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There's no "I" in FEAR




It’s June 9th, 2020. COVID abounds, white supremacy abounds, and consequently (and rightfully so) there is a very visceral and very global vibe that is ripe with one, highly relatable emotion - fear.

Fear of what? You name it, close your eyes and point. Fear of the unknown, fear for our own livelihoods and the livelihoods of our loved ones, fear of financial instability, fear for our immune systems, fear of a disease that we cannot see, and fear of another disease that we cannot see, much less cure with a vaccine - racism.

On a primal level, fear becomes present as a tool to keep us alive and out of harm’s way. It dilates our pupils and sends a rush of blood to vital organs and big muscle groups. Humans needed fear to detect immanent threats. In today’s society we are much less concerned with bear and wolf attacks then we are with things like bills, travel, and social situations. Consequently, our brains mistake these stressors for real life threats, putting us in a chronic state of fear, a.k.a, anxiety. While some of our anxiety may be used as a tool to keep us on track, we often make the choice to identify with our fear and let it control our lives - this is when fear becomes;

F. - False

E. - Evidence

A. - Appearing

R. - Real

With all of the extra stressors that have forced many of us into a state of worrying about the unknown, (I can’t even f***ing imagine what it must be like to be the mother of a BIPOC right now…or all the time for that matter), I began to wonder…what happens to the brain when we feel fear? What happens to our physiology when we are exposed to chronic anxiety? What steps can we take to ease the effects of fear and anxiety on our bodies?

The following is what I found with a little bit of research...

What happens to our brains when we feel fear?

Fear is processed in the sympathetic nervous system, you may have heard it as the part of the brain that is responsible for “fight or flight.” It’s part of the autonomic nervous system, which is essentially responsible for things that happen “automatically,” like breathing and digestion. According to Dr. Daniel Evens, Ph.D., who practices at the UW Neighborhood Northgate Clinic, “Fear kicks your fight-or-flight response into overdrive. Your adrenal glands secrete adrenaline. Blood flow decreases to your brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for logical thinking and planning, and the deeper, more animalistic parts of your brain—including the amygdala—take over.

What happens to our physiology when we are exposed to chronic anxiety?

Another word for chronic fear is anxiety, something we are much more accustomed to in today’s society. Our brain creates anxiety out of perceived threats, not imminent ones. When the body is exposed to chronic anxiety, it may lead to very serious and long term health defects. According to Elisa S. Epel at the University of California in San Francisco’s Department of Psychiatry, “Chronic stress can lead to overeating, co-elevation of cortisol and insulin, and suppression of certain anabolic hormones.” Weight gain that is attributed to high levels of stress, accumulates in the muscle tissue. Added fat can cause inflammation, therefore inhibiting the efficiency of the immune system, and making us extra vulnerable to disease. Inflammation can also be attributed to the rapid aging of cells. Over time, the energy dense food we overeat due to stress can cause insulin resistance, which can lead to a myriad of other chronic illnesses. According to an article post on the University of Minnesota’s website, chronic anxiety can also lead to brain damage - resulting in lasting effects on long term memory and the brain’s ability to store information.

What can we do to ease the affects of fear on the body?

We have to first be able to recognize where the fear and anxiety are originating from, and realize that we have a choice to either recognize with it (“I am an anxious person - I am my anxiety), or, use it as a tool to our advantage. For example, if I am anxious about an upcoming deadline - instead of choosing to let the fear control my actions and thoughts, I can choose to notice where the fear is coming from, acknowledge it, and then actively make decisions in the present moment to set me up for success - THIS is how we vibrate higher! An example of acting out of fear might be binge drinking to ignore the emotions arising out of fear, or acting irrationally towards a loved one.

The following are some actions we can take to stay present; in a quest to reject the option of living in a fallacy where False Evidence Appears Real -

1. Do not avoid your fear, that only gives it more power. Understand it, embrace it, learn from it, love it - to move higher - Fear is never present for no good reason.

2. Create time for a daily meditation practice. Sit in quiet space, close your eyes, focus on your breath.

3. MAKE TIME FOR EXERCISE - increase your overall health and wellness, including heart health/circulation. It is a great way to remain present, and in my opinion, the most versatile and best form of meditation (and medication).

4. Eat well and avoid excess alcohol consumption. Eating foods low in nutritional value and maintaining excess ethanol in your system is, quite literally, adding fuel to the fire when it comes to managing chronic anxiety.

5. Find a support group! TALK about your stressors, more often than not, talking about your anxiety by shedding light on it will strip it of its power. Remember, fear and anxiety feed on darkness.

Our fight or flight systems are designed to keep us alive. When our brains mistake life’s stressors with immanent threats, chronic anxiety takes over. WE HAVE A CHOICE - and it starts with self reflection, education, and practices that allow us to remain present, while analyzing the thoughts that are there to help us, and those that our minds create to work against us.

We have to notice, educate ourselves, take appropriate action steps, and move forward in self love and care…so you can be a light for your loved ones and your communities.

To your success and well being - I am always in your corner.

ALL MY LOVE!

-Em.

References:

https://rightasrain.uwmedicine.org/well/health/your-body-fear-anxiety

https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/impact-fear-and-anxiety#:~:text=Impact%20of%20chronic%20fear,bo....

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3595162/

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/overcome-fear-anxiety


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