Fears: We all have them. Each person– even the endlessly courageous– holds a personal set of anxieties. Some fears may ease or become irrelevant over time, but there seem to always be new ones ready to fill in those spaces.
1. Name your fears. A non-specific fear looms much larger than one that has been clearly identified. Nebulous fear is the worst. Don’t let your fears get big and billowy– whittle them down by being specific. Whatever the situation is that is causing you anxiety, take the time to explore your “worst case scenario.” Examine the feelings and logistics that might accompany the situation. Usually, it’s not really as awful as it seems, and becomes manageable (and actionable) when it is no longer so broad and murky. Naming your fears and getting somewhat comfortable with them will also help you evaluate your options more clearly as they come up.
Here’s a personal story… Back in 2011, just six months after we had just uprooted our whole lives and moved overseas to Germany, my husband lost his job. It would be and understatement to say that we had a lot of fears that needed whittling down. On the day that the job loss was made official, a friend came to babysit our daughter, and we went out for dinner. We talked about our Worst Case Scenario, and were surprised that this made us feel better almost immediately. The worst that could happen at that point was that we would have to go back to the States, live with family, collect unemployment and look for new jobs, either there or overseas. That did not sound like fun, but it was doable. You know what? ALL of those things happened! And some other bad things that were not on our radar yet. And it was OK. We came out just fine. I believe that having a clear sense of what it was that we were afraid of gave us courage and clarity.
2. Address your fears. Once you know exactly what you are afraid of, you can face it pro-actively. Pinpoint the one thing you want to avoid most, and then see if you can find the opposite, most positive outcome. Determine the first steps to reaching the best outcome. When you are satisfied with your progress there, choose another one and tackle it.
It’s extremely helpful here to avoid focusing on what you don’t want to happen, and to identify what you do want. It’s energizing to pursue something positive, but draining to just be trying to avoid something negative. So use your fears to help you identify what you do want, and go for that.
3. Shine some light on it. A fear lurking in your heart or mind is much stronger than one that you have identified and verbalized. Sometimes just saying what it is we’re afraid of is incredibly scary. But talking about our fears– letting them be known– shrinks them down.
Ask for for support in facing your fear. This could be asking for prayer and positive thoughts toward a good outcome, moral support in confronting your worst case scenario, or very practical help in working toward what you do desire in the face of a scary situation. Fear is a common experience for all of us, and we don’t have to go it alone.
4. Let your own history work in your favor. Recall past experiences of painful seasons and transitions, the fears you experienced during those times– and the realities of how it all played out. If you are here reading this today, that means that you survived all of it. And you can get through difficult times again.
Do not forget the provision and grace you received during those hardships– from God, the world around you, your community, etc. There is enough of that (and more!) to help you weather this storm–and the next, and the next.
Remember the things that helped you most in those situations, and try to repeat the most helpful parts in this scenario. Asking for help, asking for prayer, taking a day off to think at the beach, having a family fun day prior to a big transition, etc. Whatever it is that particularly worked for you, use it again.
Similarly, think of what you wished you had known to do those times, and take this opportunity to do it. You are a little older and wiser this time around, so use that to your advantage!
Fear is one of the most basic human experiences, and no one is immune to it. But it doesn’t need to paralize you or keep you from living a full and joyful life. Make the choice to face your fears, especially when they get in between you and the type of life you’d like to live. Choose to make your decisions out of a place of hope, faith and love– fear will pop up, but should never be the source of your decisions.
This post is an adapted excerpt from my ebook, Pruned: Blossoming Through Life’s Difficult Seasons. If you’d like to read more and learn how to use life’s most challenging situations as a catalyst for a fuller, more joyful life, click here.