Fear is my go-to response whenever the unexpected occurs.  Perhaps you know the feeling…. The pit of your stomach starts churning.  You feel like you can’t breathe.  Your mind races off into a thousand directions of what-ifs. Your imagination paints the worst possible future.  Your headache becomes a brain tumor, your cough becomes the fatal flu going around.  Your annual trip to the doctor is scary because you are sure he will “discover” something horrible.  What if you lose your job? Your rent goes up? Your car breaks down?  What if something happens to a loved one?
Coping with fear is necessary for us all.
In fact, just writing that previous paragraph made me nervous.  But the truth is, FEAR IS A LIAR.  It is. It is lying to you.  You don’t know what the future holds … and neither does your fear.  Your future could also be fabulous.  You meet Mr. Right at the doctor’s appointment.  You lose your job only to get one that is 10 times better. You win the lottery.  You discover that old vase in the back room is from the Ming Dynasty and worth 10 million dollars.  Good things are as likely to happen as bad things.

Worrying robs you of your present moments.

If you are living in the future you aren’t experiencing what is really going on in your life. You are reacting to something that may never happen. That is what worry is — living in the future. But we don’t know what is going to happen in the future. At least I don’t.
I recently went through a few days of worry about whether my family would have to move to a new place.  All I could see was a bleak future.  A tiny cramped apartment, nightmarish movers destroying furniture, confusion, chaos.  And this gut wrenching experience was based on a slight “maybe”.  A day later everything changed and instead of having to move, we may be getting a lease for 2 more years.
All my tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth did nothing to help my situation it just made my present moments more miserable.
So how have I learned to deal with this knee jerk desire to worry? Here are some strategies that have worked to bring me into a place of relative calm.
  1. When you are feeling panicky, slow down and take 10 deep breaths. Really focus on bringing your breathing back to a normal rate. Fear causes shallow breathing and that causes you to feel even more fearful. So slow that breathing down.  Counting your breaths can help. Count to 100.
  2. Take a walk or do something physically active. Clean the kitchen or garden.  Stand up and move around. It will help with the breathing.
  3. Once you have slowed down the rapid thoughts a bit, you can try sitting down and writing out exactly what you are afraid of.  You may see that once it is on paper – that the situation is not as dire as you thought.  When I do this I jot down my strategies for dealing with each thing that I am fearing.
  4. Talk to someone you can trust. Tell them what you are afraid of.  Ask them how they dealt with a similar situation.
  5. Distract yourself with music or a game, a movie (not a thriller).
  6. Decide you will set a time limit on your worrying.  For example decide that you will give yourself 10 minutes to dive into the fear but once the timer goes off you will do something else.  Whenever I have done this, I discover I don’t really want to sit for 10 whole minutes thinking dismal thoughts and I let it go.
  7. Decide to spend a half hour thinking about anything else other than what you are concerned about.  Lie down. Sit in the sun. Imagine you are in Hawaii. Think about when you got married, or when you saw your baby for the first time. Really take time to experience the memory.  Use the time to think of the best case scenario for your life, which is as likely as what you are afraid of!
  8. If what you are experiencing is free floating anxiety that doesn’t seem to be attached to any specific issue, then spend some time writing down the things that are overwhelming you, and plan some baby steps to working on them.
  9. Pray! I find that prayer is my BEST solution for worry.  I find that if I spend time with God, pouring out my heart and resting in His presence that my fears usually shrink down to nothing.  I also write out my prayers if I feel particularly jittery.
  10.  And last, take a warm bath, using Epsom salt (magnesium in the salts is relaxing) and then put on your softest pajamas and go to sleep.  Things always look better in the morning.
I know there are real things in this world to be afraid of, but what I have learned is if I can calmly and optimistically face the future, when something difficult occurs, I am stronger and better prepared for it.  I have also learned that worrying doesn’t help anything, it only makes your present moments worse.  So learning to cope when the fear bug strikes is the best way of being prepared for any future that may come your way.

If you want to know what God thinks about fear, you could read this one: Be Anxious for nothing.

I also find the 91st Psalm is also very comforting. You can read more about it here.