Calming Fear and Finding Peace

Over the last couple of posts I’ve been talking about the automatic mind/body response to fear. The practices I’ve offered help us shift from the reactive, fight or flight mode to the responsive, rest & digest state. You’ll likely recognize these as the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the nervous system.  

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Photo Credit: condesign via Pixabay

Both the sympathetic & parasympathetic response are necessary and useful. When functioning well, they regulate and balance bodily functions. And, in our western culture, where the vast majority of our populations live in relative safety, we also experience high levels stress that throw them out of balance. When we’re feeling a sense of threat, loss or rejection, even if we’re not in physical danger, our body automatically turns on the sympathetic nervous system, again and again and again. 

The problem is, hanging out in the reactive, fight or flight mode much of the time has a negative impact on our bodies, our minds and our ability to create positive experiences. 

The practices I’ve been sharing for returning to a place of  peace fall into three categories – calming the body grounding and connecting, and inviting and accepting support.  

The practices for accepting support are similar to connecting with something larger but are a step further, a layer deeper. These practices include an active intention to open to support and allow it to sink in. All of them are good alternatives to include in a daily self-care routine and especially effective when our nervous system gets out of balance.

Self-love and Compassion: Like all the practices I’ve offered, practicing self-compassion and lovingkindness regularly makes them much more effective in stressful situations.  The links will take you to resources for learning in greater depth about these practices. A simple description is repeating phrases that bring you comfort or offer a sincere wish for well-being. Here are some examples:  In this moment I am safe, I am free from harm. In this moment I am doing the very best I can, all is well. May I be well, may I be safe, may I live with ease. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself all the compassion I need. Choose phrases that resonate for you, feel true, sincere and kind. 

“Our culture does not emphasize self-compassion, quite the opposite. We’re told that no matter how hard we try, our best just isn’t good enough. It’s time for something different.”  ~ Kristen Neff, Ph.D., Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself

Remember Goodness: In spite of what triggered this moment of stress, remind yourself of the basic goodness within yourself, others and the world. You may be struggling, someone else may have hurt you, and there is certainly injustice in the world and there is a vast amount of goodness too. Bring to mind the people, animals and places you love. Pause and really feel your love for them. Remember those that love you. Allow yourself to recall specific examples of their love, appreciation or positive regard for you. Be with those memories for several breaths or several minutes. Let them really sink in. Along with whatever challenge you’re experiencing, these positive experiences are true too. In fact, they are likely far more numerous than the frightening experiences. Letting your mind focus on the good and allowing it to sink into your body makes it more available to you when you need its support. 

Engaging in the Human Network: Remember, what you’re going through is part of the human experience. At this very moment, there are countless others who understand completely because they too are or have gone through something very similar. It’s ok, this is a tough situation and there’s nothing wrong with you, others feel this too. You are not alone. 

The Beloved: Imagine an inexhaustible, loving presence in whatever way is right for you – the Divine, nature, higher consciousness, the wisdom of science, the support of community. Call on that presence, imagine it surrounding you, supporting you, or simply removing the barriers you have built against it. Rest there. And now, rest there a little more. Allow yourself to experience the sense of being held, loved supported.

If allowing yourself to ask for and accept is hard for you – try making it a part of every day, it some small way. Those of us raised with western values hear countless messages about independence and self-sufficiency. Sometimes we need to be reminded it’s ok to ask for help and it’s an amazing, enriching experience when we allow ourselves to receive it. 

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”                    ~ Viktor Frankl

I sincerely hope these practices are helpful. Try combining them with practices from the other two posts. Find the mix that feels most effective for you. 

May you be well!

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