Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: Learning to Recognize and Minimize Your Fears

Happy Thursday!

Scrolling through social media is eye-opening. I have so many thoughts as I scroll through my feed and read the posts of those around me. While it can be fun and enjoyable, a fun way to connect with loved ones far away and to keep in touch with people who were part of your life at some point, it’s also a place where there’s a lot of sadness. It’s hard, sometimes, to scroll through my feed and see the negativity. The complaints. The fear. The people who are constantly complaining. The people who live in the past all the time. The people who feel the need to tell us all about how they don’t live in the past yet that’s all they talk about in a way that conveys the saddest need for attention. The people who are going though something and share every aspect of it. The people who are just plain miserable.

Social media can be draining. I don’t even watch the news or listen to the news and deleted every news app I have more than six months ago, and I can’t even imagine how I might feel if I read the MSM’s doom and gloom in addition to every couch-reporter’s rendition of ‘the world is a dark and ugly place,’ on a daily basis. Honestly.

My point is this: Fear comes in all shapes and sizes, and it is evident almost everywhere you look. It’s evident in the subtle cries for attention or help people post on social media. It’s evident in the eyes of those whose smiles never quite reach them. It’s evident everywhere in our world right now, and it all plays into my January theme of living your best life in 2021 by no longer living in fear. You see the fear in Americans terrified of what might happen politically following the 2020 election. You see the fear in those who feel they’ll catch COVID and die (according to stoppneumonia.org, 2.5 million people died worldwide of pneumonia in 2019 and according to Wikipedia, 3 million people died of pneumonia in 2016 officially making it the 4th leading cause of death in the world, yet no one ever walks around talking about how terrified they are of pneumonia, do they?).

We get it. The media, politicians, your mom, your neighbor’s mailman’s sister…they tell people to be afraid, and they’re conditioned to be afraid. I’m not here to judge anyone for feeling how they feel. I feel how I feel, you feel how you feel, and no one will ever be shamed for their feelings by me. Teased relentlessly, yes…but never mocked or made to feel shameful (at least not intentionally). What I am here to do is remind you tha you cannot live in fear. What kind of life is it to live in such a constant state of fear that you lose out on everything good in life?

For example, those fearful of leaving their home have now spent nearly a year locked up, not seeing their families, not enjoying the time that they have with loved ones, not living…for the better part of a year. I, personally, don’t know anyone who has passed from COVID (and I’m thankful for that) nor do I know anyone who has social distanced or changed their way of living since it all started. I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent every single holiday with my parents and my in-laws, my friend’s and their parents, friends, friends of friends, etc. While we know plenty of people who have tested positive for it, almost none had symptoms and those who did had very minor symptoms and would have assumed they had the same common cold they’ve had a million times had it not been for the test. In fact, I know several people who have tested positive for COVID despite never actually going and getting tested for COVID.

One such person who recently tested positive and exhibited symptoms felt like they had they flu, and they have every single underlying health condition possible. They have cancer, they have had multiple open-heart surgeries, they have high blood pressure and cholesterol…you name it, they have it. And they haven’t stopped living their life because they understand that life is meant to be lived freely and with open arms and not in fear.

Will I feel guilty if someone close to me is affected by COVID because we spend time together? No, because every single person who chooses to spend time with us knows the risks and they accept them as their own.

My point is this: We cannot live in fear because it is not living. My grandmother was born in the midst of a pandemic, so she’s been around a century or so, and she is one of the strongest, most agile, most intelligent people anyone has ever had the pleasure of knowing. Her thoughts on living in fear of a virus? I’ll quote a text message she sent me recently. “I’d rather spend my days with my family and know that at the end of my life I got every hug, kiss, and cuddle I could than to be isolated to the point I die of loneliness. That’s not life and fear is a wasted emotion,” and she’s not wrong.

**I am not a medical professional, and I believe you should what makes you most comfortable, what makes you feel safest, and what makes you feel as if you are doing the right thing for you and those you love**

Today, we’re going to talk about how you can take your first steps to overcoming your fear and no longer living in it – whether it’s fear of the unknown, fear of being uncomfortable, fear of rejection or failure or anything else – you can overcome it.

