Are You Living In Fear - How To Distinguish Healthy VS Unhealthy Fear
Are you afraid of something right now? The future, your finances, a health issue, concern for someone you care about?
If you said no, then you are probably either lying to yourself or me.
Most of us are dealing with a certain amount of fear every day. Some are rational, healthy, and keep us on the right track. But some are crippling, unproductive, and can stall out your life.
I, for one, am concerned about the future. Just a few years back, all I really worried about was making sure my 401K was growing and I was counting the years to retirement and spending my days writing to you from somewhere warm and breezy.
Now it seems every day there is something new popping up to steal our attention and our joy. There is so much strife, uncertainty, and anger in the world. It’s understandable if we are more anxious.
The key is to learn to separate the healthy from the unhealthy fear around us. That allows us to focus our energy on things we can control and release ourselves from the burden of those things we can’t.
Let’s take a moment to discover the difference.
A good dose of healthy fear keeps us from being stupid (most of the time). We try to live within the law to avoid legal trouble. We manage health issues to keep us feeling good and out of the hospital. We are aware of our surroundings to self-protect. We treat those closest to us with love and respect to keep them in our lives.
Fear is also biological. Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to danger with a shot of adrenaline and a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This jump-start allows us to pay attention and deal with the pending crisis. It alerts us to danger. And it gives us the motivation to prepare for future events.
Healthy fear is based on a real problem — with a real solution.
There are a few other words that can replace ‘fear’ in your mind. Stress. Anxiety. Worry. Panic. Even Phobia. When fear takes this dark turn, it often becomes unhealthy and of no real value.
This type of fear is not only crippling emotionally, it sits under an umbrella of hopelessness because the very basis of unhealthy fear is knowing you can’t do anything about it.
Like I said earlier, I do worry about my financial future and stability. But I can’t spend all my time obsessing over it. There are so many factors out of my control. I can try to make good decisions and stay informed, but I can’t let the panic suck out all the joy I have in each day.
It’s the same with my health. I’m not going to spend hours on Google searching every symptom I have to see what tragic ending awaits me. Again, I can do what I know to be healthy and follow my doctor’s advice, but I have to live today!
We can also experience unhealthy fear in our relationships. As parents, we spend half our time preparing them to go out in the world, and the other half trying to keep them away from the world.
The fear for our children is legit, but it can’t be crushing, either to them or you.
Within reason, and with proper precautions, you have to trust them to follow your guidance and find their way. Micro-parenting and trying to predict and solve every problem before it happens, does not adequately prepare them for the real world.
We can also micro-manage our love relationships out of unhealthy fear. For those who have been betrayed or mistreated in the past, it can start a damaging cycle of trying to make sure you are never hurt again.
That’s almost impossible and can easily turn into controlling and manipulating behavior which is very likely to damage the relationship or run them away. The aftermath of your previous experiences is real, no doubt. But be careful not to let your unhealthy fear punish away the one person in your life who has promised to be there and have your back.
So with the many and various layers of fear, what are the best coping skills? How do you manage the fear?
How To Deal Handle Fear
The biggest problem is we just can’t see around the bend. We truly have no idea what is coming, and that is scary.
And so far, there hasn’t been any handwriting on my wall either to tell me what to do. (Did you know the Old Testament tells of a time when the Jews were in captivity. The King in charge was in his chambers one day when a hand (yes, just a hand) appeared and started writing on the wall. It foretold the punishment for his wrong deeds.) Talk about a fearful experience!!
But even with the uncertainty, there are still things we can do to keep fear from controlling our lives.
First — pray about it. I can’t promise you the answer will appear instantly or all your problems with disappear. But I can tell you that God cares, listens, and provides a peace that nothing else comes close to.
Second — take a good hard look at your fears and determine which ones are healthy and which ones are not. The best test is to decide if there is anything concrete you can actually do about the problem.
If there is, then do it. Save the money. Be smarter in your decisions. Take back control of your health. Get help for addiction issues. Take parenting classes. Go to marriage counseling. Enroll in a self-defense course. Face your phobias.
Pay attention to the events around you, locally and globally. Not obsessively, but to understand and prepare. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Knowledge is power. And that power runs away the fear.
And for the things you can’t control. Learn to let it go. If this means help from a therapist, then do it! Or talk to someone you trust.
If you have panic attacks, develop a coping strategy to shorten their intensity and length. Learn how to be mindful and appreciate the good things in your life.
If you need medicine, don’t be ashamed to ask for help.
Because here’s the thing. We will never totally eliminate fear from our lives. But we can choose to manage it, or it will manage us.
My Hopefulfs, I struggle with this too. Uncertain times and global unrest are not easy to shrug off. And I’m not suggesting you flippantly disregard reality. I just want us all to live today to the fullest.
Enjoy our loved ones. Be thankful for our blessings. Dwell in the present.
Yes, prepare, the best you can, for the future, but don’t it rob you of joy and HOPE today!
And as always…
Hope WIth Abandon!