40 Days of Letting Go: Day 8 ~ Let go of fear

Like so many of our letting go suggestions, letting go of fear is not a quick-fix, or a one-shot deal, but it’s worth loosening the grip of anxiety even a little by shining light on it from time to time.  If you really think about it, all “letting go” practices involve letting go of fear and anxiety.

I have a friend who would often use the phrase “I’m terrified,” mostly in reference to something that had to do with her young children.  She would say “I’m terrified of sending my kids to school in this town,” or “I’m terrified of what the pesticides in that food will do to my kids.”

Anxiety is a natural, unavoidable part of life, and when it’s adaptive, it helps us plan, and stay out of harm’s way. But often we slip out of a helpful, productive alert state into an unproductive state of stress, anxiety, fear, and yes, even terror

I can remember thinking that “I’m terrified” was strong language, maybe even dramatic, but at the same time, I understood what she was talking about.  She was talking about anxiety and the fear that her children might also experience anxiety.  Anxiety is a natural, unavoidable part of life, and when it’s adaptive, it helps us plan, and stay out of harm’s way.  However, so often we slip out of a helpful, productive, alert state into an unproductive state of stress, anxiety, fear, and yes, even terror.

Anxiety is available in many flavors.  There’s general anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and PTSD.  What label we give to our fear is not as important as what keeps our fear alive, and what that fear keeps us from accomplishing –  not to mention the toll fear takes on our nervous system.

In the short-term fear keeps us from enjoying daily life by keeping us on high alert.  Longer term fear wears out our nervous system.  It can make getting through every day experience seem like a colossal effort, and keep us from reaching our full potential by avoiding what we value, and sharing our gifts with the world.

This is why I didn’t like my friend’s choice of the word “terror.”  I was worried about what daily parenting was doing to her nervous system, her relationships, and her ability to enjoy being a mom.

How do we stay out of the fear zone and in the place where we are using anxious energy in a productive way?  Mindfully keeping track of bodily sensations that accompany fear can help us break out of the fear zone, and experience calm, clear energy more often.

Here’s today’s letting go exercise:  Let go of fear

Practice this five-minute exercise daily to increase your sense of safety, and to bring more joy and ease into daily tasks.  After practicing, check out the links to our free worksheets related to anxiety, and some of our favorite books listed below.

  1. Check in with your body’s reaction to a very simple daily task, like getting ready to get out the door in the morning (many people who struggle with anxiety report that it is worse in the morning.)  Is your heart beating fast, do you have aches and pains, muscle tension, a dry mouth?
  2. Notice what thoughts accompany these physical sensations.  They might sound like “I’ll never get out the door in time,” or “I’ve got so much to do today.”  They may be more specific, “I’m really nervous about the budget meeting.”
  3. Lie on the floor or sit in a chair, with your arms over your head, take five deep breaths, making sure to that your lower belly is rising and falling.  By keeping your arms over your head, you will be helping your breaths to become long and deep, triggering the relaxation response.
    Babies know how to do it – breathing deeply with your arms overhead can help activate the relaxation response
  4. While you’re breathing, gently talk back to that part of you that is experiencing terror.  For example, counter the negative thought, “I know I’m going to make a typo in this post and people are going to think I’m an idiot” with “I’ll proofread before I print.  Most people will see the value of the content over an occasional typo.”
  5. Let your arms fall to your sides and let go.  Come up with your own short terror-melting mantra, like “I let go of unhelpful fear, I accept calm, clear energy.”

Check out the following links to our free worksheets

Mindfulness for social anxiety worksheet

Challenging anxious thoughts worksheet

Mindfulness for OCD

Looking for more in-depth instruction on using mindfulness to reduce anxiety?  Contact us.

Professionals: Looking for more in-depth consultation on using mindfulness in your therapy practice? Contact us.

Books we like and trainings we love include The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

and Rick Hanson’s Foundation of Well-Being Program “courage pillar”

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