The Coronavirus pandemic has taken us all on an emotional roller coaster. There has been no shortage of grief caused by COVID-19. Perhaps you have lost someone you love, perhaps you have lost your job, perhaps you are just fearful about losing someone or something in your life. Feelings of fear and uncertainty are not only rampant, but have unfortunately become the new normal.
Fear is not only a natural response but a defense mechanism. Your fear response of course includes, fight, flight or freeze, but our emotional responses are highly personalized.
There is no shortage of “become a better you” responses to this crisis. While there is always space for self-improvement, have you taken the time to just name and sit with your emotions? Do you even realize you are experiencing a fear response? There is unique and incredible power in getting comfortable with a certain level of discomfort. A common response to fear is to busy yourself with other tasks, to-dos and anything you can do to entertain avoiding understanding your fear. But what would it be like to get intimate with fear?
"The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.” -Pema Chodron
Getting Intimate with Fear
While the pandemic is tragic, shifting your perspective can offer you a sense of renewal. Honesty and gentleness are required in any life altering process but especially when we are moving into no-man’s-land. There is no right way to approach fear, but intimacy with fear is required in order to experience and explore these moments with new and fresh eyes.
When things get uncomfortable, when fear sets in, it is normal to want to escape, but softening the situation in every way possible does not actually make it more soft, and can even lead to negative patterns and habits. The reality is, until you learn the lesson in the situation, it will not go away. The situation is not the enemy, but avoidance is.
Ways to Face Your Fear
Fear and the present moment go hand in hand. You cannot be present and wrapped up in creating your story line at the same time. Here is how you can start to sit with fear.
Meditation is a mindful practice steeped in eastern tradition and holds the power to help you compassionately explore the present moment. Meditations benefits include clarity, peace and the improved ability to cope. Starting points are always different and it is first, incredibly important to recognize where you are.
Sitting with your emotions can be scary, and sitting still can bring up feelings of restlessness and ultimately the urge to run from problems. Meditation teaches us to arrive where we are, to sit with compassion and to create clarity.
It is important to start small so as to not feel completely overwhelmed with your meditation journey. To begin, find a space inside or outside of your home where you can have five or ten minutes of quiet time. Choose a space where you feel connected and supported. Once you have your space, find something to sit on so that your hips are above your knees, or so your hips are in line with your knees. You can also sit up on a sturdy chair with your feet on the floor and your head floating.
Close your eyes and focus on your breath, when you are no longer aware of your breath, name your thoughts “thinking,” and return your awareness to your breath. Practice daily for as long as you can and observe what changes. One of Pema Chodron’s teachers told her, “Meditation is not a vacation from irritation.” Mediation is for you to get acquainted with the present moment.
Journaling offers space for free self-expression, and can help you to organize your thoughts about fear. Here are a few prompts for you to consider:
What is the origin of your fear? What is your earliest memory of this fear? In what ways has this affected your life? Negative and positive?
What do you feel in your physical body when you feel fear? Describe your physical reaction to fear.
Personify your fear. Give your fear a name. What attributes does your fear have. "Who" is your fear?
Free write for ten minutes about your fear and your feelings associated with your fear.
Nature is filled with pleasantries and when you are able to enjoy nature, it can ease your fear or anxiety. Step away from your technology and just enjoy the seasons, scenery, weather, and having your feet on the ground. Stepping into nature can help you to feel more calm, positive,and will offer you a “breath of fresh air.”
Fear is normal. You are not alone. Face your fear with compassion, and find practices that will work for you.