This is a strange time for everyone – but the message remains the same: Bee afraid, but don’t quit. Fear serves a therapeutic and survival purpose, it indicates what we should avoid or be cautious of…fear keeps us safe. But like all things in life, we need to strive for balance. Fear can not only keep us safe, but it can trap us and paralyze us into isolation and inactivity.
One of our biggest flaws as a society today, is that we live in the extremes. A common “thinking error” is called “black and white thinking” where we see and function at the far ends of any situation. We are either “in love with” or “hate” someone, we feel we are “perfect” or “failing”, we either “have it together” or we say we are “falling apart”. Or similarly, we only focus on one distorted/artificially enlarged aspect of the horizon of life.
Are we kidding?! That is too extreme and intense a way to live! I guarantee that for everyone who thinks they are “falling apart” there are a lot of things going well. And for everyone who “has it together” there is something screwed up lurking in the shadows. We need to live in the middle people! The same goes for fear. We should be afraid and cautious and aware, but do not, and I can’t state this enough, DO NOT, let it paralyze you.
So – how do we find balance, and keep perspective?
- Reality Test a Situation – when we feel fear, take a step back and recite or write down how the situation can *actually* hurt/harm us in the short and long term. Then you can more realistically make a decision and take precautions.
- Review the Opposite Response – take a realistic and objective look at what would happen, what you would have to gain if you *did* push through the thing you fear.
- Talk it Through – grab a friend, read a blog, go to your therapist and reason these things out.
- Look Deeper – this one takes more insight, thought and likely a trip to the therapist, but maybe check in with yourself and see if you are really afraid of what’s in front of you (the new job, a new relationship, starting a weight loss program) or if you are reacting to an old hurt that is still lingering from before (a failed business endeavor, a broken marriage, lack of success in the past). The past teaches us, but shouldn’t paralyze us.
And this post is being written in the middle of the COVID-19 experience; it is not about the COVID-19 responses, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it.
This is a time when we are all afraid and there are a lot of unknowns. The reality is, this advice still applies. Keep yourself safe given your personal health and location/situation, but also be aware of the things we still have around us that are worth joy, gratitude and hope. This is very temporary and staying focused on everything else in our lives that is stable and sane will help us all rebound and thrive. Bee well.