What is your biggest fear?
My husband asked me this question Sunday night before bed. He asked for my biggest rational fear – pertaining to my personal life – and my biggest irrational fear.
Some pillow talk, huh?
But I was glad he brought up this discussion, because I had actually had quite a bit of worry over the weekend about those seemingly irrational fears.
You see, Friday night, Kyle had left to spend the weekend in Las Vegas with his buddies from back home. It was my first weekend alone in our new home, in our new neighborhood, in our new state. Many of my irrational worries came up.
Something happening to Kyle on the road or on his trip. Someone breaking in the house at night. Something happening to me while I’m out hiking.
I tend to worry about traveling, whether it’s me driving somewhere (anyone who’s in the car with me is probably worried as well) or a family member driving or flying. I worry about Kyle going out on a hike by himself and being attacked by a rattlesnake. I worry about my pregnant friends who are going to give birth soon. You hear of so many bad things – freak accidents – and you fear that they may happen to you or someone you love.
My anxiety and worrying over these things is actually pretty mild, but if I’m not careful, these fears can consume me. Constantly worrying is what makes me think I hear noises at night and keeps me from sleeping soundly while Kyle’s gone.
Well, he came home safely from Las Vegas Sunday morning. I told him about my fears and worries that night.
The next morning, we woke up to the news of the shooting.
Fearing the Unknown
I watched the coverage for a little while and read a few articles. The stories, the reactions, the raw emotion – it is all so heartbreaking. What happened Sunday night in Vegas was those irrational fears coming true for so many people.
And the more I consumed, the more fearful I became.
Because your life can change in an instant. Things happen unexpectedly, anywhere and anytime.
A country music concert. A church. An elementary school. A college. A night club. A grocery store. These are all places we’ve been before and will continue to go to again.
A car. An airplane. A boat. Danger lies in our everyday modes of travel.
Our homes. Our neighborhoods. Our bus stops. You may never expect something bad to happen, but you also never know.
You never know.
And that’s where these fears stem from – the unknown. What could happen.
With these terrifying things happening in the world, how can you not let them affect you?
Letting Your Fears Affect You Vs. Consume You
I’ve had the news on in the mornings for the past few weeks, and I always know I’m going to get that critical eye from Kyle – Oh, you’re trying to get depressed this morning, are you?
I get it – certainly, a lot of what we see in the news is absolutely devastating. Sure, the news can affect us. It’s supposed to. It’s what’s going on in the world we live in.
But we don’t have to let it consume us.
There’s a difference. I think we need to be mindful of our news consumption, definitely, but not avoid it entirely. Just like we won’t avoid going to a concert, a school, or getting on an airplane. We can’t let fear keep us from living our lives or from knowing what’s going on in the world.
At some point, you have to turn the news off. You can’t click on another article to read. You have to turn inward and make sense of what’s happening for yourself.
“Making sense” isn’t the best term. There is no sense in something so tragic. More likely, it’s working to understand your own perception of what is happening.
That’s what writing out this blog post is for me – my way of understanding my fears and what increases them. Writing is my way of sorting out my thoughts on anything.
When you feel consumed by fear, it’s important to take a pause. In whatever way comes naturally to you, try to understand what you are fearful of. Put a name to it and acknowledge it. Work to gain some perspective on it.
I tried to read quite a bit over the weekend to quiet my worrying mind while Kyle was gone. Two things came out of my reading that helped me to minimize fear. Note: I didn’t set out to seek these answers, that’s just how the world works.
Each morning, I read a daily meditation that goes along with the Gospel reading. Saturday morning, the reflection talked about fear. This is where I received tip #1:
1. Increase your faith to minimize fear
When something distracts you so terribly, think even more about God. Pray, believe and affirm.
I read this before I went on a solo hike Saturday morning. It was a hike I’d done before, so I knew what to expect, but just the day before I had seen a story on the news about two girls who were murdered while hiking (Mom, I hope you’re not reading this). Naturally, I had a little extra fear going into it.
So, I prayed. I asked God to be with me and I thanked Him for keeping me safe. I affirmed that God does not give me anything I can’t handle.
Maybe you’re not religious, but you can still train your thoughts to believe that things are going to be okay. Worry will only keep you from living your life. When your anxiety is racing over something that seems irrational, find an affirmation to repeat that instills a belief in you that things will work out alright.
These prayers and thoughts helped me sleep the second night Kyle was gone and helped me believe he would make it home okay.
2. Choose freedom
The second source of my inspiration this weekend may apply more to those personal fears we have around making big changes or going after something we really want. This came from Brendon Burchard’s book The Motivation Manifesto.
“At any moment, we are acting from a state of mind driven by fear or freedom…Fear wins or Freedom wins, and I choose Freedom.”
The chapter on fear implies that we can reframe our thinking to move from a state of fear to a state of confidence and freedom. By thinking about what we can gain from a situation instead of what can go wrong, we can minimize fear and go about life more confidently. The choice is ours to make.
“And so let us ask ourselves, ‘Will my life be about aversion or ascension?‘”
We are often aware of when we’re acting out of fear. I say it all the time when I think about public speaking – “I’m terrified.” I want to speak to groups about body image and self-worth, and the idea of it terrifies me.
But if I sit back and don’t try, I am actively choosing fear. When I go to a networking group and don’t go up to speak to someone, I know I’m acting out of fear.
Consciously choosing freedom allows me to minimize my internal fear and think about what I can gain from the situation, not what can go wrong. This advice is basically a kick in the pants to develop some mental toughness. Be brave, be bold and go after what you know will ultimately make you stronger.
Choose the path of courage and fulfillment. Declaring to master your fear – face it head on – is the first step toward freedom.
Take Action on Your Fears
Lastly, the situations happening in the world can make you feel helpless. Let the hard news and big fears affect you, yes, but before you let them consume you, pause for a moment. Spend a moment in gratitude to realize how extremely fortunate you are and all of the blessings you have in your life, and say a prayer for those who need help.
Take action to help, even if it’s small. You can donate to help the victims in Las Vegas, you can do something kind for someone else to show that there is love in the world, you can express your gratitude for the people in your life.
When these devastating things happen, they can increase our fears even more and bring up fears we didn’t even know we had. We can never know how things will play out, but we can hope. We can believe. We can increase our faith. We can pray. And we can give.
Those things, we have control over. Take action in the form of increasing your faith and choosing Freedom.
My heart and prayers go out to all of those affected by the shooting in Las Vegas.
What fears hold you back – rational and irrational? What is your way to pause and gain perspective?
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