There's no denying it, we're living in uncertain times right now.
Fear, anxiety, and panic are settling in around the globe. So are anger, frustration, and lots of other unsavory reactions. But for the simplicity of writing this blog, I'm just referring to fear.
I wanted, in some way, to help people move through their fear, so in good hocus-pocus, woo-woo fashion, I asked the tarot deck what I should paint, and I turned out with the Wheel of Fortune.
This is what that card means:
The Wheel of Fortune reminds us that seasons change and fortune fluctuates - nothing is permanent.
Change is one of its themes, along with luck, fate, karma, and joy. This card often appears in a reading concerning unexpected or unforeseen developments that change your plans or alter your course, for better or worse.
Whether you're in advantageous circumstances or in the midst of struggle, know that the Wheel is always turning - the most stable place to be is actually in the center, rather than on top or botton. In that sense, this card may be advising you not to get stuck on particular plans at this time. No one is ever completely in control of events.
Honestly, since we're in the middle of this global crisis with COVID-19, I don't think a more appropriate card could have turned out.
I thought about this card for a long while before painting. Something that stood out to me was; the most stable place to be is actually in the center.
Stable and centered are the most valuable states of mind to be able to tap into right now.
But how does one do that? How do we move through fear?
There are lots of ways, but these are the steps that help me:
Step 1: Recognize your fear
Sometimes we try to push away uncomfortable feelings, distract ourselves from them, self-medicate through them, or become paralyzed by them. But what we really need to do is stare them in the eye and recognize them.
I see you, fear.
Step 2: Thank your fear
Yes. For real. Thank it.
Our brains are wired so we can detect dangerous situations. It's a safety feature. The trouble is, the brain doesn't care if the fear comes from being chased by a tiger, the loss of a job, or telling someone you love them for the first time. Fear is fear.
The trouble with our current situation is (unless you're reading this in 2025 and we've figured our shit out by then), there are a zillion fears piling on top of one another with no end in sight. Everything we've ever know as true, regular, and safe, is now in the shitter. It's a legit time to be fearful. And so NOW is the time to thank your fear for showing up.
By thanking your fear, you're telling your brain that it's done a good job at keeping you safe, but now it's time to do something else. Thanking your fear will help begin the mind shift you need.
Step 3: Hang out with fear
This also might seem weird, but it's super helpful.
So, while you're all-in with your fear, try, if you can, to get curious about it. Mull over the following three things. PRO TIP: Write this shit down.
1. What's going on in your body?
Actually focus on those sensations. For me, I feel like my stomach is bottoming out, I feel light-headed, shaky, dry-mouthed. Think about each of your sensations and what they actually feel like in your body.
2. What's going on with your thoughts?
Are you consumed by the things that could go terribly wrong? Are you catastrophizing the situation? Are you obsessing over what's actually going on for you?
After suddenly becoming unemployed as a massage therapist (my "actual" job that pays my bills, I was worried I wasn't going to be able to pay said bills. I was afraid that if I contracted COVID-19 I'd die because of my asthma. I was afraid of my friends and family dying. I was afraid that this virus would prevent me from ever providing massage therapy again.
Did I lose my job? Yes.
Are these situations possible? Oh, for sure.
Does obsessing over any of this help me? Nope.
Fearful situations are always going to be there. That's just life.
The goal isn't to eliminate fear or its triggers. The goal is to control your REACTIONS to the fear.
It's important to be aware of your thoughts because they're the drivers of your emotions. What you THINK will affect what you FEEL, and what you FEEL will affect your actions. So get clear on those thoughts.
3. How do you feel emotionally?
If you were to label your emotions, what would those labels be?
I was feeling helpless, lost, nervous, worried. And when I'm feeling this way, the last thing I can do is take care of myself.
And taking care of yourself is the priority.
If you're able to take care of YOURSELF, you're better able to take care of the other people and things you need to tend to. Life will also just suck less, and that's not a bad thing. So try to figure out the fear-based emotions that you're experiencing.
Step 4: Begin the MIND-SHIFT
Alright. You've recognized your fear. You've thanked it. You've had a cup of tea with it while you got to know it better, understanding how it shows up in your body, your thoughts, and your feelings. You are QUITE familiar with it. Now, this is how we move from it.
But first, some science!
If you haven't noticed by now, fear is something that happens in your head. Sure, you can feel it in your body (those are the effects), but it ORIGINATES in your brain.
Fear is a REACTION to a disturbance in your comfort zone. It is NOT a conscious decision. Like stepping on a Lego, your foot's reaction is to pull away. But the reaction isn't really coming from your foot, it's coming from your BRAIN.
There's nerve receptors in your foot that send a "pain signal" to the brain. The brain receives this information, makes a plan, then sends electrical impulses to your muscular system that makes you hop off the Lego. This happens at roughly 260mph. For real, look it up.
Finding out you've lost your job, that there's a deadly global virus spreading like wildfire, having to lock yourself away from the world, watching death tolls rise, and preparing a trip to the grocery store like it could kill you is...stressful. These are serious emotional Legos we're stepping on, friend. You're right to be experiencing all the shitty reactions.
But those shitty reactions are NOT going to help you at the end of the day.
Let's get back to the mind-shift.
Because it's the BRAIN that's headed to Cuckoo Town, it's the BRAIN we need to calm-the-fuck-down.
How do we do this?
Through the magic of mindfulness [insert twinkling sounds here].
NEWS FLASH: If you've already done steps 1-3, you've already practiced mindfulness. Mindfulness/meditation/prayer are just ways of focusing your brain with intention, young Jedi. So even if you're an atheist, this shit will still work.
All of your thoughts are like wild horses, running free over the landscape of your brain. Your consciousness (the part of your brain that accepts or rejects information and makes decisions) is the wrangling cowboy/girl/person.
We're gonna let the fear-based horses free (and with any luck, they'll run out of sight). Your job is to wrangle the thought-horses that will calm, center, empower, or stabilize you.
If you're a seasoned vet in the mindfulness world, you might be able to just sit there and zen out with your horses. As for myself, I prefer to pair my thought wrangling with some sort of activity.
The first thing you'll want to do is come up with a mantra, slogan or phrase that makes sense to you.
Here are some examples:
I am strong
I am resilient
I'm a badass
I can get through this
I'm a warrior
I've got this
Next, you might want to pair words with some of these activities:
Slow, deep breathing
Massaging the scalp
Step 5: Patience
Shifting your mind takes time and practice. And part of that practice is "failure".
Just like learning to play a new instrument, you're not going to be great at first. You are literally changing the way your brain works. You're moving from a reactionary place to a place of deliberate mindfulness. And that's a big deal. Be patient with yourself.
Step 6: Repeat
Any time you feel the fear creeping back into your psyche, repeat this process.
And if you want next-level kind of results, don't wait to feel the fear first. Simply start with Step 4.
Start your day with it, brush your teeth with it, have it with your lunch, take it for a walk, have it after dinner, bring it to bed. If you repeat Step 4 throughout your day, you'll be better trained for when you need to confront your fear. Like going to bootcamp before deploying for war.
Your brain is powerful. YOU are powerful. You might just need a little training is all.
If you've tried these steps, or if you have steps of your own for shifting your mind, I'd LOVE to learn about them. Please comment below!