How to Manage Fear in Today's World
We are currently living in a time of increased fear. Regardless of one’s religious or political orientation, many report increased fear for our safety, fear for our country, and fear for the future. It is important to note that fear is a natural and normal response to perceived danger. It is our body’s fight/flight reaction, and it can be protective. However, a constant state of fear is not sustainable (or productive). So, how do we learn to manage our fears?
1. Talk About It
It’s important to identify and label your emotions (e.g., “I am feeling scared” or “I am feeling fearful”). Research suggests that by expressing and labeling emotions (without trying to change them), you are engaging in a subtle form of emotion regulation. Labeling emotions can also contribute to reduced physiological responses.
2. Identify What Is vs. Is Not In Your Control
Although it may seem that there is a lot out of our control (and there is), it is important to focus on what we do know and do have control over. For example, we have control over our behaviors (e.g., who we vote for and what organizations we contribute our time and money to). We also have control over our thoughts and how we view situations – this doesn’t mean we automatically flip a negative thought in to a positive. Instead, we evaluate the thought to determine if we are looking at it in the most rational way.
3. Confront The Fear
If we avoided everything that scared us, we would live in a very small bubble. It is important to label that you are feeling scared and do it anyways. For example, if you are fearful of going to a religious service, it’s important to still attend. By doing so, you aren’t giving into your fears and you are engaging in an activity that is aligned with your morals and values.
Given the events of the last few weeks, it’s important that if you are feeling overwhelmed by fear or anxiety, to talk to a professional. Therapy, and more specifically cognitive behavior therapy, is designed to teach individuals coping skills to manage fear and anxiety so they can live more fulfilling lives.