Fear in this time of Covid

September 19th, 2020 by Kat Kingsley-Hughes

It’s a funny old time right now. So much is becoming more familiar in this new way of living. But I notice a lot of people have an undercurrent of fear all the time. Fear is a natural reaction to the situation that we are seeing in the world. I wanted to add something to the thinking about this:

Fear is useful when we need to stay vigilant. It helps us keep our distance, remember to wear our masks and sanitise our hands. It keeps us focused and alert. And that helps keep us and others safe.

But when we are at home, or even in moments when we are out and the situation is safe, it can be helpful to notice the fear that’s present, and maybe to try relaxing into it a little bit, perhaps even letting it go for a while. Allowing the body mind to come out of fight or flight mode, and simply offering ourselves some rest and kindness.

It was a revelation to me back when I learned this simple truth:

The fear of a thing, and the thing we are afraid of, are two separate things!

For example, if someone has a phobia of spiders, then their fear of spiders is a separate thing to … a spider. Mostly we become afraid of the feeling of being afraid. We preload the fear: “I would panic if I saw a spider” ahead of time. This keeps us stuck in a loop. We don’t get to experience a spider in the here-and-now when the time comes, because we have generalised a belief that all spiders are dangerous. It’s entirely possible that at least for some of us that where we live there are no dangerous spiders or that dangerous species are very rare. In which case, reminding ourselves to be afraid of them ahead of time is a case of black and white thinking or catastrophising. (And if you do live in a place where spiders represent a real risk, you probably know that when you encounter one it’s really important to stay calm!) But for those of us who don’t, we get an unclear message. Because of this preloading, we don’t get to encounter a spider in the here-and-now to find out that all or some of them are safe. So we become partly afraid of spiders (which may be rational) AND partly afraid of the fear of spiders (which is not). Realising the fear of the fear is a separate thing can be mind blowing!

Similarly, in regard to Covid, we can become sensitised to those moments of fear panic at the thought of catching the virus or we may becomes sensitised to feeling loneliness or sadness brought on by distancing. We are pre-loading our fear of those moments or panic or despair.

What to do about it? We can notice if it’s possible, wise or sensible to relax the fear at times when it is safe.

Is it possible to mindfully explore the feeling a little bit? What does this feeling feel like in the body? What thoughts come up? Are they rational? Are there memories that are intruding from the past? What do those former versions of ourselves want to tell us about the past that they feel is relevant to the now? With the benefit of hindsight and knowing that you are not in that time now, what words could you say to that younger version of yourself that might be kind or soothing. Maybe could imagine giving that frightened young one a hug.

And how would it be to let the thoughts, memories and emotions go, simply allowing that they are there and accepting them as part of your whole experience?

In this way we can help our bodies and minds to titrate the fear a little bit, and learn how to manage it and use it to our advantage when it is useful to do so.

In this way, we get to encounter the world afresh rather than pre-loaded with expectations of what we will find. And we get to do so with clear heads, which is good for our overall safety.

When we experience fear, the brain shuts down its higher thinking parts. It limits the choices available to us. We see things in black-and-white terms. In order to get access to more nuanced and creative thoughts again, we need to relax. Then the blood flow can return to the prefrontal cortex and we have access to greater understanding and more options become available to us. We get instantly smarter!

So those are my thoughts around fear and the fear of fear. I’m not going to say ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’ because, hey, there’s plenty to fear out there and at times we need to be vigilant. BUT we are smart animals so we can choose when it’s safe to let that fear go a little so we can relax and let our minds work more fully again.

Thanks for reading. Go well. Stay safe. And remember to take some moments to relax XX

🙇‍♀️ 🙏💕

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 19th, 2020 at 4:37 pm and is filed under Flotsam. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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