Coping With Stress and Fear and How to Keep Them at Bay
Note: This is a re-post of my essay from 2009.
Coping with stress and fear and keeping them at bay is never easy. Particularly when times are tough as they are for lots of us economically right now. The tendency is to focus on what’s wrong or what’s missing in one’s life. Personally, I’m getting daily reminders of that in my life since my recent job loss and a freaking snowstorm that has kept me so housebound that I’ve not yet even been able to apply for unemployment (!) (You can’t do it online in this crazy state I live in…) …but I’ve been walking this mortal coil long enough to know that what we pay attention to in our lives grows and gets bigger.
I really don’t want fear or loss or any other negative thing to get bigger in my life.
Focusing Can Help
So I choose to focus on gratitude, uplifting things, etc. and so forth. The rough facts though are that some hours/days/weeks it’s a struggle, no matter how positive I try to be…. The thing is, that’s just part of the human condition. I feel so sorry for the people I work with on occasion who get mired in that fear etc. and stay there… without seeing that there are *always* choices.
It can be a struggle for all/any of us. So hopefully to help, not just me but my visitors out there, and in no particular order, here are some tips.
Focus on the Basics
Even the basic basics. Sometimes in very dire moments this is really hard. I saw a gut wrenching posting on another blog where a parent had written in “How in the world could she be “positive” when she had children and was worried about them/feeding them/etc.?” That’s a tough one, but what you do is you break it down.
- Do you have a roof over your children’s head for tonight?
- Is there enough food for them for their next meal (and yours?)
- Can you count on friends and family?
- Is your health good?
Many, many people on this planet cannot say yes to any of those things. Getting clear on the things you do have to be grateful for – even the basic basics such as “I am not at this moment in the hospital” or “nobody is likely to be shooting at me if I step outside my home” (e.g. those in Iraq or Afghanistan) counts for a lot. Think on those things.
Think About What You Are (or Should Be) Grateful For
and make a list of those things. For instance, in my case, I am a cancer survivor now five years out (and hence, considered “cured”) That’s huge. I AM grateful, when I stop to think about it. More grateful than there are words to use about it. But now that some time has passed and I’m “safe” it’s far too easy to take that for granted. The thing is I was/am very lucky. You are too, in some ways. No matter what. Figure out what those ways are and what you are grateful for. Make a list.
Focus on People, Not Things, and Certainly Not Money
I have a wonderful husband, a great family, great mom, thoughtful friends and clients. If I spend my time and energy on how I can make THEIR lives better (or even your life better, gentle reader) then I am not moaning about or mired in my fears. Money fades away and if I dropped dead tomorrow, it’s not the money I made or didn’t make that would have mattered. Same is true for you too. Money comes and goes.
Think About Your Inner Assets
We all have some. Particularly when we’re scared, it’s easy to think that we’re not good at anything and have nothing to offer. It doesn’t matter who you are, nothing could be farther from the truth. I can write but I can’t add, and I’m physically uncoordinated. My neighbor might only have an eighth grade education but she can cook circles around me. Everyone has something to bring to the table. Consider what you have and focus on (and be grateful for) those things. They mean a lot!
Get Help if You Need It
It’s out there. American culture such as it is has a huge undercurrent of the (sadly mistaken) idea that we all can and should pull ourselves “up by our own bootstraps.” First of all, I don’t know anyone who even has bootstraps, and second of all—we are all in this world and life together, and that is for a reason. If you don’t know who to turn to, know that there are LOTS of good-hearted strangers out here in the world who care about you just because you are a fellow human. Trust that. reach out. Know that if you are allowing someone to help you, you are giving THEM a blessing. Reach out. Whatever you need, it’s out there. And if you’re in a position to help someone, do. Even if it’s just a kind word or commenting on their blog. (hint, hint.)
The Reason For Doing This Is Simple
It helps your life, and the lives of those around you. Plus it feels much better than feeling terrified, and you are much more likely to get something done!
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