Like most Canadians, I am shocked by the events in Iran. My heart and thoughts go out to the families and friends affected by and living through, the tragic downing of the Ukrainian Airlines flight. I cannot imagine the grief they must be feeling. The tragedy of the event raises anxiety levels for people from all walks of life for many reasons.
Whether its fear of catastrophic events happening to you or fear of failure, these fears can be debilitating. If that is the case, please seek help from a doctor or qualified mental health professional.
For some people, fears are more of a niggling sense of anxiety that is just there in the background. It may cross your mind but it doesn’t stop you in your tracks. You are still able to function and move forward with your life. These people have developed a fear management toolkit.
For me these types of events bring to mind my quiet, low rumblings of fear – not about personal flights in the future – but the low-grade fear I feel deep down every time I say goodbye to my daughter as she sets off to her home in Seoul, Korea. That fear is controlled by focussing on being grateful for her visit and by being proud of the woman she has become – not by being sad about her departure. I choose to focus on the good things that flight brings, not on the potential for tragedy.
I remember those deep, unstated fears of possible tragedy in the form of an earthquake every time I watched my kids get on the school bus to the school when we lived in Tokyo.
Years later I spoke to a client about fears that tragedy would strike while her son was studying at university in the states.
These quiet fears exist within all of us. We wouldn’t be human if we never felt fear. In some cases, we would put ourselves in grave danger if we ignored those fears. It can be a motivator to make changes and move forward. Fear can be healthy.
Like any uncomfortable feelings, it is best if we acknowledge them. It is not a flaw to feel fear. What does fear feel like? For me, it appears as a tightening in my stomach and a burst of nervous energy. I pace, my mind races, and I talk quickly. How we respond to this feeling of fear is crucial to being able to get up every day and function normally. Do you let these quiet fears of tragedy or failure rule you or do you rule them? But how do you learn to rule your fears?
Imagine if I let my fear of earthquakes striking while I lived in Japan control my life. My kids would be uneducated and I would have never experienced the richness of my life in Japan. For me, I was able to set aside those fears by embracing the wonderful life I was living; the incredible experiences open to my children, and every day being grateful to have those experiences. I focussed more on the wonderful possibilities laid before me than I did on the potential losses. I felt gratitude every day for the opportunities available to my children and myself. That gratitude for what life had to offer was stronger than my fear of what could happen.
Sometimes I would remind myself of the statistics and facts that these tragic occurrences are really not very common. Being level headed enough to look to the statistics and facts may help, but they are only part of my fear management toolkit.
Every time I prepare to present an intercultural training for a group of upper management personnel, I experience that low rumbling of fear of looking or sounding stupid. I face those fears by wearing clothes that make me feel powerful. I also focus on the fact that the participants may know more about their jobs, but I know more about this specific aspect of their jobs.
When I meet with individual coaching clients before the meeting I have doubts and minor fears of failure. In this case, I take a few moments to ground myself in my coaching method. I begin each meeting with a grounding in the client’s goals and a blank slate – without preconceived judgments about the client and their goals. I do a short meditation. I focus on my breathing and clearing my mind of any doubts and judgments that arise.
I am not saying that fear of catastrophic events is the same as fear of failure but both can be managed with the right help, skills and techniques. Practicing mindfulness, learning to focus on the positive, learning to find reasons to be happy and grateful, having confidence in your skills – all of these techniques and skills can be part of your fear management toolkit.
What do you do to control your fears? What skills and techniques do you have in your fear management toolkit?
** If your fears are debilitating and affecting your health – physically or mentally – seek help from a doctor or qualified mental health professional.
Recommended reading – “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers