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News headlines are all stating the end of days are here. It is not just the latest news either. Every night news anchors discuss all the scary things happening in the world. Everything seems to be coming loose at the seams. No one will be safe. What you have to remember, is that fear sells. These programs make more money when you watch them. More people want to tune in and see the train wreck than go outside and explore the world. In a world where everything is scary it is important to start managing fear.
Managing Fear in a Global Pandemic
COVID-19 is here and has been wreaking havoc on society. As of this writing, hundreds of thousands have been diagnosed and tens of thousands have unfortunately lost their lives. Everyone is panicking, and for good reason. There hasn’t been a global pandemic like this in a very long time. Even when there was the world was never quite as globally connected as it is now. Businesses are shutting down, people are losing their jobs and hospitals are quickly becoming overwhelmed. There isn’t a playbook on how to deal with this.
One of the things we can focus on and control is our fear. There are certain precautions, like social distancing or washing your hands. That you can take to mitigate your risk. If you would like to read more about risk mitigation check out our post over here. However, this is a mental battle just as much as physical battle. With more people being asked to shelter-in-place, idle minds have nothing to do but to worry. That is where we will start with some techniques on managing fear.
Tim Ferriss’s Fear-Setting
If you aren’t familiar with Tim Ferriss, he is the author of 5 bestselling books, most famous of which is his 4-Hour Workweek. He also is the host of The Tim Ferriss Show which is one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Tim did a TED Talk on his Fear-Setting technique that you can watch above, as well as discussed the practice in his 4-Hour Workweek. It starts with a simple three step exercise, Define, Prevent, Repair.
The first step is to define your fear, whether that is losing a job or making a big change in your life. The next step is to mitigate the risk and state what you can do to limit the downside. This includes things like having an emergency fund, or a fallback plan. Then the last step is how you would recover from that fear. Like finding another job or going out on dates if you and your significant other break up. The point of the first exercise is to define your fear and realize that there is always a path to keep moving forwards
The next exercise while doing the fear-setting technique is to define the benefits of an attempt or partial success. For example if you are afraid of leaving your job to start a new business, it is important to recognize that you will still build marketable skills while doing so. Or if your fear is around asking for a raise, even if you don’t get the raise your boss may give you the opportunity to prove yourself and build your skill set, not to mention how you are building confidence. This can be incredibly useful when making decisions because you can actually have positive outcomes in failure. I use this step when making almost every decision.
The last exercise is to define the cost of inaction. Tim uses 6 months, 1 year and 3 years. I typically use shorter timelines for myself but you can use whatever time table seems right. The cost of inaction can be emotional, physical, financial or anything else. For example if you are afraid of leaving your job that you hate, than the emotional weight of not making a change will eventually catch up to you. If you are afraid of going to the gym, than your physical health will only get worse unless you take action.
I always tell my friends and family that my biggest fear is stagnation. If you accept the status quo than you will stop improving and dig the rut deeper making it more difficult to get out. I believe utilizing this fear-setting technique breaks down decisions into manageable chunks and almost completely eliminates stagnation by indecision.
Managing Fear through Meditation
Sometimes the best thing we can do to manage our fear is to recognize it. When you recognize you are afraid, the dramatization of whatever is making you are afraid seems insignificant. This is how meditation can be so powerful. There are lots of different mantras out there that you can use, but one I use in particular is “I understand and I am aware.”
This mantra does two different things for me. First, it dismisses the unknown and the unlikely. Things that I don’t know and I can’t control fall by the wayside when I understand my present situation. This does not mean you suddenly become some omnipotent being, more so that you understand all you can do is control your actions and reaction. And you understand that fact. Understanding is the first step to defeating fear through meditation.
The second part of the mantra, “I am aware” is used to recognize my emotions. It is natural to have times of self doubt, or anger or any other emotion. The hard part is recognizing these emotions and being aware of them. When you are already in a deeply relaxed state during meditation, this mantra allows you to admit that you are aware of your feelings, thus bringing the control back to you.
Meditation in general is a great time for mindfulness and relaxation. It allows you to recognize your fears and stop them from becoming full blown panic. I view meditation as a guide back to the moment, the moment of now. That if I can slow down and be fully present in the now than I can control the next series of moments until I am connected to the future. When you feel yourself beginning to panic, slow down and bring yourself back to the now.
Managing Fear, In Conclusion
There are dozens of techniques out there to mitigate and reduce fear, these are just two that I use on a regular basis. You have to find the solution that works best for you. We as humans are driven by fear, and that is often used in marketing to sell headlines. This can be demonstrated by the news cycle every night for the past month. It is our responsibility to put our mental health first and know when to turn it off.
Do you have any other useful techniques for managing fear? Let us know in the comments below how you do it!