By Jude Bijou, MA, MFT
Each of us was born with an emotional constitution that determines how we’re more likely to react in any situation. We all have a mix of three emotions – sadness, anger, and fear — but usually one or two of them governs our feelings, thoughts, words, and actions.
People whose most dominant emotion is fear are easy to recognize. In general, they are the “speedy ones,” focused on time and money. They feel that there’s never enough. Fear folks tend to be worriers — scattered, confused, overwhelmed, dramatic, panicky, or controlling. If you ask them, they will tell you that peace is something that eludes them.
Do some of these tendencies ring a bell for you? If so, and if you are tired of them, you can do something about that. To feel calmer, you must reduce the amount of stimulation you expose yourself to. That means spending time with less frightening or anxiety-producing activities, situations, movies, games, and other input.
The five suggestions offered below will help you to chill out, decrease the amount of fear you feel, and increase the amount of peace:
1. Say “no” more often to invitations of responsibility.
Fear folks have a tendency to believe that if they don’t do it, it won’t get done. This stems from their need to control in order to feel safe. This strategy of being in charge keeps you over-stimulated and overwhelmed. The world won’t collapse if someone else does it his or her way. People don’t abandon you. You’ll still be a good person if you carve out time to do calming activities and let others take up the slack. Take a leisurely walk. Take a snooze.
2. Interrupt thoughts about the future and past, and over-generalizations. Instead, stay present and specific.
The words “always” and “never” fuel fear. Likewise, bringing other unresolved issues into the specific topic at hand is like putting gasoline on the barbeque, and makes reaching a resolution nearly impossible. Focus to stay in the present moment. This keeps things manageable. Interrupt those thoughts that increase pressure. Over and over, tell yourself things that are reassuring. Many times a day, repeat whichever of these phrases will be most supportive: “Everything will be all right. Everything is all right. One thing at a time. Everything is unfolding in its own time. I’ll handle the future in the future. Be here now. Stay specific.”
3. Shiver the fear physiology out of your body rather than tightening up.
Like a dog at the vet, or your body after an accident, when you feel anxious let your body do what’s natural. Wiggle, jiggle, shudder, tremble, and quiver. It might sound weird, but intuitively it makes sense. Just give it a try. Ham it up. Put on music. It may sound strange at first, but if you express the emotional energy with vigor, it will move out of your body; and calm will be restored. By releasing the fear physically, you feel more peaceful, centered, and focused. While shivering just remind yourself: “It’s okay. I’m just feeling scared. I just need to shake.”
4. Break big projects into a series of simple little pieces, and attend to one thing at a time.
The key to managing fear and life’s tasks is to take the time daily to get organized. For each task you take on, start by articulating your goal. With that in mind, break the goal into a series of little do-able steps. Each step must be made small enough so you know you can do it. If you keep an ongoing list of exactly what needs to be done by when, you can evaluate what’s most important and essential for today. Put your list in an obvious place so you can see it. Then just do what’s next, offering yourself copious praise along the way.
5. In terms of lifestyle choices, strive to establish a regular, more relaxing routine.
That means, get more sleep. Don’t miss meals. Cut down on the coffee and energy drinks. Avoid cold foods and drinks. Get more regular sleep. Stay out of cold, damp, and drafty places.
By following these simple suggestions, you can take major ground in balancing out your fear. Take a couple of baby steps daily. Break things into do-able steps, and shiver when you stall. You will find that you enjoy whatever your day brings much more, and willingly participate with humor and equanimity.