How We Can Be Aware Without Becoming Afraid

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Amidst both the internal and external chaos of this time, I continue to try and find moments where I can be still and quiet and lean into my emotions as I process all that is happening.

It’s difficult to grasp how I’m feeling; my emotions are so fast-moving I can barely keep up. I’ve been too unanchored to write for weeks now, constantly dragged back into news cycles and social media feeds and the conflicting opinion of a thousand so-called experts.

As I sit today and take a moment to see where I’m at, I realise of all the emotions, the predominant one I find myself stuck in, is fear.

I have always had the sense of being a small girl in a big and terrifying world. This is often the outcome of childhood trauma and abuse; that as children we weren’t protected from harm by those we trusted to keep us safe. We felt so very small in a world we identified as frightening, dangerous and unsafe. We learned no one is there to protect us so we must protect ourselves.

From this we become adults who are excessively independent, autonomous; often detached. We feign toughness on the outside while quietly living in a state of fear and anxiety on the inside, afraid at any moment the world is going to close in on us. Always guarded and grabbing at some semblance of control all the while knowing control is nothing more than an illusion we pretend will keep us safe even as we know it won’t.

As we journey through these uncertain times I find the biggest battle I face each day is the one in my own mind; to somehow overcome the fear that grips my chest so tight I have to remember to breathe. It is so easy for this fear to collapse into despair; from there, hopelessness.

I constantly have to navigate the line between being aware of what’s happening in the world without becoming afraid. To mindfully choose to not live in the hypothetical future but stay in the present moment.

It isn’t about pretending the fear doesn’t exist or using toxic positivity as a way of minimising it. Fear is a normal human response to times of global crisis and upheaval, and serves its purpose. It’s understandable and expected to feel fear during these times and it’s good for us to acknowledge that we are afraid.

However, remaining in fear does not serve us. As much as it’s important to lean into it, so is the importance of finding a way to release it.

The only way I have found to do this is to shift my focus. I cannot control or change the external circumstances. The only thing I can control and change is my focus, and my own response to the world at this time. For me, this is finding moments of still and quiet, and focusing on the present.

Reminding myself:

In this moment, I am safe.
In this moment, I am healthy.
In this moment, I have all I need.
In this moment, I am okay.

It is connecting to my breath once more. It is gentle movement. It is meditation and prayer. It is leaning upon my faith. It is accepting I cannot control any of this, but can only trust in the collective goodness of our humanity; that we will emerge on the other side of this stronger, yet gentler somehow.

It is time away from news and social media, and more time in relationship with loved ones, both in real life and online. It is sitting outside watching the leaves change colour, being reminded everything has a season and this too shall pass. It is learning how to choose joy and peace even when our external circumstances would dictate otherwise.

It’s okay to be afraid. These times are hard, and we are exhausted. But living in a constant state of fear is more exhausting.

Allow yourself to acknowledge the fear; to lean into it, become familiar with it, feel it, recognise it for what it is. Some days it will be an underlying awareness. Some days it will be a paralysing tsunami.

Allow it to come, and then let it go again. Shift your focus to the present moment where right now, you’re okay. This burden of fear is not yours to carry. Lay it down, and walk lighter.

We’ve got this.

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