Feeling stressed, anxious, or totally overwhelmed? Here’s how to tune in to what your fear is trying to teach you – and how it could turn out to be your greatest teacher.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling seriously stressed out.
So much has been on my mind; my anxiety has flared up, my body’s filled with tension, and my focus has been totally off.
I’ve been worrying a lot – and making the classic mistake of putting all of my precious attention on what I don’t want, instead of what I do want.
It’s all felt way too overwhelming, until this morning.
I read a previous journal entry which reminded me how precious fear can be (and that’s all stress and anxiety is – it’s fear, in disguise).
The question I’d asked myself was, “what is your fear trying to teach you?”
I sat for a while and pondered the question my past self was (coincidentally) posing to me.
And I realised:
- I’m out of alignment; one of my work projects needs evaluating for reals, because it’s not the right fit for me right now
- Life is short and it’s not waiting around for anyone, so I need to stop putting stuff off
- I need to clearly define what I want so I can move ahead
- My self-care has been pretty poor recently, which is making the stress harder to deal with
This was the wisdom of my fear – what my stress was trying to teach me.
Breathe into the fear
Before we can actually do anything about our stressy feels, we have to breathe into the tension we’re holding in (and around) our hearts.
Stop for a moment now, and ask yourself how you’re breathing.
Is it deep and delicious, or shallow and surface-level?
If you’re feeling stressed like I was, you’ll likely be breathing predominantly into your chest. Your heart and lungs might feel pretty tight.
I do a lot of breathwork and meditation on a daily basis, and yet I still felt like I was ‘holding on’ to fear – I was storing it up for winter, allowing the toxic energy to calcify around my internal organs, too afraid to face it.
But when we counter this by consciously breathing love into our body, we naturally melt fear, stress, and anxiety. We can then accept and acknowledge the tension that’s taken up residence as a result.
Once we recognise fear for what it is, we can listen to its wisdom.
We must turn towards, and look it right in the eye.
Try this: breathe into, and out from, your heart – allowing any tension to melt. Gently scan your body, and allow yourself to release any gripping or holding, and imagine yourself opening up like a flower.
Ask it to speak
Once we’ve acknowledged our fear, we can communicate with it.
More specifically, we can tune in to it without judgment, and allow it to guide us forward.
We can ask our fear to speak with us in a few different ways.
This morning, for example, I simply allowed myself to breathe, sit in meditation, and asked my fear directly, “what are you trying to teach me? What am I not seeing? Is there something I need to be made aware of?”.
The answers flowed to me easily – but it doesn’t always work for me.
Sometimes, I’ll journal instead. To do this, I pose a question to myself, and work through my answers in writing. This often brings up surprising ‘hidden’ thoughts and beliefs, tapping into the darkest depths of my psyche.
Please understand; asking our fear to speak is a truly brave act.
It means we’re rejecting avoidance, and instead embracing difficulty.
Instead of running away from our fear, we’re allowing it to teach us. And fear can be our greatest teacher.
Try this: sit in meditation, or grab your journal, and ‘speak to’ your fear. Ask what it’s trying to teach you, what you’re not seeing, and what you need to be made aware of.
Make an open-hearted plan
Once we’ve truly acknowledged and listened to our fear, we can then make a plan for how to implement its wisdom.
The first two steps are vital, because we can’t make this plan if we’re stuck in fear.
Otherwise, we’d be allowing fear to be in the driving seat – but fear should never be allowed to make our decisions.
That’s how disaster strikes.
This morning, I realised I’d been letting fear drive me all over town. I’d been letting it dictate the choices I made for far too long.
And as much as I’d become better at rectifying this (i.e. releasing clients whose values were incompatible with my own), I’d still been focusing way too much on what I didn’t want, and making my decisions based on this.
So I asked myself:
- How do I want to feel every day?
- What do I really want out of life?
- What does this look like to me?
Based on my answers, I came up with specific actions I could take to help me actually achieve these things.
After all, vision + action = the manifestation of our desires.
Try this: ask yourself how you want to feel instead of fear/stress/anxiety, what you really want, and what that looks like to you (i.e. your vision). Make it real by meditating on it, journaling about it, or even doodling it.