Life has a way of constantly testing us. Sometimes we get lucky and coast for months or years without any major problems or fears. And other times, everything comes crashing down all at once, day after day, and our limits are put to the test. Things have been rather rough and stressful for me over the last month, but I’m trying really hard not to let that get me down. I keep telling myself, I will never surrender!, but sometimes I can barely think straight. In any case, I’m taking some much needed time today to take a step back, reflect on life, and work on overcoming fear.
My mother is a constant worrier, and although that’s unlikely genetic, it sure feels like I inherited that trait from her. I’ve had a fair amount of my own struggles with overthinking things, which is one of the worst ways to handle fear. Overthinking exacerbates the emotional side of fear and makes us feel overwhelmed. But I think we’re all capable of incredible things, including overcoming fear if we give ourselves enough time and support.
Confess, Cope, And Get One Step Closer To Overcoming Fear
When I was a teenager, I made a list in my diary of all the things that scared me at the time. My goal was to keep that list until I could cross off every single one. I had no idea if it would even be possible or how long it could take, but you know what? I did! It took me several years, but I managed to overcome all of those fears. Since I’m feeling overwhelmed lately, I’m going to try the exercise again and share it with you.
Perhaps confessing will help me get one step closer to overcoming fear and create a helpful dialog in the process. Surely one of you out there reading this post has one or more of the same fears as me. Please let me know if so, because it really helps not to feel alone!
8. Fear Of Rats, Mice, Spiders, And Bugs
I’ve lost count of the number of rats, mice, spiders, and bugs I’ve encountered around SF. EW! Rats are just nasty, and with all the construction going on in the city, they are crawling around in a lot of places. And I’m not talking small rats either. I’m talking big nasty rats that are larger than squirrels and probably carry diseases, who knows.
Mice aren’t as bad because they are SO much smaller, and somewhat cute, but I still don’t want to encounter one. I was at a cafe a few weeks ago and saw a mouse sprint back and forth 6 times in the middle of the day. He was actually a cute lil guy since I wasn’t just a visitor there, so I just went about my own business, but if had seen him in my own house I’d be screaming lol.
And I don’t know why, but spiders seem to have some weird attraction to me. I find them everywhere! Tiny ones, long legged ones, furry ones, really ugly ones, and giant ones. Gross. Thankfully there aren’t a ton of bugs and mosquitos here, but any mosquito in the area always seems to find its way into my ears. I hate that!
Coping strategy: I think most people would agree any encounter with these things is unpleasant. I can’t really imagine getting over my fear of them, but perhaps I can worry less if I 1) Don’t leave any food out, 2) Call the exterminator if needed, 3) Use bug spray, 4) Keep windows and doors sealed tight.
7. Fear Of Getting Mugged
SF is a pretty safe place, but there are a lot of crazy people here. The ever rising number of homeless, drug addicts, street criminals, and mentally ill residents doesn’t help. I know several people who have been mugged in the city, thankfully they are all okay, but this is not an experience I want to encounter. Plus I probably look like an easy target.
Coping strategy: 1) Don’t carry any valuables, 2) Learn self-defense, 3) Stop walking and texting, 4) Walk fast, 5) Stay alert.
6. Fear Of Driving A Car Without Breaks
I have a recurring dream that I’m driving, lose control, and can’t stop the car. I keep slamming on the brakes, but nothing happens, and I’m caught in a panic trying to swerve the car around to prevent it from crashing. I’m sure this is caused by some type of psychological stress of feeling out of control of the things happening in my real life.
Coping strategy: 1) Don’t drive too fast, 2) Regularly replace brake pads rotors, 3) De-stress, 4) Remind myself of what I do have control over in my life.
5. Fear Of Ending Up Alone
Both of my parents live alone. They like their independence and have their own small circle of friends, but I’m sure they both wish I lived closer. And I know they probably wish they didn’t end up having to live alone in their retirement, even though their divorce was a positive thing.
I remember vividly the sadness and tears that would well up in my grandmother’s eyes every time my parents drove me away after a visit. Those memories are hard to swallow. Gosh that could be me someday waving goodbye from the front porch, or maybe I won’t even have grandkids to come visit me when I’m old. Sob, sob, sob. I remember too how much she missed my grandfather, and that made me so sad. Better to have loved than lost, than never to have loved at all. But, losing a loved one can’t be an easy passage either.
So yes, I fear ending up alone someday without family nearby and not having a close network of friends to keep me company either. I don’t want to end up sad and alone! While I like having time to myself now, and I enjoy being able to do solitary things, being alone can get very lonely rather quickly. I’ve moved around and changed circles of friends so many times in my life, yet I still fear being alone someday.
Coping strategy: Does everybody fear ending up alone as they get older? I’m one of the types who imagine only a few people coming to my funeral. That’s rather depressing now isn’t it? My tendency to overthink definitely makes overcoming fear a lot harder. But I need to remind myself 1) I can always move to be closer to people I care about, 2) It’s not a big deal to make new friends at any age even if it takes time, 3) There are support groups and clubs I can join, 4) I could get a pet, 5) I have a lot of amazing people in my life now that I shouldn’t take for granted, 6) Love travels long distances, 7) Technology makes it a lot easier to stay in touch with people.
4. Fear Of Failure And Forever Treading Water
When things are going well at work and my stress levels are low, life is so good. I had it good for most of this year until the summer when a bunch of things started falling apart and came crashing down on me. These down times definitely make my fears of failure escalate, especially when I feel like I’m up against so many obstacles that I can’t quite climb over.
