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How Can We Change Our Fear DNA?

Everyone I talked to last week agreed that it has been really tough to think strategically.  Worrying about the potential long-term challenges of working from home and making decisions about how to re-enter public spaces is keeping our brains occupied with the basic need for safety.

Looking Back to Look Forward

In the middle of feeling stuck trying to edit content for a website refresh, I attended a webinar that reminded me how I got there.  I recalled from my training in systems theory that we tend to repeat patterns passed down like DNA through generations.  Judy Wilkins-Smith suggested I look back at which of my ancestors might have been afraid of losing income, consider their circumstances, accept their decision, and then make a conscious decision to respond in a different way.

Fear as a Gift

Judy offered a new perspective on fear – consider it an opportunity to grow instead of something to avoid.  Thinking about a time when I overcame fear took me back to jumping off the high dive at the neighborhood pool for the first time.  Very scary before I did it and a little less scary each time afterward.  That jump gave me the gift of courage, which is what I need now to keep moving forward and trying new things.

I invite you to consider which of your ancestors experienced something similar to whatever it is you fear right now and then decide how to use that fear in a constructive way.

 

Let it out!

Give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Cry because you can’t see your mom in the nursing home.  Admit that things are really scary and you’re afraid of months with no income.  Vent your frustration with being stuck at home.  I’ve done all of those things in just the past few hours.  Sometimes we just need to wallow in our feelings for a little while without being told not to worry and everything will be fine.

Sometimes we also need help moving beyond our misery.  Taking a deep breath and reassuring myself that it is perfectly normal to feel this way is a start.  I know my brain is wired to avoid uncertainty and keep me safe.  That statement comes from the rational part of my brain and calms me down.

Now I’m equipped to choose how to respond to the uncertainty.  Instead of checking the news every 15 minutes and revisiting my worst case scenario plan, I can find ways to be grateful and stay connected.  Reaching out by email or text helps me feel less alone; phone or zoom calls and greeting a neighbor from six feet away are even better.

I want to be like the people who are singing from balconies.  Will you join me?

Why is it that every time my laptop acts up, the IT expert says, “have you tried rebooting it?” Because it works! It cleans up the junk and gives me fresh start. That sounds like a great way to start off a new year.

Here is some junk that a reboot might clear out of our minds:
• Old grievances – imagine how energizing it would feel to let go and forgive
• Self-doubt – envision what could be possible if you move forward with confidence
• Ruminating thoughts – consider what inspiration could occur if you get off the gerbil wheel

A good way to get things out of your mind is to write them down, preferably on paper. Research tells us that handwriting increases neural activity in the brain, similar to meditation, but use your keyboard if that’s the best option to get you moving forward.

I invite you to take a deep breath and visualize rebooting your mind, then commit to taking action today.