What feeds your fears? Or excessive worry or rumination? Many of us fixate on situations or circumstances that we have no control over. Often our negative self-talk and “what if” mindset consume our brain and keep us stuck in perpetual anxiety. Our world seems to be filled with traumatic events and natural disasters that contribute to people living on edge and experiencing underlying tension. Stress can impact our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. One of the biggest problems is that many of us deny the impact that stress has on our lives and compartmentalize our conflicts instead of acknowledging them and working through the issues.
We can feed our fears by assuming we have no control and are completely powerless to control anything in life. The also negative, unrealistic flip side of that is believing that we can fix and change all things that impact our lives. Neither of those mind sets are healthy or productive. Watching news programs excessively and consuming online news and social media throughout the day can perpetuate anxiety, fear, and worry. I’m not suggesting that we never read or watch the news, but setting limits can help reduce the anxiety. I suggest that many of my patients establish a “worry time” and gather worries throughout the day (maybe writing them down), but save them for their designated time to worry. They can allow themselves 10-15 minutes to worry incessantly, but the time is best used to make a control versus no control list for each worry. The worries you have control over can be brainstormed for possible solutions. The no control list can be given to God, prayed over, and ultimately let go. I recognize this is easier said than done, but time and practice can produce success.
Sometimes our fears and anxieties are fed by the people around us. Negative, cynical, and pessimistic people feed our stress. We may need to call them on it and/or limit our time around these people. In some cases our stress and anxiety come from overextending ourselves and not being able to say no to people, especially when it’s a worthwhile activity. This is an area I have to work at on a regular basis. We need to do a better job protecting our time and taking care of our own needs. Sometimes our fears come from our need to be loved and accepted. We can battle our fears by confronting our distorted thoughts and reframing our thinking. Many of our fears can be explained by the acronym FEAR, that is, False Evidence Appearing Real. Remind yourself that we can’t control everything or everyone and reflect on the serenity prayer which states it so well. Take charge of your fears so they don’t take charge of you.