Faith Over Fear
As humans, we crave certainty. So much so that we plan EVERYTHING. We want to be in control. In fact, our brains have been wired to crave certainty.
On the contrary, we fear the unknown. Uncertainty brings anxiety. Not feeling in control makes us uneasy and like we are under threat.
Research shows that people worry more about the ‘what ifs’ than what is actually happening, and that the anticipation of an event causes more anxiety than if (and when) the event actually occurs. Experiments have also shown that participants who are told something may happen experience higher levels of anxiety and fear than those who are told something WILL happen. The uncertainty is too much to handle. Even if the outcome is negative, if we know for certain, our brain is satisfied by having the full circuit of information and the anxiety, although present, is less severe.
But, the reality is that we have no idea what life is going to throw at us. These past two years, living during a pandemic (on top of everything else), has tested our uncertainty, fear, and anxiety on levels we never knew existed. Our lives have been upheaved: our routines have had to change, and plans have had to change or be cancelled altogether NUMEROUS times. We have dealt with loss in all its forms, and we have been beyond afraid. So, how do we cope when we crave certainty but live in such an uncertain world?
FAITH OVER FEAR
The opposite of uncertainty is not certainty, it is FAITH. We must choose to live in faith, rather than fear. Yes, this isn’t always easy to do- but the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Yes, it is important to plan for the future. Yes, it is important to have goals. But what we must not do is WORRY about the future. We need to choose to live in the now and be present. The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know what the future brings, so choosing to trust and have faith that we will get through- no matter what- is paramount to thriving. We need to accept that uncertainty is a part of life and learn productive ways to deal with it, rather than worry about it.
Don’t always believe your thoughts. Trust yourself and have faith that no matter what, you will be okay. Things won’t always go according to plan, and although that is tough- so are you. You have done it before, and you will do it again. You are resilient. This is not to diminish what it is you are going through. It is hard. But worrying and listening to ill-behaved thoughts (especially about the future) certainly won’t help.
How to live with faith rather than fear?
– Reflect on and acknowledge what we have been through or are going through. Give it words, your own words. When we give a feeling or scenario words, we lessen the control and power it holds on us. As the saying and strategy goes, ‘to name it is to tame it’. We will also start to feel more in control of our thoughts, feelings, and life. It will help us to focus on the now, rather than worry about what may be.
– What can I control? What can’t I control? It is really important for us to identify what we can and can’t control as this helps us to identify our ‘pointless’ fears. Again, this is not diminishing a feeling or situation. But we are wasting our precious energy by worrying about something that we can’t change, control, or predict. Once we have identified what we can control, it gives us the power to ACT and acting reduces our anxiety and fears drastically.
– What am I grateful for? Gratitude and Anxiety can’t co-exist. We should never underestimate the power of gratitude. By focusing on what we do have and are grateful for, we activate our ‘happy’ hormones, which obviously reduces the hormones that promote stress and anxiety. Again, it also helps us to really focus on the now.
– Set a routine for familiarity, normality, and a sense of control. We crave certainty and there is nothing more certain than a daily routine. Familiarity helps our brain to identify certainty. It is obviously important to note that plans can and may change, so having a sense of flexibility is also important.
– Drown out unnecessary sources that may be harmful to your mental health. If there is a specific show you watch, account you follow or app you use that causes you to worry, fear or feel bad about yourself and life, then delete it. What information you choose to feed your mind is up to you. Apply filters necessary for your mental health.
– Be kind to yourself and others. Kindness is so cool; it feeds grace and gratitude and restores faith.
– Let’s be brave in our decisions and bold in who we are and what we stand for. Be confident in who you are and that you will make the right choice. The more confident we are about something, the less fearful we will be in making that decision. Humble yourself in times when you don’t know it all or don’t have ‘the answer’. It is in these moments that your faith becomes even more important.
– REACH OUT to a friend, family member or professional. There is always someone willing to listen. We were not meant to live this life alone; you are not supposed to deal with problems by yourself. We are built for togetherness, belonging and community.
There will be times that life throws you a curveball and you are left with more fear than faith, regardless of how proactive you have been. Now what? When in doubt or feeling overwhelmed: purge your thoughts and feelings. If you do this soon and often enough, you may prevent the thoughts from turning into feelings. You may try using meditation, prayer, breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, exercise, journaling, writing, talking, dancing etc. Whatever works for you!
Fill out an anxiety questionnaire to find out where you are at.
Remember, always, that:
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and loved more than you know.” The wise words of Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh.