Coping with FEAR
We all have fear, it’s how we as a species has survived this long. Our amygdala or “Reptile Brain” as this is often referred to, keeps us safe with the amazing ‘fight or flight’ response. It can also keep us STUCK when we react out of fear. Coping with fear is something all of us need to learn – including families living with eating disorders.
Having just written briefly about coping with fear while parenting a child with an eating disorder I found I had to face some fears myself. I really thought I was no longer afraid of anything after having faced a child’s two suicide attempts. You see, I have serious motion sickness (there is a photo somewhere of me looking like Kermit the Frog off the coast of Hawaii…) and don’t like large crowds (I live within 30 minutes of Mall of America and avoid it like the plague). When my husband qualified for a short cruise through his work… I had to put my big girl panties on and face both fears. I’m very independent, not a rule follower, I like my freedom and usually take the road less traveled…but that is another whole post.
The thought of possibly being sea-sick for 3 days and being stuck on a ship with 4,000 other people made me nervous enough to go to the doctor to get a prescription for a motion sickness patch (and I don’t like going to the doctor – but the upside was an experiment of asking not to be weighed and they RESPECTED it). I also bought dramamine and made sure I had my “sea bands” that use accupressure to help with motion sickness issues. And I bought a homeopathic from my chiropractor to take along. So I thought I was really prepared.
While standing in line to be “processed” to get onto the ship, fear took hold as my reptilian amygdala kicked in and the fight or flight response was in full gear. I was realizing that I was going to be “trapped” on a moving ship with all of these people. I kept having visions of the titanic…or the recent cruise ship disasters…did I mention I really like FLUSH toilets that WORK? I got cranky and when I was told I had to take off my music headphones I got even more tense. My personal freedom was being taken away. It wasn’t very reasonable but the fear response was powerful.
I became aware I was observing how I was reacting (or over-reacting more specifically), which did calm me down a bit. This I soon remembered, through my lizard brain fog, is a great tool for coping with fear, simply noticing objectively how one reacts. Funny how the coach has to coach herself sometimes…we all need to practice self-care.
Becky Henry facing fear.
When the music was taken away for a bit I still had the breathing slowly tool. I wish I had prepared a bit ahead of time for how I might react. I helped knowing that I really do have some tools from all that I teach parents who are coping with the omnipresent fears of caring for a child with an eating disorder. Standing on deck watching the shore slip away was a bit unnerving as you can see from the hesitant look on my face here…
No matter what size the fear or how real the danger here are a few tools for coping with fear you might use next time you want to CHOOSE how you react to a scary situation:
- BREATHE – s-l-o-w-l-y and consciously
- Be an objective observer of how you are reacting
- Have calming music and or scents to relax you
- Use humor
- Think of what you have overcome in the past
- Ask yourself, “Am I safe right now?”
- Get help if you need it
I am happy to report that I had no sea-sickness and actually had a relaxing time on the ship, mostly. I didn’t love the crowds, the closet that was our stateroom, the hallways that looked just like the set for the movie Titanic or having to use hand sanitizer 3 times a day prior to eating (they require this) but I found quiet spots to get away from the crowds and was glad I know how to swim and we were in warm waters. Thank goodness for Jimmy Buffet and iPods…
I prefer looking at the ocean from land. I got a few days in Florida after the cruise and here you can see how much more I like viewing the ocean from solid ground. More travel tales coming in June as I face the fear of being on a plane for 20 hours as I head to the At Home With Eating Disorders Conference in Brisbane, Australia! There is still time to sign up and join me!
What are your favorite fear fighting tools? Please share.