An Antidote to Fear
I’ve been feeling a lot of fear lately. Maybe you have too?
Fear is not usually helpful, unless a tiger is chasing you and fear makes you run. Then it is super helpful!
When we are afraid, our brain shuts downs. We get less blood flow to the decision-making parts of our brain. The most primitive part of our brain, the amygdala, is in charge. Again, this is awesome when we literally need to fight or run for our lives, but not great when we are in an argument with someone, or in bed at night trying to sleep.
Because my go-to response is overwhelm or a sense of helplessness, I always look for how I got back to a sense of agency. How I can choose to respond, instead of my brain shutting down.
Yesterday I was feeling a lot of fear for humanity. I’m afraid of our isolation and our inability to see each other because we are wearing masks. Masks cover the parts of our face that convey whether we are dangerous or safe to others.
For the brain geeks reading this, the part of our face between our eyes and mouth constantly has micro-movements we can’t consciously control. The nervous system takes that information and tells our body whether we can relax with someone or be on guard.
Back to the antidote (woohoo!) One of the best antidotes to fear is connecting—connecting to ourselves, others, pets, nature. Connecting gets your brain on board.
Yesterday was a beautiful, warm, sunny afternoon in Seattle, and I was filled with fear. It was time to be in nature.
As soon as I was done working, I hauled my towel, a good book, snacks, and my floatie to my favorite place in the summer—Greenlake—a lake in the middle of Seattle.
I floated in the lake, feeling the water on my legs, looking at the blue sky, the ducks, and the people swimming. I got out of my head and into the amazing part of the world that is still here, even during the coronavirus.
I felt peace and calm and joy. Greenlake brought me back to myself.
Nature has the power to bring us out of our minds, so we can come back to ourselves.
There are many ways to connect. A favorite way to connect is to talk to people I love. Even leaving a voicemail saying I called to say I love them makes me feel connected. I pet my cats. I get out of my fear-based mind and am present with what is outside my mind and my negative thoughts.
What are your ways to connect? Use them, especially now that the world is set up to disrupt our connections. It is important that we intentionally choose to connect and relate, and be in our hearts versus in fear.
My new favorite way to connect is through being on podcasts. I am always amazed at the conversations I have. The connection that occurs in the space of an hour, even when I’ve never spoken to the person before, still surprises me.
I invariably leave the interview feeling deep gratitude for the experience and the person I just spent time with.
In this Love Note I am including a podcast recently posted. Conveniently, the Podcast is Connectfulness.
I’ve known Rebecca Wong for several years. We met at a conference for therapists. I connected with her right away. And during this podcast I remembered one of the things that drew me to her—her skill at listening and being present to the conversation are unparalleled.
Have a listen, and see if you feel more connected as a result.
P.S. As I type this up, a little later, I am feeling ridiculously good. The world is not any different than yesterday, but I am different in it, because I made the choice to connect rather than stay in fear. Woohoo!