It doesn’t take much for me to become completely unraveled by fear. As you know, I have been fighting hard against this instinct for the past two and a half months throughout the course of my Braver Than Before journey. Fear is my greatest battle in life, and I have been struggling with irrational fear ever since I was a small child.
How many of you, at some point in your life, have ever found yourself running at full speed up the stairs from the basement, convinced someone scary is chasing you? Surely I’m not the only one. Once you reach the top, somehow you instinctively know that you are safe… but you still need a few moments (or a few hours) to catch your breath and calm yourself down from the episode!
Or, have you ever had one of those friends who likes to sneak up behind you and then suddenly grab your shoulders and shout just to startle you because they think it’s funny? I have a few of those friends. In fact, I married one of them! Someone did that to me yesterday, and it probably took me twenty minutes to half an hour of deep breathing just to get my heart rate down and find myself back in a relaxed mental state!
See, it really doesn’t take much to unravel me.
And those are just a few of the silly, irrational things that can set me off. I haven’t even gotten into the actual stressors and triggers that life brings along every single day that can cause serious anxiety. Things like work deadlines, surprise health concerns, sudden changes to your schedule, failures, losses, financial emergencies. We all face these triggers at some point or another, and they all have the potential to completely unravel us.
So what do we do? Just miserably plod through life dreading the inevitable? Or live in blissful ignorance thinking that everything in life is perfect, and then be completely blindsided when disaster strikes? I don’t really think either of those approaches makes sense.
More and more in life, I am learning that a well thought out, intentional approach goes a long way. I don’t want to be unprepared to face major life crises. I don’t want to be caught off guard by a major repair bill or a sudden change in plans that creates an inconvenience for me. I don’t want to be a person who gets down and looses her cool, just because something doesn’t go my way.
It’s hard not to feel completely unraveled for a little while when someone grabs you from behind and startles you… but you still have a choice. You can be mad at them for finding humor in startling you, or you can laugh it off, calm yourself down, and move on. That’s what I did yesterday. And yes, it took me some time to bring myself back to a place of peace and calm, but it would have taken me even longer if I’d been angry or annoyed.
In the same way, when I face major stressors and anxiety triggers in life, I have a choice. I can let them completely derail me from the moment I come face to face with them, or I can choose to actively work through the symptoms they generate, coax myself back to a place of calm acceptance, and move on. It helps if you have something solid to cling on to. For me, that is my faith. I cling to Jesus, because I believe that He can carry me through anything.
I’m not saying this is an easy thing to do. I’m simply saying that to me, it seems preferable to a lifetime of miserable dread or blissful ignorance. I think life is better when you are willing to accept that you can’t avoid hardships, so instead you resolve to face them with graceful optimism.
What unravels you? What are your main stressors and anxiety triggers, and how do you prepare yourself to face them with grace?