The coronavirus and the fall of the stock market, the cancelling of public events, the social distancing, people’s panic and their hoarding behaviors — these now conspire to create fear in us.

How do we manage fear?

First, think of fear as gear, as normal equipment that is a powerful and helpful part of your nervous system, able to sometimes keep you safe, making you cautious when you need to be. It’s your WiFi. It sends info to you concerning danger.

In this way fear is your friend. So sit with fear, don’t reject it. It makes us feel vulnerable but then sometimes we are vulnerable and that’s OK. We do know one thing, that threats often pass and the feelings of fear pass on to. I love Oscar Wilde’s comment, “The chief charm of moods is that they don’t last.”

Another thought for how to handle fear. Take the long view. And sometimes take the short view. I have felt fear lately due to some chronic pain I’m experiencing. What if I don’t get well? It’s annoying. Its angering. It’s fear producing. I am afraid when I think it may always be with me. But I need to take the long view. This pain will probably morph over time and if it doesn’t go away I will become more adept at handling it. The same with disease and financial ups and downs. We will experience financial losses, and we will experience financial gains. The long view will tell us that life will always be up and down and things will come and go. But I also take the short view at times, creating equipoise, and I live for the day and the day always has some good moments in it.

The Bible addresses fear often because it is a wise book and it knows that fear is built into our system. We are told to fear God which means to respect him and honor him and please him. We see in this advice that there is a need to be aware of power when it’s there and to give it due regard. The Bible normalizes fear. Even when it tells us not to be afraid because God is with us it is acknowledging that we will be fearful, that fear is something that we will always have to work on.

What to do?

Avoid living according to the Nudge Theory, the premise that people will often choose what is easiest, what they are nudged toward, over what is wisest. So in crisis they hide and horde and obsess on the news and rashly move assets. But in the face of fear don’t be nudged; be wise, not washed away by other’s panic.

Let’s not let fear stop us from normal living. We can show courage and flex some fear-crushing power by carrying on, doing the next thing we need to do, want to do or should do — such as workout, even if it is at home, clean, work, play, call friends, cook, laugh, eat good food. I’ve been building muscles with stretchy bands while I lay on my bed thus in one small way I am preparing for usefulness. I am avoiding Victor Frankel’s existential vacuum that anticipates no future.

Now let’s talk money. With the crash of the stock market and the loss of business many of us fear more financial loss. But again the Bible is smart here. It is always advising us to be generous (“Give…” says Jesus) and by deduction we might say then that it is advising us to fear falling into selfish, stingy and ungenerous living. We should fear being selfish more than we should fear not having enough. Selfishness is as damaging as lack. It withers our very souls!

One thing I’ve done lately is to continue to be generous to the charities I give to. My wife and I refuse to let fear become a force majeure in our lives, gorgonizing us snd keeping us from our social contract. I have been giving extra money and time to family and friends in need. I am trying to live by the philosophy of plenty, not scarcity. I refuse to be fearful-stingy. I am warming up my relationships and my own heart by taking care of others. I love myself better when I am generous. I also, by doing this, am trusting that God will take care of me as he takes care of the birds and the flowers and all of the transient things.

We had some family and friends over on Saturday for my daughter’s baby shower. We took careful cautionary measures, (anyone who we suspected to be of any risk because of age or exposure or low immunity was lovingly told to stay home) but we didn’t stop being social with safe loved ones. Baby showers are like Indian potlatches. We shower the parents with gifts and thus redistribute the wealth.

Don’t give me wrong. We all do feel afraid of the coronavirus and of a recession, of not having enough, but sometime we can get powerful and respond to fears with opposite action. We do the opposite of what fear tells us to do. Then we are furiously legitimate and robustly authentic by loving — because that is who we are. We show our bona fides, our legitimacy by doing the opposite of what anxiety suggests. We shun unwarranted hoarding and over-protecting.

Lastly, it occurs to me today that we are helped when we are fearful by talking to others. It’s the talking cure. We ask what they think we should do, we look to others for a model. For the baby shower, my brother was advised by myself, his wife and by his sons not to come. His immunity is compromised. We also advised that my 92-year-old dad not come. This advice helped them to feel that they weren’t letting us down. We told them that we wanted them safe because we loved them and they were able to stay home and not feel guilty about not coming. Here again we see that fear was a friend, guiding us to do the good thing.

When facing fear, we need each other. We need each other‘s perspectives. When we are fearful we should talk about this with trusted others, seek council and do as we are advised.

There are many other things to do when fearful. Perhaps you could make your own list. Remember you are powerful. Your body is powerful. Your brain is capable of managing your reactions. Give this some thought.

I love you.

Be safe.

But also be generous and loving and in these fearful times, engage in an abundance of wise, safe activity that creates a sense of well-being in you and your loved ones.


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