As much as I’ve tried to be more efficient and become a master of my to do list, I struggle just like everyone else. I hate the feeling of being behind, and that’s how I’ve felt for the last several weeks. It’s not a good feeling. And it also makes me further doubt myself in the less stressful times – Why didn’t I get more done before when I wasn’t dealing with mn, opq, rst, uvw, and xyz?
I fear that I will always be slow and won’t be the powerhouse, hyper-focused, project master that I want to be. I fear that I will fail as an entrepreneur because I will get too overwhelmed from the difficult tasks and will not push myself enough to get out of my comfort zone.
Coping strategy: Overcoming fear of failure is not an overnight exercise. But I think I share this fear with a lot of other people. Anyone who wants to be successful will naturally have a fear of failure. So in my coping strategy I should 1) Remind myself of all the things I have accomplished and overcome so far, 2) Remember that failure is always a learning experience and can even be a good thing, 3) Know that I can always try again if I fail, 4) Plan – prioritize – prepare – execute, 5) Don’t beat myself up because everyone goes through rough patches, 6) Believe that the good times will return, 7) Stay patient, 8) Don’t ignore my limitations, 9) Keep going.
3. Fear Of Kids And Not Having Kids
I’ve written about the fears I have with kids before. This continues to be a fear of mine that has lessened over the years, but still hangs around in the back of my mind a lot. I fear having kids will lead to divorce, which I’ve seen way too many times amongst close friends and family, several of which I thought would be together forever.
But on the other hand, I also fear never having kids will leave me feeling always a bit empty, unfulfilled, and rather lonely when I’m older. I also have fears of waiting too long to start a family, suffering from miscarriages, having a child with severe special needs, or just not even being able to have kids in the first place. I know way too many people who have suffered from infertility, multiple miscarriages, had children with special needs, and divorced after having kids. And although I’m open to the idea of adopting, I also fear the challenges and difficulties that come with that.
Coping strategy: I definitely think I have more fears than most people about kids. But time has taught me that overcoming fear is possible since I do feel my fears of having/not having kids has decreased over the last few years. In any case I should 1) Remember that every family and situation is different, 2) Stay healthy to keep my options open, 3) Trust that there is never a “right” time to have kids, 4) Stop putting unnecessary pressure on myself, 5) Work through the situation if/when the time comes, 6) For every negative, think of at least 2 positives, 7) Let go of jealousy and uncertainty, 8) Enjoy as much time as possible with the young ones in my extended family and network of friends.
2. Fear Of Career Change
When times are good, I really enjoy my day job. But unfortunately when times are bad like they’ve been lately, it’s very tempting to yell obscenities, walk away, and just leave those stresses behind. It’s been about a year or more since I’ve felt the amount of pressure that I do now at work. And it’s frustrating because things were going so well, but now I’m back in a bad stretch again and am forced to micromanage a lot of things in order to try and reduce the number of fire drills that don’t seem to stop coming up. I’ve fought so hard to get to where I am in my career, and that definitely makes it hard to think about the possibility of “giving up” and doing something else.
I’ve worked with some fantastic people for so many years too that they feel like family. And this loyalty in me, perhaps to my detriment, is making it very hard for me to even think about walking away. And even though the stressful times have really tried my patience, I have a lot of fear of leaving. I fear the loss of a reliable, and quite comfortable paycheck. I fear the loss of practically free insurance. I fear having to start worrying about money and monthly cash flow for potentially years and years. I fear the arduous process of looking for another job or taking a leap of faith and not being able to sustain myself as an entrepreneur.
Coping strategy: Overcoming fear of changing my career isn’t going to happen quickly or easily for me. But I will try to 1) Remind myself that continuing to jeopardize my health just to be the loyal employee I’ve been for so many years is becoming foolish, 2) Start asking for more help or more compensation, 3) Get more confident that I’m a desirable candidate that can get hired elsewhere, 4) Continue to save as much money as I can to help during a transition, 5) Talk to people who’ve left and moved on to better things, 6) Continue to take advantage of the current benefits and flexibility my job offers, 7) Update my resume, 8) Take more time off and not feel guilty about it, 9) Stay positive.
1. Fear Of My Aging Parents
Although they don’t really know it, I worry about my parents a lot. So much in fact that I really wonder if I worry more than the average person my age or not. My parents are now in their late 60s, and they’ve had more than their fair share of health issues. Cancer, tumors, anxiety, depression, knee surgeries, hernias, ruptured disks, arthritis, and more, which I doubt they would want me to share.
They joke when we talk that it sucks getting old, but I know there’s a lot of sad truth in that. I wish I could make them immune from all of the vast number of health ailments out there, but I can’t. And I have a lot of fear about their health for their remaining years, fear they run out of money, and fear the day they can’t be independent anymore due to Alzheimer’s, another illness, or disability. They are managing ok with their insurance plans, but even still costs add up quick.
I also live on the opposite side of the country, so although that’s not been a significant problem so far, it will make things difficult later. They both like where they live so I don’t want to make them move if they need full time care, but it’s not very feasible for me to move back East either. I fear I will become really depressed in this process too. Plus I forgot to mention they’re divorced and live several hours apart, so I fear how I will manage if they both need help at the same time. I just don’t know how other people in a similar situation as me would do it.
Coping strategy: If I want to overcome the fears of my aging parents I need to 1) Stop putting unnecessary pressure on myself when their health is out of my control, 2) Encourage them to stay active, 3) Keep in touch regularly, 4) Remember I’m not alone, 5) Not be afraid to hire help if the time comes, 6) Join a support group, 7) Start a special savings account to go towards their future care, 8) Stop overthinking about problems that don’t exist yet, 9) Do the best I can and focus more on the positives than the negatives.
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