How Do You Cope With Fear?

May 8, 2009

How do you cope with fear?  Whether it’s a nagging worry in the back of your brain or a full blown terrifying revelation, fear can eat away at your psyche and make your life miserable… if you let it.

There are many things to be afraid of in this down economy: being laid off, losing money in the market, swine flu, not having health insurance, bankruptcy, home foreclosure.  Of course our fears aren’t always realized, in fact I bet the majority of times the things we fear don’t materialize and if they do, things aren’t as bad as we had feared.

Fearing Fear
You’ve probably heard the famous quote from Franklin Roosevelt, “Fear All, for Anything Bad is Possible”.

Wow, what a negative thought.  Of course, that’s not what FDR said, his actual line was that the “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”.  I certainly like that thought much better. 

Trying to Worry Less
Instead of spending all our time worrying about what might happen, or what could happen we should focus on the cards we’re dealt.  As Kenny Rogers sang in the Gambler, “Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser and the best you can hope for is to die in your sleep.”  All we can do is make the best of what we have, how we react to these situations has a lot to do with how they turn out in the end.

Reacting to Fear
Looking back on various times I’ve been majorly worried or fearful the term “clouded mind” is a pretty good description of how I reacted initially; or perhaps as though I was having an “out of body experience”.

I was going through the motions but everything was hazy and I was so consumed with thinking about my fear that I felt like I wasn’t really “all there”. Kind of like I was watching myself interact with others but in my mind all I could think was “I can’t believe this is happening”.

Usually after a while I snap out of it and try and focus on forgetting my fear.

Forget Your Fear
Of course, it’s hard to put things you’re afraid of out of your mind all together but there’s no point in wasting time, spending every minute or hour worrying about something that might not even happen.

My best formula for this is to come up with alternative plans and figure out how those would work. Keep your mind busy going through various contingencies. If you never need them, great, at least it took your mind off of worrying.  If you do need them, you’ll certainly be glad you’ve thought up some options.

Looking for the Bright Spot
We fear change because it’s different than what we had planned; the goal we’ve worked so hard towards has suddenly shifted.  But remember, many times the change we fear also holds opportunity.

Some of the best stories I know are tales of creating triumph out of despair. Of course the stories tend to gloss over all the hard work, worrying, and pain involved since the happy ending is often what we focus on.

We all cope with fear differently but the main thing to remember is not to dwell on what we fear. So if you’re feeling full of despair about your depleted 401(k) or impending lay offs the best tip I can give is to expend your enegry figuring out what steps you’ll take next rather than spending all your time worrying about it.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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