When I met Sally, age 60, she was trying to decide if she needed to retire or if she should continue working for another few years. But she was feeling so much fear about this decision, and about the idea of having to figure it all out that she was making herself anxious and unbalanced. As we talked, she got more and more anxious. Her mind started racing and she was developing catastrophic, or worst case scenarios in her mind about what might happen if she stopped working right now and how she might feel. I asked her to just stop and breathe. Bringing her to the present moment allowed her to feel her breath and her fear, and I showed her how she could be calm and just let the fear be right there too. As we worked together she was able to represent the fear with a scarf and move it over so she could explore what was underneath the fear in her body.
Being fearful is part of the aging process. It is simply a way our bodies remind us that we are needing to go a little slower as we move into action about any new change in our lives. When we are younger we can weather the bumps and bruises of transition and change more easily so there’s not a need for so much caution, but when we are in midlife and moving into our 60’s, the fear is present for a reason. If we think of FEAR as being an ally, a part of us that just wants us to be careful and safe, then we can begin to listen to it at “befriend it” as a positive part of ourselves. Let me share a little more about befriending fear….
I deal with fear almost everyday. As I move into my 65th year, I feel it arising when I wake up and sometimes when I am going to sleep. I can describe the sensations of fear in me as a shimmering barrier that comes out of my belly and moves into my nervous system and tries to take it over. If I’m tired, I’m a goner and it seems to take me over in mood and spirit. I deflate, go blank and get clingy and sad. I can end up in tears. If I am being mindful and present, I can simply notice the familiar feeling and start breathing to settle my nervous system. Sometimes, I have to do some yoga breathing and movement before I can begin to face this fear and get curious. How about you? What tools do you have to work with your fear?
- Getting curious is the first step in “befriending fear.” This is about being open to the sensations of fear and slowing yourself down to engage your feeling self/ your intuition.
Second step: Feeling the sensations of fear in your body and breathing into it.
When you open up to the sensations of fear in your body, you are no longer stuck in your fear. You can separate from it. Now get grounded. You can do this most easily by breathing 4-5 deep belly breaths and then moving your body so you can let the fear expand into your whole body — maybe stand up and feel your feet grounded on the earth. This way you can handle it better. Your fear calms immediately because you are grounded and embodied. Then allow yourself to simply focus on the sensations of the fear and be curious.
Third step: Talk to the fear as if it is just a part of you. Ask: What is it that you are afraid of? When you face your fear this way you are befriending it and letting it know that you are here. This usually calms it down and helps you bring all of you with a calmer regulated nervous system to the situation that is causing the fear. You are more able to see the situation and what might be a way to work with this fear. It is usually an ally trying to help you. See if you can see how it wants to help you by creating fear? These questions are best handled in coaching with support, and when you learn to get grounded in nature, nature-based learning is the best of all. I offer this in my nature-based Adventure Retreats. See my blog about my experience of working with my fear on Mt. Killimanjaro.
Here’s the best part: You have all the answers inside you ready to guide you to the next steps in your life. When you can get the fear to slowly move over, you will be amazed what you can see. This is why fear is the Sentinel to your rebirthing. Getting fear as an ally will help you move into healing and transformation.
In my coaching programs for Women in Midlife Transitions, I offer many tools like these to help us face the fear that arises when something difficult happens in our lives, or just in the normal process of aging which is another form of change. Change and transition often bring fear, confusion and overwhelm because we get it hard and fast and it takes us over. I teach tools like these to help you manage all the things that come along with the fear: racing mind, overwelm, big feelings, self-criticism and self-judgment, shame and isolation, sadness, depression.
Ready to work with your fear? My Courageous Transitions Retreat in Vail this July 12- 16 is all about working with your fear in nature. Take yourself away to rejuvenate and renew and learn to face your fear on the Colorado River in a duckie (inflated kayak). Here’s the link to sign up now. Hurry! Early bird rates end April 30th and space is limited.