Living Through Fear and Anxiety

The world has gotten scary. Here are ways to cope.

Posted Feb 01, 2018

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist author, and teacher said, “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.”

It’s brilliant, beautiful, and seems perfect. The only problem is that most of us can’t do it for five minutes, let alone for our entire lives. These teachings are not meant to train us to change after hearing the words but are rather a guide to what would be ideal. I believe this state of mind exists for a few but not for most of us. Still, I keep striving to get there, and maybe that’s the point.

It’s not about entirely eradicating anxiety from our lives; that’s not possible, and there’s no need to set yourself up for failure. You don’t need to emotionally beat yourself up every time you worry. We’d all be getting a daily Xanax IV. Now, I’m not saying it’s good to worry, but when and if you do, it’s not a horrible thing, and you can have a full and long life even if you are a chronic worrier. You may not enjoy yourself that much, but it won’t kill you. This isn’t just my opinion: I’ve done the research and lived with daily fear long enough to know I can always recover and move on. And yes, worrying is also a waste of time, and for me, that’s motivation enough to continue to keep striving to be more in the moment.

I think it’s hard to be a fearless person when we are living in such a scary world. According to The Guardian, there is a mass shooting—defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter—every nine out of ten days on average. That’s 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days.

I get it, leaving the house and going to a concert is now a risk, and everybody thinks about it. We even train our children to fear, and this started years ago. Remember “duck and cover”? That was the era I was raised in, and today little kids have to walk through metal detectors when they go to school. Fear is now embedded in our society. The terrorists are getting what they want, or so they may think.

If we all learn to live in fear, they have won. If we instead live with some caution and leave the suffering behind, we will win. The same is true for your personal life. The things that scare you must be faced head-on, and you have to remind yourself that you do have this inner strength that has performed miracles in the past and is ready and willing to do it again.

You don’t have to be at one with the universe. You just need to control your own mood a little better by reminding yourself that you have gotten through much worse and you will survive this current situation as well.

Make the choice that you are going to enjoy life and live it to the fullest even though there may be something that is ready to pull you down. This is true for all of us. Our worries are always there when we stop to look at them. I suggest you just pass them by, and when you think you can’t, remember that you do have some choice here: make a positive one.