NO FEAR reads the bumper sticker on the loud truck that backfires as it speeds by me. My body jumps and prepares to flee as my sympathetic nervous system kicks in with a rush of adrenaline telling my body to get to safety. When I realize that I’m not in danger, I laugh at the irony of the bumper sticker and continue walking to my yoga studio. It takes me 20 minutes into the class to calm down, feel my breath deepen and my heart rate slow, and for the cortisol rush to subside.
Instead of NO FEAR (which isn’t possible and when repressed can ooze out in strange ways), how can we cultivate a healthy relationship with fear?
Our body is intrinsically designed to keep us safe. Sometimes we live with chronic stress and fear that can take a toll on our health and drive us to make irrational, maybe even harmful, choices.
With the global pandemic we are living in a fear soup. I find myself getting caught in a fear loop—what if my parents get Covid? My children? How will my yoga studio survive this shut down? etc.
Our yoga practice can help us to get out of perpetual fight or flight mode (sympathetic nervous system) and help our nervous system balance so that when it’s time to activate we are kept safe and when it’s time to rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) we can relax.
Here is what I try to practice when I am in a state of chronic fear/stress:
- Be with it like I would with my child who wakes from a nightmare Pause, listen, feel. Sometimes, I write down my fear or speak it to a loved one. Be curious—maybe this fear has an important message for me. Maybe I am in in an unsafe situation.
- Notice where I feel it in my body I may notice my chest feels tight, my guts wrenched.
- Belly breathe and make space I take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths and imagine breathing to the areas of my body that feel tight.
- MOVEWalk in nature, practice yoga, dance, connect with my body. This helps move the stress response hormones through, disrupts the hamster wheel brain and brings me back to the present moment.
- Rest and rejuvenate Take at least 15mins for a couple of restorative poses and savasana.
After moving through these steps, I am able to make empowered decisions, that are not solely based on ungrounded fears.
When you feel afraid, use it as an opportunity to practice and notice what do you have control over and what do you not have control over, and to recognize when you are in imminent danger and need to get to safety or seek help. I hope with the help of these tools and the support of your yoga practice, you are able to feel times of safety and peace during this time of great fear and uncertainty.
Amy Robinson is the owner of 3 OMS Yoga, and has been teaching yoga and building community in Bellingham for almost 20 years. She is passionate about sustainable living and business practices, and is also on the board of Sustainable Connections. Click here to learn more about Amy and see her teaching schedule.