Beyond Survival: Managing Fear and Anxiety with the Invisible Predator

“The presence of fear does not mean you have no faith. Fear visits everyone. But make your fear a visitor and not a resident.” —Max Lucado

As this crisis continues to unfold it becomes increasingly challenging to know how to deal with what it triggers for the individual and the collective. We’ve all read stories of the suffering that is occurring and the expectation that it will continue for some time. For how long, nobody really knows, nor does anyone know whether or not they will be affected

Amidst the suffering and deaths there are heroes, those willing to face the risk of putting themselves in harm’s way, of potentially contracting Covid-19—the illness caused by the Corona Virus. Medical personnel who deal with this daily are at the top of the list, yet there are unsung heroes, people whose jobs put them face to face daily with the public, such as grocery clerks. Let’s continue to extend our gratitude to them.

It feels like there is no real safety anywhere at this time. The virus is an invisible predator, and we are its prey. It’s as if you’re in the forest and something is rustling the bushes here and there around you, but you can’t tell exactly what it is, where it is, or how or when it could strike. Nor can you find a means to escape or fight it off, which is the first thing you instinctively prepare to do.

However when there’s no escape or way to fight and any other human being is a potential carrier of the invisible predator, what happens then? Your body then goes into a “freeze” —an immobility where your muscles stay tense, your nervous system remains highly activated and you feel fear due to a sense that you’re trapped and there’s no way out. If this is prolonged, there’s a good chance that your overwhelmed nervous system will cause you to collapse into a state of helplessness, one you experience emotionally as depression, hopelessness, and even despair.

In spite of all this, there are ways you can effectively manage the fear, anxiety, and physiological responses that are natural responses when dealing with an invisible predator and the effects individually and collectively.

There’s lots of information and advice available through online sources and other people you communicate with, so no need to tell you to wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, stay at home as much as possible, and maintain a social distance of at least six feet. It is important to take these kinds of precautions. There is also information available as to what to do if you find yourself having the symptoms of Covid-19, however that’s not the purpose here.

The purpose here however is to offer a few tips as to how you can manage your fear and anxiety so that you’re not overwhelmed, or if you start to feel overwhelmed, things you can do to dial it down, to deactivate the sympathetic nervous system and return to a place of relative calm and peacefulness. Here are six things you can do that I’m confident you’ll find useful during these challenging times. Try them out and let me know what you find effective:

1) SUPPORT—Yes, of course you can’t dine out, meet with your bridge club, or go see your favorite sports team or concert, but it is important to stay in touch with others. You can reach your family and friends by phone or online with programs like Skype or Zoom. We did a family gathering via Zoom, an app that allows a number of people to “hang out” together and it was great seeing everyone in my very extensive extended family!

2) NATURE—We could call it “Nature therapy” but it’s so much more than that. Wherever and whenever, go on hikes, to a park, the beach, or even your back yard. It’s been suggested that sunlight and heat are enemies of the virus, so make it a point to get away from the computer, smartphone, iPads, as often as you can and take a walk outside.

3) MOVEMENT—Get that body moving! It was meant to move, not just sit for hours on end! Exercise of any kind, yoga, tai chi, walking-the human body was designed for movement! Put on some music and DANCE! I dare you! Slow, fast, classical to rock and roll. Let your body determine how to move to the music. Dance as if nobody’s watching!

4) SOUND—Sing, chant, hum, play a musical instrument. Like dancing, sing as if nobody’s listening. Try making a deep “vooo” sound as you exhale all the way. It helps wake up your core, your gut, to facilitate a stronger voice as well.

5) RHYTHM—Drumming is an activity that will also resonate deeply in your body. Walking in rhythm to your breath, slowly or quickly, helps you tune into your internal rhythms. As Mickey Hart (drummer for the Grateful Dead) said in the opening line of his book, Planet Drum, “In the beginning there was the beat . . .” Rhythm is so fundamental in Life. If you’re not sure, pause and listen to and feel your heartbeat!

6) DAILY SPIRITUAL PRACTICE—Prayer, meditation, shamanic journey – whatever works for you it is essential during this time to make this a priority. Call in your spirit guides whoever you are in relationship with. Pray for those who are suffering. Pray for all that you’re grateful for. Pray for protection for your self and others. Practice gratitude as much as possible. Hold the experience of Life as a privilege.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” —Viktor E. Frankl

Stay tuned for more and be sure to check out my Facebook page, Dr Steven Farmer, for continual updates. Blessings to each and every one of you!

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