Family & Education

Overcoming the Plague of Fear

Even as fear threatens to overwhelm you, it doesn’t have to control you
BY Barbara Danza TIMEAugust 23, 2022 PRINT

During the past few years, a plague has descended upon us. No, not that plague—rather, the plague of fear. It has truly become an epidemic.

It seems like no matter where you turn, you’re being encouraged to hold fast to your fear. After all, danger is lurking just around the corner, experts are sounding the alarm, and catastrophe is looming.

While there’s no doubt that we’re living in a tumultuous and significant time, is a steady state of fear really the best course to navigate through it?

Of course, it can be said that fear is sometimes helpful. You’ll carefully look both ways before you cross the street for fear of getting hit by a car. If your house is on fire, your fear can propel you into swift and determined action for the sake of yourself and those around you.

When fear becomes a pervasive and chronic presence in your life—when it determines your state of mind, mood, choices, and overall outlook on life—it’s doing you, those you love, your community, and, arguably, society at large a terrible disservice.

Fear hinders our ability to think clearly and rationally. Fear prohibits us from being calm. It leads to foolish decisions, overreactions, and paralysis. Fear can easily become a habit. It’s one of the easiest emotions for outside forces to manipulate. Fear is contagious.

If you pause for a moment and assess the ways in which fear is playing a role in your life right now, you may be surprised. Do you stop yourself from taking action because you might fail or make a mess? Do you refrain from making decisions because the outcome is uncertain? Do you fear losing your wealth, health, relationships, or your self-interest? Do you worry about what others think of you? Do you fudge the truth in favor of pleasing others? Do you avoid difficult conversations? Do you lose your temper? Do you procrastinate? Do you watch too much television and spend too much time scrolling through your phone? Do you avoid responsibility?

If you can say yes to any of those questions, or if you can see other ways in which you’re harboring fear, that’s wonderful. Now you can begin to let it go.

Note Your Fear

You can’t manage a problem that you can’t identify. Honest self-reflection is a powerful tool. Now, more than ever, it’s beneficial to recognize when you’re holding onto fear and the effect that it’s having on your life.

To make the most of such introspection, write down all the ways in which you see yourself affected by fear. Return to add more whenever you’re so inspired. You’ll increase your own self-awareness immensely.

Let Go

Once you begin to identify your fear, you can reject it, set it down, and let it go. Is it really that simple? No, but identifying it was already the hardest part. Now, when it flares up—when you find yourself avoiding something, rejecting something, sabotaging yourself, or straight-up feeling afraid—pause. Recognize it for what it is. Unless you’re in actual danger, reject it. You’re stronger and braver than you’re giving yourself credit for. You don’t need to hang on to so much fear. Push it away.

Audit Your Inputs

We’re bombarded with information on a daily basis. What are you allowing into your mind? Much of today’s media messaging is aimed at stoking fear. In the same way that you consider which foods you eat, consider what information you consume and its impact on your well-being.

Slow Down

Most of us live very busy lives. The frenetic pace with which we take on the day-to-day can enhance fear. In fact, we can even use our state of being “busy” as an avoidance tactic.

Try slowing down. Instead of rushing through your phone call or your laundry folding or your dinner preparation, slow down and enjoy the process. Focus on the one thing you’re doing. Give it your full attention. Release any fear that you have associated with it. Fear of phone calls? Maybe you fear letting someone down or being judged. Fear of laundry? Perhaps you fear you don’t have enough time, or you aren’t doing a good job. Fear of dinner preparation? Perhaps you fear you don’t have enough groceries, or your family won’t enjoy what you make.

Slow down and see the good and the beauty in all that you do each day—even the seemingly mundane tasks. You’ll soon turn fear and worry into joy.

Meditate

Meditation is a practice that can help clear your mind and calm your heart. Stillness is underrated in our modern age. Aim for calm, and see if your fear doesn’t begin to dissipate.

Have Faith

Fundamentally, much of our fear stems from a wish to control our circumstances and our fate. Faith in a higher power relieves much of this burden. When you realize that you can only do your best and live as virtuously as possible, stewarding the life you’ve been given to the best of your abilities, fear subsides to the background. If you’re struggling with fear, strengthen your faith.

Take a Risk

Put yourself to the test and take a measured risk. It doesn’t have to be huge to start. Reach out to the friend with whom you’ve lost touch. Book the camping trip, even if you’re unsure whether you can handle it. Check off the tasks on your to-do list that you’ve been avoiding. Show up. Face your fears. Take baby steps at first, record your progress, and keep growing.

Barbara Danza
Barbara Danza is a mom of two, an MBA, a beach lover, and a kid at heart. Here, diving into the challenges and opportunities of parenting in the modern age. Particularly interested in the many educational options available to families today, the renewed appreciation of simplicity in kids’ lives, the benefits of family travel, and the importance of family life in today’s society.
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