You may have noticed I broke my streak of posting my usual weekly blog for a couple of months. The reason for this is that I caught Covid-19 in mid-February. I was one of the lucky ones who had a pretty mild case and was able to recover at home without much fanfare. But it definitely knocked me off my stride and it’s taken me a little while to catch up. The whole experience has made me really spend a lot of time thinking about the emotion of fear. It’s taken a while to get my thoughts to coalesce into something coherent around the concept. Here is it.
I had essentially been in a state of terror for 11 months. I live in New York, and Covid really hit us hard at the outset. The state shut down in 2020. My husband’s business, which employed both of us, and others, was closed down for 3 months. My parents are elderly, and one was being treated for cancer. Like many families, we had so many decisions to make.
And I really struggled to manage my mind during that time. I did all the things to keep from getting sick, and to try to keep those around me from getting sick. And I worried, and was afraid- on so many levels. Sometimes I could keep it at bay, but the fear would always find its sneaky way in.
One daughter tested positive as soon as she went back to school in the fall. My son got sick in January. My dad had emergency surgery, twice! It was a roller coaster year of ups and downs. And I know that life is never 100% positive emotions and 0% negative emotions but I was really struggling. And then, despite all my efforts, I felt myself hit a wall. I literally felt as if I couldn’t take any one more minute of Covid, of anything…and then I tested positive.
I kept waiting to get sicker, compulsively checking my pulse ox every hour. Going through a mental loop of “what ifs.” I was driving myself crazy. My husband and I have different triggers for what sets off our worrying, and he clearly lost patience with me constantly running scenarios with different outcomes through my head. It probably would have been fine with him if I could have just kept them in my head, but that is not how I roll.
Thankfully, things turned out ok, but I spent so much time in fear and worry I think I burned myself out and lowered my resistance. However, my experience with Covid reminded me of something important.
Fear can be useful in certain circumstances, like if you are walking on a dark street and hear someone behind you, that little frisson on awareness could save your life. Or with Covid, my reasonable fear made me decide to wear a mask, socially distance, buy and use hand sanitizer in bulk and limit outside contacts, especially when numbers were high.
But all of the doom-scrolling and obsession with statistic-gathering didn’t do anything positive for me at all. My brain had racheted up my emotions into what I would call “unreasonable” fear. And despite that amped up level of fear, and the worry and the preparation, I still got Covid. That extra level of fear accomplished absolutely nothing in terms of protecting me against what I was afraid of. When I think of all the mental and emotional space I gave over to the fear, I realized that the time we allow ourselves to spin out in fear and worry would be better much spent on other things.
Unreasonable fear steals our joy. Many of my clients are struggling with unreasonable fear. This is something we can shift through coaching, regardless of what it is that scares you.