Don’t Fear Fear
In my blog post awhile back, “20 Ways to Ruin Your Life,” I really messed up. I missed the big one. The one thing that will crack the foundation of your well-being to make sure your life will be a total failure: Fear. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Latin American curanderos (folk healers) classify susto (fear or fright) as a destabilization or temporary loss of your soul. Symptoms can include insomnia, nausea, fatigue, lack of appetite or lack of interest in personal hygiene. They don’t distinguish between physical illness and illness of the soul. Does this sound familiar? In Western medicine, this could be classified a disorder associated with stress and/or some type of depression.
So what is happening physiologically when we are stressed or afraid? Stress hormones kick in–chemicals designed to give us a quick “turbo boost” (remember David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider?) to escape danger. But if you’re living in turbo boost mode all the time, these chemicals are seriously detrimental to your health, causing high-blood pressure, reduced immunity, irregularities in your sex hormones and reproductive systems, digestive problems, and not to mention leaving you exhausted most of the time.
Read about some ways to reduce these here.
Stop Watching the News
In the words of Mark Twain, “If you don’t read newspapers, you are uninformed; if you do read them, you are misinformed.” Aside from all kinds of reasons watching the news is bad for you, here’s what it does to your fear response.
News items of sudden, unexpected events trigger our fear mechanisms. Tsunamis, earthquakes, miners trapped in a hole, plane crashes. If you don’t watch the news, you hear the latest “what happened” from a co-worker, from a family member. Repeating this catastrophic news items is just like gossip. It doesn’t help anyone, and it only passes around and negative mojo, or in this case fear and anxiety. Want to feel happier? Studies by social scientists have shown that if you stop watching/reading the news so much, you’ll be a much happier person in no time. But it’s important to “be informed” you might say. For whom? Will it embarrass you in front of co-workers if you didn’t know that Lindsay Lohan was arrested again? How much of what you read is based on looking smart or informed for other people, and how much of it really interests you? We can’t all have the same interests, can we?
In Freakonomics, authors Levitt and Dubner point out that the reason so many people are afraid of flying as opposed to driving is because they don’t feel they’re in control. Even though statistically, there is a much greater chance to die in a car crash. So in order to reduce your fears, let go of what you know you can’t control (you know, like the Serenity Prayer). Look at the worst case scenario (if it’s death by an elevator cable snapping, then there’s not much you can do about it), and ask yourself if you can do anything to protect yourself without it getting in the way of living your life. If you can’t, let it go. You can’t fly the plane when you travel, and you can’t know when an earthquake is going to happen. Let it go.
You’ll Be Fine
The truth is that fear is bullshit. Whatever unexpected things happen, you’ll deal with it. Whatever you fear happening right now, go there. Really go there. What would you do first? Then what would you do? And then what would you do? You’ve proven over and over again that you can deal with unexpected, and you’re just fine.