Write down your fears

It’s a small thing, really, but it’s helpful. It won’t work overnight, but it’s the first step in overcoming your crippling anxiety caused by fear. Write it down. Write down what has you afraid. Just make a list. No matter how big or small the fear is, write them down. Write until you cannot think of anything else that you fear.

When I was pregnant with our second daughter, I lived in a state of crippling anxiety. I’d already lost two babies, she was diagnosed at 20 weeks with an echogenic intracardiac focus and we were given paperwork outlining a late pregnancy termination because it was most likely Downs Syndrome and we ‘had another baby at home to think about,” according to the medical professionals we met with. It was three long weeks until we were scheduled to have a level 2 ultrasound at Shands, and it lasted 200 years. Thankfully, she was perfectly perfect and it was just a little calcium buildup. But, it was too late. I just knew something terrible would happen. I knew it. I was horrified, terrified, scared, and in fear every single day the rest of my pregnancy.

I couldn’t look in the mirror without feeling like I was a failure and keep a baby healthy and growing inside me without traumatic situations – it never once occurred to me I’d already done just that with our oldest. I couldn’t feel my baby kick without wondering if it was the last time I’d feel it. I couldn’t think about welcoming her into my life without thinking of everything that could go wrong instead. I perpetuated my own fear on the internet googling things and reading about the experiences of others.

I did the same thing two years ago when our son had an unprovoked grand mal seizure. I lay awake night after night for damn near a year paralyzed with fear that he’d be gone in the morning. It’s impossible to live in that kind of fear. I enjoyed nothing in my life. How could I when I was terrified I’d lose my son? I derived no pleasure in anything for a year despite my best efforts as faking it til I made it.

You know what helped? What helped was sitting down and writing it out. What was I afraid of? Well, I was afraid I’d lose a baby or my son? Why? Because things weren’t perfect. What was the likelihood in all reasonable manners of speaking that this fear would come true? Well, no more likely than it happening to anyone else at any given time. Why was I still afraid?

Write what you’re afraid will happen as a result of your fear

Now that you can see your fears in a tangible situation, what is the point of being afraid of them? What are you worried about? What will happen? Most likely, your fear is not reasonable. It’s blown out of proportion and made to feel much worse than it is. However, if there is some validity to your fear, make a list of what you can do to minimize it.

For example, if you are afraid of dying, ask yourself what you can do to minimize your chance of that happening. You can get healthy. Being active and eating well and getting fit all minimize your risk of developing health issues, it builds and strengthens your immune system to better fight of things like a virus, and it improves your overall quality of life – and prolongs it. There’s literally nothing better you can do for yourself.

You can do this with literally anything, anytime, for the rest of your life. By taking your fears and making them tangible, you can figure out what it is you’re afraid of, how reasonable a fear it is, and you can work on overcoming it by seeing in writing just what is going through your mind. Try it.

Living Your Best Life in 2021 Part One: No More Living in Fear

Happy New Year!

It’s the first week of a brand-new year, and I think I speak for many (if the statuses I saw all morning on social media are any indication of how people feel) when I say that it was nice to begin the new year on a Thursday evening so that it all turned into one long weekend. That week between Christmas and New Year when the world is literally just a blur of sleeping late, being very lazy, organizing your life, saying goodbye to Christmas, and just trying to figure out why there is always so much new stuff to open/assemble/put away is a lot. We are all exhausted from the five months prior. Honestly, though; it’s hectic non-stop from the time the kids go back to school and fall sports begin to the Halloween celebrations and the Thanksgiving celebrations and the Christmas celebrations. Try as we might, we never have a free evening or weekend from August to January due to all the fun that we have going on in our lives.

I’m not complaining about that, of course, but I will say that it’s exhausting. By the time January 1 is here, my body is in shutdown mode. I’m run down, tired, exhausted, running on fumes…you name it. It’s a lot. Thankfully, January is the slowest (read: most blissfully boring) month of the year, and also the time I like to keep my calendar clear and my plate empty. February starts our other season of so busy we can’t breathe (all the way to June), and I like to take this month to just be. Relax. Sit. Sleep a little late. Read some books. Recharge my creative juices. It’s a good month.

