As long as I can remember I have had panic attacks in the night about not being able to breath. Here I am again, waking up suddenly in a total panic and I jump out of bed and try to calm myself. I walk around a bit, shake my arms and legs and feel the sensation in my chest. Then I go back to bed, feel the warmth of my bed and try to relax my body.
Everything in me wants to jump out and run away, but I force myself to stay with the discomfort of the fear in my chest and not let the energy go to my mind. I know what will happen then. It will start running with questions like “How long will this take?” and “What if I fall asleep and won’t breath?” The panic will only get stronger.
I feel the stress in my chest and breath slowly. I let myself notice that there is actually air coming through my nostril even though it is a bit blocked. Then before my mind can say anything about the blockage and how that could get worse, I focus my attention on feeling the bed again. More and more I relax into the bed. I imagine I sink into the mattress. After a while of going back and forth from panic to relaxing I am totally surrendered. I am so held by love. I have no idea why I was ever scared. The world that looked so hostile a minute ago is this endless sea of love that holds me.
It is understandable that fear comes up in us in these changing times. Our normal life is disrupted and we don’t know what our future will look like. The unknown is usually very scary, because we like to have a feeling of control.
In truth, we never actually know what is going to happen next. We have absolutely no control over our lives. It can change any moment. Deep down we all know that, but usually we hold on to the illusion of control. The illusion that we know what will happen tomorrow.
So in a way this crazy reality at the moment is giving us the opportunity to be a bit more real with what life actually is: A wild river that takes us on an adventure through a landscape that keeps on changing. To be confronted with the extent of our illusion can be really scary.
Fear is one of the most difficult emotions to stay with. It feels counter-intuitive to stay with fear and everything in us wants to run away from it. We usually run away by thinking. This doesn’t help because our thoughts love to go to future scenarios and conjure up awful possibilities, which will make the fear worse.
When we notice that our minds go crazy there is usually fear in our body. Here are some tips how to best deal with this emotion:
Notice where the fear is in your body and what the actual sensation is. Does it maybe feel heavy, or restless, or like a pressure? Be curious what the actual experience feels like in your body. Then relax as much as you can and let everything in you drop and breath out. Imagine sinking in the chair or sofa. You scan your body from feet to head and consciously tense and relax every muscle. Stay with a part of your awareness on the sensation of fear while consciously relaxing with the rest of your awareness. Do this until you are a blob of relaxedness with a little tension somewhere in the middle.
We are often afraid that it we put our attention on the feeling of the fear, it will get stronger or will never leave. But in reality the more we can meet the sensation in our body, the more the fear can move through us.
If the fear is too strong and relaxing is not possible stand up and bounce with your knees and just say “Scared, Scared, Scared.” Shake your arms and legs. Even though this feels a bit silly, the movement helps to move the fear through our body.
And of course everybody can find their own way to stay out of the mind when they are afraid. Like running, bathing or talking to a friend. As long as it stops your mind from conjuring up scary scenarios, anything goes.
In general the rule is; when we stay in the moment with what is, energy can move. When we avoid the actual experience of feelings by thinking, the energy gets stronger.
The more we address our fears instead of running away from it, the more we notice that fear comes and goes. This is very important, because then we get less afraid of the fear. We know it is a temporary thing we simply will have to go through. We know we survived it last time. We identify less with the fear and see it more for what it is: an energy that wants to come through us.
The less we identify with our fears the more we start to trust life. In the end we see the wild river ride exactly for what it is: a beautiful and amazing adventure.