28th February 2022
Climate crisis, Corona, terror attacks, and other hotspots everywhere in the world, and now the war in the Ukraine. What’s going to be next? We have no control over these events, no power, we feel helpless and maybe even hopeless. Stress and fear are creeping in. Nothing we can do … or is there? Do not despair, we will work something out, just stay with me.
Fear is one of the 7 basic human emotions (Paul Ekman)
we all carry within us.
Emotions have signal character. Fear e.g., has an important protective function, it wants to tell you, “Watch out, danger!”. Most emotions disappear as quickly as they show up, and we usually experience many emotions or even all of them at least once a day or even several times.
Stress occurs when we have the feeling, we are no match for a certain task or situation, or we have lost control and/or are powerless. However, not only being out of one’s depth, but also being underwhelmed can cause stress, as well as experiencing danger.
Fear causes stress and extensive stress causes fear. What is behind all of this?
The amygdala, our personal bodyguard in our brain decides whether a situation is dangerous or menacing to us. Every time it decides that we are in danger it takes care that stress hormones are released into our body systems and triggers a fight, flight or freeze situation. Our muscles tense up, our sensitivity to pain is reduced and our senses are sharpened. We are being prepared to fight stronger or take flight faster, to freeze or hide immediately.
The minute we are out of danger again, our breathing gets deeper and slower, our muscles relax, our heartbeat normalises again, a relaxation phase sets in.
This system keeps us safe and alive. Hence, we do not want to get rid of stress and fear, or never feel it again, but we want to be able to differ between a real danger/threat to our life, or when we only worry and stay in the worry loop, when we drive ourselves nuts. We want to learn to acknowledge our emotions and how to handle them in a healthy way.
Because … and here comes the catch of our personal alarm system: Our brain cannot differ between a real threat/danger to our life, or merely negative thoughts and/or pictures we create in our head and it always reacts in the same way, with the fight, flight or freeze reaction - with stress and fear.
In case you are experiencing chronical stress and/or you have the feeling that fear is chasing you every step of your way or is getting into your way, paralysing you. When you think that stress and fear dominate and interfere with your everyday life, it could be a sign for a burnout syndrome (physical and emotional exhaustion), or a mental-health problem (e.g. anxiety disorder, depression). Then again, physical and/or psychological health problems can cause fear and stress. Please consult a physician and/or psychologist.
How can we clear our head and gain back control over our life?
Even though we might feel overwhelmed and out of control right now, there are always enough things we can do and things we should not do anymore to gain back our control. I will give you some suggestions that are easy to follow:
Dare to accept your fear and embrace it. It’s already there, it’s a part of you and it’s not going to kill you. The minute you acknowledge and accept it, it can move on.
You can learn to handle it. Where can you feel it in your body? What causes your fear? What is its message for you? Where does it come from?
When fear arises, check your current situation: Where are you right now, what are you doing and what is happening in your surroundings.
Are you standing in the middle of a street and a car is raising toward you? Jump out of the way.
Are you sitting on your office chair fear rising up ask yourself what you were thinking just now. Are you future traveling with your thoughts creating worst case and horror scenarios?
Take a piece of paper and a pen and write down what is going through your head, or continue the following sentences:
I am afraid that …
I am afraid of …
What if …
What if not …
When we bring something onto paper with our own hands, we slow down our fast moving and repetitive thoughts that can feel overwhelming, and our brooding. It can help us to distance ourselves from fears, problems, or worries. Thus, we can view them from a different perspective and find clarity, solutions, and new ways to handle them. Writing supports us in reducing stress and fears and in letting them go.
When you are ready read everything out loud or talk to someone you trust about it. The moment we reveal our fears they lose their power over us.
Even though it might feel as if our thoughts just sneak into our head and control us. As a matter of fact, we create them and thus we have control over them.
The first step is to acknowledge our thoughts. You have done so already by writing them down.
Now ask yourself the following questions regarding your thoughts:
There is always something positive, even in the most difficult of times, and there is still plenty to be grateful for. The more and the more often we focus on all the positive around us the better we program our mind to see more positive more often in the future as well.
Take a few minutes - best in the evening - and write down what was good about your day, what good things did happen to you, what was fun, what did you enjoy, what are you grateful for?
It is already enough if you write down 5-10 things daily what was good this day and what you are grateful for.
Often we are blocked because we think too complicated, but mostly it is the small things in life that bring us joy e.g., clean water, being able to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace, a smile, observing an animal and/or cuddling it, a hug, sunshine, a walk through nature, enough to eat, etc.
Sometimes the first and easiest action is to just switch of your TV, radio, mobile phone and do not follow any news online. Simply shutdown.
Wenn wir ständig die neuesten Nachrichten verfolgen und das, wenn möglich, auch noch auf verschiedenen Kanälen, sind wir permanent im Ausnahmezustand und leben in Stress- und Angst.
Reduce your news consumption as much as possible. Be aware how much is good for you, how much you can take. If you think you can’t do without news it is still better to read the new than to see the pictures. We all know the saying, “A picture says more than a thousand words.”
There is no reason to have a bad conscience, be ashamed or feel bad if you are not up to date with the news every single minute of the day. Be courageous and spend one day without following the news. After that decide to follow the news only ones a day or even only every other day.
Another possibility is not to follow the news on your own but to ask someone you trust to inform you as neutral as possible about only the most important news. This is what I myself do at the moment.
Since fear and stress usually come along with tensions, relaxation and breathing techniques are important for us to calm down. Additionally, they help us to come back into our body, into the here and now, where we usually are safe.
Relaxation techniques that are easy to learn are e.g., Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training and of course any form of meditation, etc. You can find tutorials for all of those on youtube.
Thera are many different breathing techniques you can learn. I suggest a few times a day to take 3 deep breaths: just breath in deeply through your nose and slowly out of your mouth. The more often you do so the more relaxed you are going to be.
Relaxation, meditation and breathing techniques can assist you in gaining a calm tenor.
Take care of regular exercising and if it is only half an hour of brisk walking every day. Not only is exercising the natural consequence of a stress reaction (remember: fight or flight), it also releases our happy hormones which are having a positive effect on our body and psyche.
Pictures of skeeze and Leeojan from Piyabay
We might have the feeling to be helpless and powerless about the war in the Ukraine, but there is more we can do than we think:
Always remember, you may feel well even though the general situation might not be very bright. Take good care and be well.
inner works for you
sibylle chaudhuri | consulting | coaching | training | mediation
Everything provided in this newsletter is for informational, motivational and/or educational purposes only. Whether you change/do something in your life is your decision and yours only. You carry responsibility for your life.
The given content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical, psychological and/or legal advice, diagnosis, treatment or consulting. Please consult your physician, therapist, lawyer regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your concerns, symptoms and/or medical condition.
© sibylle chaudhuri | consulting | coaching | training | mediation
inner works for you