How to Find Hope—Verifying That Your Fears Are Real

Is your fear real?

Is it your fear or someone else’s?

If the fear is real and it’s yours, how much does it matter?

Finding courage to conquer your fears

Fear is often our worst enemy. It can prevent us from finding hope, peace, and happiness. Something triggers us and our amygdala, the part of our brain that controls fear and pleasure, fires up. If fear is triggered, we have one of three responses: fight, flight, or freeze. We resist what’s happening, we run away to hide, or we become unable to act.

Our right brain, the creative side, begins to imagine all the possibilities that could come to pass from that single trigger. Before we know it, a single experience has expanded into a worst-case scenario, one that usually has no foundation in reality. Soon, we lose hope and become stressed because of things we imagine, not things that are real.

With our amygdala and our right brain controlling our mindset, we lose perspective.Seeing wildfires destroy your home is real; but imagining that you will never recover is not. Thousands of people lose their homes to fire or natural disaster every year. Yes, there is a period of shock, followed by grieving. There is the recovery period. And, over time, these people have all recovered and found a new normal. Many times, the new normal is better than the old normal.

Getting trapped by fear causes unnecessary stress and feelings of overwhelm. You wasteyour energy managing fear and you forget that you have the power to takeaction to change your circumstances. You give up the possibility for finding peace and joy. So, how can you tame your inner fear gremlins? Here is a simple four-step process.

Step #1: Is your fear real?

Often, we get pulled into fears that aren’t real. They’re fears that live in the future and cause us anxiety today. Ask yourself if your fear is real. Getting a cancer diagnosis. Being let go from your job. Finding out your spouse wants a divorce. These are real challenges. They will have an impact on youin the immediate future and require finding a new normal.

But, we frequently become afraid of things that aren’t real in the moment. These fears aren’t grounded in reality, but in a fear of the unknown future. Knowing that heart disease runs in your family is not the same things as being at imminent risk for a heart attack; in fact, the stress of fear and worry can cause a heart attack on its own. Knowing that North Korea might have missiles capable of reaching the United States does not mean that nuclear war is imminent.

Try this fear grounding exercise. Think of it like a lightning rod for fear. Make a list of your fears. Try to find five things that prove each fear is true right now and that it will impact you with 100% certainty. If you can’t find real evidence that supports your fear, cross it off the list. Rewrite your list with everything that is real for you right now. It’s probably a much shorter list. When you find yourself feeling afraid or anxious, ask yourself if your fear or anxiety is on the list. If it isn’t, imagine your fear as a gremlin. Look your fear in the eye and say, “You’re not real. I won’t react to your negative influence.” Then, name seven things you are grateful for or that are going well in your life.The positive will banish the negative.

Step #2: Is it your fear, or someone else’s?

We often become afraid for people we care about or for people we read about in the news. How does it serve you to fear for other people? This works for feeling upset, too.

Empathy and compassion are wonderful traits to have. But, when a friend shares a fear or life event (no matter how awful) and you take it on as your own, you limit your ability to fully support them. The victims of a natural disaster need people living in safety to take action, not fear for them or pity them.

When you find yourself feeling afraid, ask yourself, “Is this my fear, that impacts my life right now? Or am I carrying someone else’s fear?” Labeling what the underlying fear is and naming who it belongs to is one way to tame your fear gremlins. Is your list even shorter?

Step #3: If the fear is real and it’s yours, how much does it matter?

Fear is real, and it does matter. And, some fears are bigger and carry greater weight than others. In the early days of my divorce from my husband of nearly two decades, with the needs of two children involved, a friend reminded me, “No one is dead.No one is dying. No one is maimed. Everything else is recoverable.” It’s something I have always carried with me, a mantra for times when fear and adversity hit.

Try this exercise to put things in perspective. Ask yourself if your very real fear will matter in a month. Will it matter in a year? In ten years? Will you laugh about it down the road? Will it show up in your obituary? In other words, how much does it really matter?If your fear is on the short list (less than a three to six month impact), cross it off your list. The problem is likely more of an irritation or inconvenience than something that merits fear, upset, and anxiety.

Step#4: Find courage to conquer your fears.

We all have to face challenges and adversity. It’s a normal part of life. Fear is not the issue. We are all afraid of something. What really matters is the ability to find courage in the face of fear.

Facing true adversity necessitates reaching out to others—family, friends, colleagues, or a trained health professional—to help us manage our fears and deal effectively with adversity. For many of us, just talking about what’s happening is helpful. Read a book or articles about someone who triumphed over the same challenge you are facing. Seek out a support group.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. Consider trying this variation on a comedy exercise with a friend. Write down or speak your fear aloud. Now image how it might be worse. Take turns building an apocalyptic future. The sillier the better. Keep going until neither one of you can imagine the situation getting any worse, until what you have imagined is so extreme it seems ridiculous. Have a good laugh on yourself. Now, give your friend a turn.

And, if you are feeling truly brave, consider sharing your experiences as a way to help others. Knowing you are not alone and helping others help us manage hard times. I used to work with military in transition. As my second marriage was disintegrating due to my husband’s unwillingness to deal with bipolar disorder, I began blogging daily. I quickly gained a loyal following of people who were caregiving loved ones with mental illness. It gave me a sense of control and purpose to know that sharing my experiences and coping strategies could benefit others. Recently, I finished a one-woman play about that period of life. The goal is to destigmatize mental illness. Now, I need to conquer my fears and do a play reading!

Today is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Choose one action you can take today to tame your fears. Start the process of finding hope, peace, and happiness, even in the hardest of times. Add another step tomorrow and a third step the following day. Practice for a week or two, until banishing fear has become a part of your daily life. Notice how you are reversing any negative energy into an upward spiral of hope and optimism. If you miss a day, just pick up where you left off. Every day is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s trite, but true. The magic is in not giving up. (Shazam!)

And, remember you are not in this alone.

  • Get a preview of Finding Hope in Troubled Times
  • Consider joining our Facebook Community, The Happiness Society (@ResilientHappiness).
  • Get a free daily happiness message by texting the word “happiness” to 33222

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *