So what exactly is fear and where does it come from?
Fear is a natural, powerful, and primitive human emotion. Fear can surface when one feels in danger or has a heightened response to a perceived threat (1). Fear based thinking can manifest in many forms, often causing one to have a response to a ‘perceived threat’, which subsequently can increase psychological distress, heightened emotions, and physical tension in the body.
IDENTIFYING FEARFUL THINKING
Projection of fearful thoughts can show up as one may anticipate how they think a situation may occur, before the event has even taken place. It is easy to get caught on a hamster wheel of fearful thinking, allowing powerful, negative, fearful thoughts to take control. Fear -based thinking can become very consuming and taxing on individuals. This can be detrimental to one’s overall health and wellbeing. Fearful thoughts can be anxiety provoking and increase individuals stress levels, particularly when dealing with uncertainty. Fear- based thinking is closely linked to rumination. Rumination is obsessive thinking pattern, which could be around an idea, a situation, choice, or event. Rumination is having a reoccurring thought over and over again, that can cause one to fixate and obsess over it (2). Rumination and fear-based thinking is commonly linked to increased feelings of anxiety, anxiety disorders, and even depression (2).
As a society, we have been experiencing a collective sense of loss due to COVID-19 and there has been a lot of fear surrounding this global pandemic. Many have experienced fear around contracting and the spread of the virus. There has also been fear around how this pandemic is impacting individuals and community health, safety, and security. Another primary fear for many Canadians has been surrounding job loss, business foreclosure, and financial security in this unprecedented time. Coping with uncertainty has had a ripple effect in our lives as individuals brace themselves for news on how to navigate our “new normal” with increased restrictions and precautions put into place to flatten the curve.
So what can you do for yourself to address fear and shift thought patterning?
Reframing fearful thinking. Reframing is a powerful technique that you can use to shift your thought patterning. The practice of reframing negative, fearful thoughts can help individuals manage their mental state and shift perspective. Cognitive reframing is an empowering technique that can help individuals gain back a sense of control in situations where they may feel powerless (3). You can’t always control what happens to you or around you, but you can however choose how you react and respond. Cognitive reframing is the ability to reframe your negative thoughts to find a more constructive outlook on what is happening.
In doing so you can neutralize thoughts, feelings, and emotions, allowing for a more thoughtful and optimistic way of viewing your situation (3). You have the ability to choose what you focus on. It is more important than ever to recognize how fears are influencing your interactions, your mental health, and overall wellbeing.
Where are you able to reframe your negative fearful thoughts and shift the narrative you are replaying to yourself? Take a moment to reflect on this and better identify your fears. Write them down. Now breakdown the fear. This simple exercise will help you identify and reframe your current fears. In doing so you can take action to find a better alternative and viewpoint on your current situation.
• Notice your thought pattern when you are experiencing negative emotions.
• Identify what you are thinking about most of the time? Now write it down and break it down.
• Take a moment to write down and reframe your thoughts. How can you shift your viewpoint in your current situation? Where are you feeling stuck? What can you do for yourself to shift the narrative and feel better?
Gratitude is imperative.
An attitude of gratitude can be a guiding force in reframing fearful negative thoughts. In taking time to journal, reflect, and reframe negative thoughts you can invite in gratitude. Observe the small moments in your day and where you can bring in gratitude for the simple things.