The Montfort Group

Navigating Fear

Fear is a powerful emotion – it can motivate or derail you. I had a recent health issue that shot me into another galaxy with fear. Results from an abdominal ultrasound suggested a “mass on my liver” and a nodule on my spleen – all of this delivered late one evening from my family physician via email. Further diagnostics were recommended, and I was told: “not to worry”. 

Waiting

Are you kidding?!! Not to worry?! I went to town with abject fear and braced myself for the worst news. I couldn’t eat or sleep. One minute I was logical, the next I was frantic. I spent an entire weekend in terror waiting to hear bad news from my GI specialist the following Monday. 

I’m the first to admit that when it comes to health issues, I freak out. I’ve seen enough illnesses take people I love – ALS, terminal cancer, fatal brain hemorrhage amongst other things – to know that it doesn’t just happen to other people. “It” can happen to me. Thank God it didn’t and an MRI showed that I was in good health.

Fear Management

Truthfully, I didn’t manage my fears well that weekend. Deep breathing, conversations with trusted friends, my sister’s “what are the facts” logic and a loving husband all helped but I  struggled to stay grounded when I was in the thick of it.  Some things worked better than others but I was grateful to have a toolbox from which to draw some relief.

Storytelling

In doing some research on the topic, I came across a 2012 Ted Talk, in which writer Karen Thompson Walker, describes fear as “unintentional storytelling” and a “fantastic act of imagination” where we are both the author and the characters.

This resonated with me. I can get easily sucked down the rabbit hole of fear imagining the worst case scenarios in my own storytelling.  She suggests that fear can be managed depending on how we read the story – as an artist or a scientist. The artist in us will be swept up in emotion as we imagine ourselves struggling through the plot line; feeling our heart rates increase with how the characters feel, their greatest fears as they anticipate the future. The scientist in us considers the facts – what we know for sure versus what is speculation. A focus on facts can be quite reassuring, giving us permission to slow down the narrative to a more manageable pace.

Tools

I’m more of an artist than a scientist but here are some tools I’ve found helpful and recommend to my own clients

  1. Talk to someone – a trusted friend, a counselor, someone you can be open and vulnerable with. Often we assume that speaking out loud about our fears makes it worse. In my experience, it can bring some pretty immediate relief and reassurance. 
  2. Connect with your body. When afraid or anxious. where do you feel it? Does your chest tighten? Does your head hurt? Breathe into the places that feel tight.
  3. Breathe – Square breathing can lower blood pressure, heart rate and help increase calm. 
  4. Move your body – go for a walk, get outside, notice your surroundings. Moving can help loosen things up and connect with something besides your fear.
  5. Facts versus feelings – ask yourself what are the facts? What do you know for sure? Knowing the facts can ground things and help modify fear and overwhelm.

Here is another helpful resource and a video.

How do you deal with fear? Contact The Montfort Group in Plano so we can you conquer and manage fears.

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie Poole, MS, LPC

Laurie is a Licensed Professional Counselor with her Masters of Science in Counseling from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is also a graduate of McGill University in Montreal. She received advanced practical training in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples and families at UT Southwestern, where she spent five years in the Department of Psychiatry’s Family Studies Clinic working with diverse clients of all ages. In addition, she has completed training in Collaborative Law for couples seeking divorce to find solutions in a more amicable way.

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