January is such a great month to look back, too, over the course of the last year. 2021 is my 38th year on earth, and I’m still amazed at how much can change without anyone even noticing in the course of one year. So much can change – and does change – and it’s such a good time to point out just how simple it is to change your life 180 in a year. On that note, I won’t pretend 2020 was a bad year for us. It was a delightful year. I’m sorry for those who didn’t have a good year, but people have bad years all the time and that shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling guilty about not having a bad year. It doesn’t dull my sparkle, you know? Perhaps that sounds callous, but I also don’t like to dwell in negatively or borrow trouble. Sure, my heart is sad for those who lost someone in 2020 (just as it is sad for those who lost someone any year of their lives, ever). My heart hurts for those who are without jobs, without income, those who are unable to open their own businesses back up, those who are struggling. My heart always hurts for those in trouble.

2020 wasn’t a normal year. At times, it sucked. But, I can promise you that I can look back on 38 other years and tell you that while there were times each and every year that sucked, the sucky parts are far overshadowed by the many good things that happened. I’m a Floridian. With the exception of the first few months of the pandemic when the world was terrifying and scary and we didn’t know what was happening and everything shut down and the future seemed very uncertain, life has been pretty normal around here, and that’s nothing I take for granted.

That said, I know a lot of people are currently living in fear – and I’m here to tell you that you cannot do it. You cannot live with a dark heart and a dark mind and negative thoughts. Fear is your imagination running wild, and it’s no way to live. In fact, the term living in fear is nothing but an oxymoron because you aren’t living if you are in fear. That’s no way of life. Perhaps you don’t realize it, but choosing to live a life of fear is the same thing as choosing to life an unhealthy life. Fear affects more than you realize, and it’s bad, bad, bad for your body, your mind, your soul, your quality of life.

Aside from missing out on living a happy, fulfilled life of abundance, here’s what you’re doing to yourself by choosing to live in fear.

You’re weakening your immune system

If ever there was a time in which you want your immune system to work at its highest capacity, it’s now. However, you’re weakening it by living in fear. Fear causes an increased chance of cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, IBS, fertility issues, and you age faster. Honestly, you’re making yourself sick living in fear.

You’re causing mental health issues

No one wants to suffer from mental health issues, but living in a chronic state of fear does just that. Your fear can increase your chance of developing depression, and it can even cause PTSD.

You’re killing your sleep schedule

Everyone knows by now that you need a good night of sleep to function at full capacity the next day. If your fear is keeping you up at night, you’re killing yourself. You’re making your metabolism work slower, you’re causing fatigue, you’re lacking energy, you’re in a bad mood, and you’re brain isn’t functioning properly.

You’re ruining your brain’s ability to process and react

I’m a chronic over-reactor. I react, then I think about it (I apologize a lot). Chronic fear, however, takes your brain’s ability to process new information and form appropriate reactions and messes it all up. Your brain then fails to regulate your emotions. You lose the ability to take social cues and other non-verbal cues. You no longer make logical decisions, and you’re more likely to react impulsively.

You’re ruining your own relationships with others

At the end of the day, you’re not really doing a good job of maintaining relationships and healthy boundaries when you live in fear. You’re more likely in a bad mood all the time. You’re probably negative. You probably react without thinking first. You probably come across as irrational and out of control more often than not. Essentially, you’re pushing people away from you. You’re alienating yourself, you’re becoming lonely, and you’re left wondering what’s wrong with you. Now you’re stressed, and we all know what chronic stress does to the body.

You cannot live in fear

You cannot do it. You cannot allow fear to control your life. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious or that you should ignore danger when it’s present, but it does mean that you must stop living in a place of fear. Take back your own health and your own mental stability and stop. I’m not a medical professional (there isn’t enough money in the world to make me ever want to work in public heath or education, to be honest), but I know that there are people you can talk to if you’re feeling overwhelmed, fearful, or you’re not sure how to get over these feelings of fear. What I also know is that you have to make it a priority this year. Your health, your life, your quality of living, and everything in between is counting on you ending your fear and living your best life.