Choosing Hope: 8 Tips to Move Beyond Fear

Warwick Fairfax

April 6, 2020

We live in uncertain times.  We currently live in a world where the coronavirus has spread across the globe.  In many countries and in much of the U.S. we have been advised to take refuge in our homes.  Restaurants are not open, many stores have closed.  Many businesses have laid off workers.  We fear getting sick.  We fear losing our job and not having the means to support ourselves.  Even if we are in reasonably good health, that is not a guarantee that we won’t get sick.

I am reminded of what Franklin Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

That is not quite the case in what we are going through with the coronavirus pandemic.  This virus poses a real threat, particularly to the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions; and it poses a real threat to the economies of many nations.

But the fear of the unknown greatly amplifies the fears we have.  Will I get sick?  If I do get sick will I have mild or major symptoms? Will I have a job? How long will this last?

Those of us with fertile imaginations can greatly amplify our emotional and spiritual distress in what are trying times.  True confession:  I do have a vivid imagination, which helps in my role as a reflective adviser and thinker and does help with strategic planning.  I am also by nature a cautious person.  I don’t go bungee jumping or parachute diving.  Before I do anything, I typically think very carefully.  But in the current situation we are living in, these qualities are not always that helpful.

So, left to my own devices, I could easily let my imagination run wild and think of all sorts of worst-case scenarios, or perhaps even worse than worst case…

How do we stop being paralyzed by fear?  Of course, we should take adequate precautions.  We should shelter at home, minimize external contacts, wash our hands often, don’t touch our faces.  We should do what we need to do, listening to the advice of the appropriate health and governmental authorities.

Even then, the fear of the unknown is so hard to deal with.

So here are some thoughts on trying to fight the fear of the unknown, replacing fear with hope.  I say fight, because it is a daily battle; to not let our fear win.

1. Reflection

Sometimes reflecting on the sayings of people we most admire can help ground us in our inner beliefs and values.  Here are a couple of great quotes on dealing with fear.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”   – Nelson Mandela

“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.”  – Bear Grylls

These quotes emphasize the thought of not giving into fear, of fighting it, not letting it take hold.  How do you this?

2. Mediation and Prayer

To me it starts with grounding ourselves in what we know to be true, our innermost beliefs.  I think of these two Scriptures that help me as I meditate and pray:

“I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”  – Psalm 91:2

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  – 1 Peter 5:7

What these two verses emphasize is that from my perspective, God loves us.  He is our refuge and fortress.  We can trust him.  We can cast all our anxieties on him.  For me prayer centers me and calms my spirit.

Think of what you most cherish and hold dear.  Meditate on those teachings.  It could be from a religious tradition, wise sayings or a favorite book or poem.  Something that brings you back to what you believe and a place of calm inner peace.

3. Take a walk in nature

Near where we live in Annapolis Maryland, there is a wonderful nature trail surrounded on two sides by water.  It is a beautiful setting.  We are currently in Florida in a condo near the beach, so thankfully we still have access to what is now a quiet place.  Taking a long walk on the beach, listening to the water, the seagulls and the wind is definitely soothing.

4. Listen to your favorite music

If ever something can soothe your soul it is music, especially music that you love and are familiar with.  It is like an old friend.  I love all kinds of music: classical, jazz, classic pop (’60s and ’70s), ragtime, worship music.  Given the importance of faith to me, listening to worship music that talks of casting out fear and trusting in God certainly helps.  But any music that brings a smile to your face and calms your soul is a good thing.

5. Spend time with loved ones

While we are physically isolated from many, we can still spend time with our families.  For many, spending this much time with our families may not be normal.  Take advantage of this time.  Try and play together, laugh together and listen to each other.  As a friend of mine said, with our friends and extended family while we may have to be physically distant, we don’t have to be socially distant.  We can still call our friends up, or with modern technology we can FaceTime them, or set up Zoom video calls.

6. Don’t put your life on hold

To the degree you can, try not to put your life on hold.  Some may not be able to work remotely.  However, many can work remotely.  While you may not be physically connected to your co-workers, try to carry on as before.  You can call them, have video conversations with them.  Obsessively thinking about what might happen is not helpful.  Get done today what you need to get done.

7. Stay informed, but not too much

It is good to stay informed.  Growing up in a newspaper family, my natural mode is to stay informed; to know what is going on.  But while this is important; looking up news sites every minute and looking at news channels all day long is not helpful. Tune in from time to time, but not all day.

8. Think of how you can help others

When we take the focus off ourselves and our fears, and think of how we can help others, it does two things.  First, by thinking of others and not ourselves, it tends to reduce our fears.  Second, it helps others.  We might bring food to an elderly neighbor.  We might call or have a video chat with a friend or family member, asking them how they are doing and trying to support and encourage them.

We live in uncertain times, where the fear of the unknown is very real.  This is a minute-by- minute, hour-by-hour battle.  When you start feeling fearful, be pro-active.  Don’t wait for the fear to grow, which left to its own devices it tends to.  Nip it in the bud.  Use whatever go to tools work for you.  Take a walk.  Listen to your favorite piece of music.  Pray and meditate.

While we can’t always control our circumstances, we can control our attitudes and how those circumstances affect us.  It is not easy, but the spiritual and emotional battle is one that we can win.  In that sense, Franklin Roosevelt was right: “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.”

Let’s not let fear win.

Reflection

  • What are the best tools for you to calm and center yourself (mediation and prayer, a walk in nature, listening to music, spending time with those you love)?
  • What can you do today to move your life forward, at work or at home?
  • Who can you help or call today that will brighten up their day?

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