How can you turn fear to courage?
As we transition back to school, there are many unknowns, because this is our first time starting a school year in the midst of a global pandemic. Many of us are experiencing feelings of fear and uncertainty. Questions like, how is this all going to work? How long will this “new normal” last? Whether our role is as an educator, therapist, parent, caregiver, adolescent/child – or a combination of these, all of us can benefit from a few simple strategies to help us better manage our fear of the unknown and find our courage.
Turn fear into courage
One of the easiest ways to change how we feel during the day is to slow down our breathing. When we are fearful or anxious, our breathing is quick and shallow. Slower breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and moves us out of our flight, fight, freeze (stress) response. Take a moment to notice if you are starting your day feeling fearful or uncertain. Acknowledge that feeling and thank it for working to keep you safe and alerting you to the unknowns of the day ahead. Then, try taking five breaths using pursed-lip breathing to transform fear into courage. Breathe in through the nose and slowly breathe out through the mouth with pursed lips (like you are blowing out a candle or spinning a pinwheel – no candle or pinwheel required!). Notice how these slow, pursed lip breaths can change feelings of fear into feelings of courage. If you need to, come back to pursed lip breathing during the day to draw on your courage.
Move into courage
We can harness the power of our mind-body connection by identifying a “brave move” to help us move from fear to courage. When we feel afraid our body tends to cave inward with hunched shoulders, crossed arms, almost like we are trying to hide. Try moving from fear into courage by standing up tall and turning your hands open. Feel how that brings your shoulders back and down. As you stand in Mountain, think of how mountains can withstand all kinds of weather and still stay standing. As you find your strength and courage in Mountain, you might think or say to yourself, “I am ready.” Also try posting the affirmations, revisiting them throughout the day to see if that brings you courage.
Even the courageous need to rest
Build time into your day to reset by taking rest breaks. When we are fearful, our mind and body are on high alert. Taking short rest breaks during the day can buffer our nervous system’s tolerance for stress. Identify simple practices that allow you to rest and reset. Try listening to calm music; reading, listening to, or watching something inspirational (like nature365.tv); or just sitting quietly to be fully present as you enjoy a drink or a snack. Rest breaks can build your reserve to handle the day as it unfolds.
Managing our own stress is important during times of change and uncertainty. Try to integrate these breathe, move, rest practices to build in simple ways to decrease stress this Fall.
Let us know what works for you and how you are integrating self-care into your day!