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Three Lessons From Fear

By Amanda Mitchell, LCPC, BC-DMT

The year 2020 brought me many lessons, but lessons from fear seem to stand out the most. We have all experienced many unknowns in the last year, and I imagine I am not alone in feeling like there were times when fear seemed to be dictating my decisions and experiences.

I would find myself, at times, afraid of what was to come and what impact a single decision would have on everything else, or everyone else, in my life. I found myself feeling paralyzed and needing new ways to find direction, hope, and confidence. As a mom, wife, business owner and employer, friend, and creative person, I needed to continue stepping forward with trust.

While you may not have the same identifiers or titles as me, the decisions you faced, and your moments in fear are equally important and valuable. You walked through the fire and came out the other side refined. If you’re still in it, I know it is painful. I also know that you are resilient, perhaps more so than you realize.

Fear has a purpose.

You see, fear is a protective emotion and experience. We need fear to help us identify threats to our survival so that our brain can trigger physiological responses, often called the Fight -or- Flight response, to fight against or flee from a threat. In this way, our brain and body help us perform in the manner we need to be safe.

Sometimes you may also experience feeling immobile or stuck. In the stressful moments, this where I found myself. I was searching for a way to feel free and confident. While the Fight-or-Flight response is an automatic response to protect us, there are times when we are under high stress but there is no real danger. The Fight-or-Flight response may still take over.

So how do we calm our nervous system and connect to sources of strength in these moments? We can learn how we experience and respond to fear. We can mindfully build awareness for the subtle, or not so subtle, changes in our heart rate, thoughts, breathe, body temperature, and emotions. Our mind and body are also equipped to help us engage the relaxation response to shift our physiological and emotional state.

So what did I learn from my fear?

How am I building awareness, quieting my mind, and acting in trust and confidence?

  • I am resilient. This became my #1 self affirmation in the last year. I know this to be true. I trust this statement. When I know nothing else, when I can’t control a situation, or when I can’t predict what will happen, I still know that I am resilient. This statement helps me connect with my strength and optimism for the future. It helps me stay open to seeing what is and what is possible, instead of focusing on what is not or what I fear. I say this in my mind and embody postures that help me feel resilient and empowered.

Go ahead. Give it a try. Set a positive affirmation or a motto for yourself, and say it to yourself often. Research shows that affirmations help reduce stress and rumination on negative experiences.

  • I am not alone. We are each unique, but our experiences may not always be quite as unique as we think. Finding my tribe, my community of people, gives me opportunities to be validated, learn from others, and know that I am not alone in my burdens or fears. Talking to a loved one, a mentor or a fellow business owner helps broaden my perspective and see creative opportunities that were in my blind spots. They remind me that I am of value, that I am worthy, and that I am not alone.

Find your community and ask for support. Talk to a friend, therapist, social group, or network and the people that help you be your best You. There is no shame in allowing others to lift you up. In fact, sharing in your experiences may help them too.

  • I need to create, even when I am afraid. I am a creative person and enjoy doing creative activities. Though, when I am feeling stuck, my fear may be amplified by the idea of doing something creative. I find that entering my creative process often reveals a truth or something I have had a hard time facing. Being creative allows me to express what I am feeling in a different way and find new words or feelings that expand my perspective. It can help me let go of a fear by facing it. This may include journaling, art, movement, cooking a new dish, or any way I can freely express myself.

Below is an example from a recent journal entry when I wrote a letter to myself, reminding myself that the possibility of making a mistake doesn’t ruin everything and doesn’t ruin me. Even if a moment of creativity doesn’t bring new revelations, I still find benefit in letting something go or just enjoying the experience.  Some studies show that there are mental health and physical health benefits to incorporating creativity in your life.

 

 

What fear are you facing? What have you learned about your experience of fear and your resilience?

If you would like a non-judgmental listening ear or support in finding a creative process that works for you, reach out. Consider trying art therapy or dance/movement therapy to find new tools for expression and finding your way out of the stuckness.

Workshop Offering

Want to kick start your New Year and find sources of strength in taking that one step into your future? You don’t have to do it alone. Join me and Irania Macias Patterson, a biblio-poetry therapy facilitator, on January 14, 2021, for The One Step: Finding Direction for the Year to Come, a workshop to connect with others on this journey and find motivation and direction through a guided experience of creative writing, poetry, guided imagery, and movement.

This is an opportunity to explore new creative mind and body grounding tools for your own process, but also feel the power of the collective group in our visioning too! We will practice ways to let go of the overwhelm, fears, or self-judgements while finding balance in reflecting on the past, grounding in the present, and engaging hope and purpose in the future.

See more details to register here.

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