Ew, Gross! You Gave Me Fear!
Updated: May 13, 2020
While I may be one of seven people who hasn’t hunkered down with a nice red wine to watch the movie Contagion with a side serving of hand sanitizer to complement that luxurious lock-down feeling, I get why people are lapping up virus movies. The need to make sense of a situation that lies out of our control is great. It can be useful to watch disastrous scenes play out in our minds or on the screen in order to get a sense of how we might prepare ourselves for unprecedented times. It may help some people feel less afraid.
Speaking of fear: along with calls to fight and eradicate COVID, there have been calls to treat fear in very much the same way. Because fear, too, is contagious.
While yes, any charged emotion is contagious, some of these messages imply that if you’re scared, then you’re weak, out of control, thinking about it wrong, or being inconsiderate. Basically, stop being scared, you selfish jerk!
As a society, we’re pretty inept at handling fear because we always seek to destroy it. But that’s not the way it works. Guess what happens when you add pressure and force to fear? It gets worse. Not only should we not fight fear (or any negative emotion) we should accept it because we need our emotions. All of them. They give us essential information about our environment. That’s their job. And thank god we have them otherwise none of us would exist. If we’d never become emotional beings, hell, maybe we’d all be a variation of house plant* instead of the idea-generating, society-building beings we are.
To be crystal clear: The goal is not to avoid, fight or suppress fear. The goal is to feel and accept fear whilst exercising the power and awareness available to you (if and when you can gently muster it) to deal with it in a way that serves you. That is, to let it tell you what you need to know, perhaps about personal safety or the safety of loved ones, but to keep it from strapping itself into the driver’s seat all the time. It’s fine to let fear complain from the backseat.
To give fear, anxiety and worry (they’re all the same thing) some airing out and cooling down, here are some ideas:
Take a few minutes to yourself in a little nook of your house
Put on some headphones and listen to music for five minutes
Have a cry in the bathroom
Do some journaling
Spend some time making yourself a coffee just the way you like it
Take a hot or cold shower
Jog on the spot
Do some jumping jacks
They’re basic, but so is fear, so they work pretty well.
And keep in mind:
You’re not being a gross disservice to the world if you're scared
You don’t need to feel guilty if you unintentionally pass your fear on to someone else
If you’re scared, you’re a normal, functioning human
Ironically, as you begin to accept fear, you’ll feel less afraid, and this is likely to catch on to those around you.
*nothing against plants; I love them. But they can’t speak French or write compelling nonfiction or give cuddles, so y’know...