process:
What is your belief system?
Your belief system is the status quo. A shock—like the one you had—can be a wakeup call to shake things out and take a look at what you believe, and why. For instance, do you believe in yourself? Do you believe that your family has your back? Do you believe that it’s OK to be vulnerable? Taking time to audit your belief system can help reveal your truth and help bring you to awareness so you can stop the mental spin of fear.
Am I “safe” or “not safe?”
This is how your brain interprets unknown or new situations. If the world does not seem safe, your brain is going to reach for one of three strategies used to combat fear:
Shock is the freeze strategy. Once the shock of your experience wears off, you have the option to fight, run, or reconnect with truth.
Running can look a lot like staying very busy. Fighting can look like acting out or becoming controlling. At the root of the strategies of fight, flight, or freeze, however, is fear. While that’s normal, getting stuck there is not how fear was designed to work.
Consciously remaining in the truth—even when the truth feels like one big unknown—allows you to move from a state of being “on alert” to a state of calm “awareness.” This is important because awareness allows you to carry on in your day without feeling irrationally afraid.
Shifting from “alert” to “aware” happens by slowing down and reconnecting. If a surprising and stressful event occurs in your life, take stock of what happened. Tune-in to how you feel and let yourself feel it, then don’t dismiss what you’re feeling.
Always remember to ask for support if you need to — raise your hand — because we all need help sometimes (and, on a consistent basis, we’re certainly also helpers). Take time to revitalize and rejuvenate so that you can continue to experience the tapestry and simple joys of life. Asking for a hug, taking deep breaths in-and out, taking a hot shower are all simple ways you can revitalize and rejuvenate.
Fear is not meant to be a constant companion. It is there to wake us up to threat so that we can do what we need to do in order to remain safe. Once we are safe, it’s time to release the moment that’s now past and return to the here and now. Being honest with ourselves about how vulnerable we were—and are—is how to continually place our next step in the next moment and leave the irrational side of fear behind.