Fact Versus Fear and Mitigating the Stress Response
In times of stress it is often difficult for us to distinguish fact from fear, and too often we indeed allow fear to win over our rational thinking. But why is that? Well, fear is a very powerful emotion as it pulls at our insecurities and creates hypothetical scenarios that we convince ourselves to be true, even when they are not. So what do we do when we can no longer tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined?
To start, each of us must realize that we are much wiser than we give ourselves credit for. Each of us has our own connection to a wellspring of inner wisdom where all truth resides and fear has no home. Unfortunately, it is fear itself that prevents us from tapping into this sacred space that is available to each of us at any time. But this space is so important because when we get into that zone, that is when we can truly tell fact from fiction.
So how do we get into that zone?
The first step is to calm down. I know this may seem easier said than done, but this can be achieved with relative ease when we choose to get very present with where we are. As soon as we stop our mind from wandering into the past, or far into the future, all we are left with is this moment in the here and now. And more often than not, the here and now is far from the reality our imagination has conjured up through our fears. So when feeling fearful, simply take a few mindful breaths, ground yourself with where you are, and start to acknowledge the reality of your situation as it actually stands, rather than what you fear might happen. This alone should help bring some perspective into your situation, which will ultimately help calm you down long enough to tap into that ultimate wisdom that you already have within.
The next step is to develop some trust. Trust in yourself and your ability to resolve any problem and to find any solution. Trust in your resilience. And trust in your ability to rise above any unwanted situation. Look to your past for a moment, but not as justification for your fears. Instead, look to your past for examples of when you thought all was lost or when you felt like life was too hard, yet you managed somehow to persevere and get to the other side of it with grace. Acknowledge your strength and determination and you will start to trust, not only in yourself, but also in something bigger than yourself that has been guiding you along your way. Furthermore, take some time to think about all of the lessons you have learned and how each experience you have had has brought you to where you are today. Realize that nothing happens in vain. And remember to trust your intuition (versus your fear), because if something feels truly wrong to you, it likely is wrong, and if something feels truly right to your soul, it likely is right.
Now, once you are feeling calmer and more confident, the next step would be to start practicing your rational thinking skills. But in order to do that you need to separate fact from fiction. Hypotheticals are not real (hence, why they are called hypotheticals), so let’s just throw those out the window right away. Next, no matter what you are being told, fact check before you whole-heartedly choose to believe it. Knowledge is the best medicine when it comes to fear because once we are informed or, at the very least, we know that there is more to the story, we can start to gain a bit more perspective on what might actually be true. Remember that, in most instances, no one side is the only side. No one truth is the only truth. There is always a grey area where other possibilities exist. Look for that grey area so that you do not get lost in or limited to only one possibility. Because when you are aware of other options available to you, fear has no room to expand.
Next it is important that you stay as objective and open as you can. Flexibility is your friend right now because when you are flexible, fear has no hold over you. Fear wants you to stay stagnant, it wants you to stay stuck in your tracks, and it needs you to believe in doomsday scenarios in order for it to thrive. But the more objective and flexible you can become in weighing your options, the less that fear will have any effect on your life or on your choices. And once you start seeing things from more of a bird’s eye view, you will easily be able to distance yourself from any fear or drama that surrounds you.
But know this, if you do let fear get the better of you sometimes, there is nothing to be ashamed of because that is just your natural fight or flight response kicking in. It is your survival instinct and it was given to you for good reason. But be mindful that the fight or flight response in most animals is different than it is in most humans. In animals, once the threat is cleared, everything goes back to normal. They return to their natural, calm, and relaxed state and they go about their business as if nothing happened. In humans, however, the stress created from a fight or flight response can have a lingering effect as the mind conjures up more and more reasons to be afraid, even after the threat (or perceived threat) has gone. The key, then, is to be really good at assessing risk. But to get good at assessing risk we need to first calm down, trust ourselves, be objective and flexible, educate ourselves, gain perspective, and choose rational thinking over hypothetical scenarios.
To be fair, sometimes we will not know the real risk in front of us until more information comes in. But even in those instances, we can still practice trust and patience as we weed through materials to determine what is true, and how we want to respond as a result.
But know this, one of the worst things we can do is to allow our environment to dictate our fear response. Meaning, the more we allow others or the circumstances around us to determine our peace of mind, the less control we will actually have on that peace of mind. And so, while none of us lives in a vacuum, we do need to make every attempt possible not to get swept up in the energy of fear and uncertainty that surrounds us. Because, if we do, we will lose our ability to think for ourselves, which will only make our fear that much stronger.
Always remember, you are the master of your own domain. You are the master over your own thoughts. You get to control how you want to respond to your surroundings. And you are in charge of your own imagination. Most of all, know that you have an infinite stream of knowledge and wisdom awaiting you when you simply clear your mind and allow that wisdom to come through. You already know what is true, so trust your gut instincts, for they will not steer you wrong.