Conquering Fear in a Crisis

Hell has bestowed upon us. Quite literally. With the virus spreading like wildfire, the chaos of finding treatment, death tolls being reported like never before there is undeniable anxiety for the infected loved ones and of course the uncertainty of resuming life again….
In all of this, fear has found its happy place in our minds and our bodies.

Nothing can describe a crisis better than this, where the sense of precariousness seems insurmountable. It’s also where our challenge, of not letting fear get the best of us, hits a whole new level.

In times like these fear is inevitable and while it’s important to be on high alert watching out for ourselves, holding on to fear for too long can also paralyse us, here’s how:

When living in a perpetual state of fear or high alert, the body releases an excess of cortisol. This flares up inflammation, slows down digestive functions, increases lethargy and weakens the immune system which makes one more susceptible to illness and disease! Basically living under constant threat is bad news for us. It’s like inviting attack when we’re already vulnerable.  This is where the body-mind connection becomes real and not just some jargon holistic practitioners preach.

The message cannot be clearer. Chronic stress is a silent killer.

So how then do we hold ourselves together when circumstances are as dire as they are and fear is living right around the corner.

We rise above the situation.

Science draws a strong correlation between optimism and health. In a 2006 study exploring the effect of optimism on viral infections of the respiratory tract, 193 healthy volunteers were given a common respiratory virus. Subjects who had optimistic personalities were less likely to develop the actual viral symptoms than their less optimistic peers.

Taking the cue from this study, if you’re feeling distressed about yourself or a relative being infected, rather than panicking by looking at the death tolls, shift your focus to all the people you know who have recovered. At the very least this brings about a sense of hope and hope is the greatest construct that inspires us to keep pushing through.

Breathwork is another great tool for getting the body out of acute stress and calming down the nerves. Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman recommends the Double inhale- long exhale technique to release Co2 that’s built up as a result of excess stress. This breathing technique essentially resets the body’s level of alertness and promotes balance in the system. Getting sucked in the news and watching all kinds of statistics can be overwhelming and when we get in that zone we just cant think straight.
So when panic levels start to rise, pause and let the diaphragm take over, because you can’t talk yourself out of fear but you can certainly breathe your way out of it. The body has a magical way of telling the brain ‘it’s okay, you got this’.

When your back is to the wall, it’s only natural to call upon your faith, a higher power, whatever you may wish to call it. Few of us tap into the power of our minds though and creative visualisation is one such technique. Channelling your imagination towards a desired outcome has a profound effect on the body that is apparent in numerous studies where patients have healed themselves from chronic pain, trauma and injuries. The effectiveness of this process is really about being able to cut across your current state of health and employ all your senses to visualise a healthy, healed body free from this nasty virus.

Fear can either debilitate us or fuel us. Given the dire straits of affairs, it’s best to channelize fear to take appropriate action and do all that needs to be done for our individual and collective sanity.

The current support initiatives at a mass level have reflected that we’re in this together, regardless of our individual scenarios. The more we seek to serve others around, the more hope we build and the more united we feel in rising above this confronting  situation.

In a way this is already conquering fear, at least at a physiological level because gratitude, compassion and service, releases the good stuff like oxytocin that supresses the fear based chemicals and thus behaviours.

In spite of all the chaos around, getting our brains to function optimally is the greatest need of the hour because the only thing we are ultimately in control of is how we manage ourselves and show up for those around who need us.

Covid may have tested the shit out of our patience but let’s not allow it to strip us off our resilience and courage.  

Care to share?

Feel free to comment with any thoughts or takeaways.