Face Your Fears - How to find peace in the midst of the panic
Can we all just say it? 2020 has been a year like none other but you can experience peace even when it feels like everything is spinning out of control. And now more than ever before, we need to know how to teach these tools to our students.
November's Challenge: Face Your Fears
In continuing past discussions of how children respond to adult and community fear, I felt it was important to address the issue of fear in us, as educators and parents.
As you may recall, children don't fully understand the situations that make adults fearful, but they sense it in us and hear it in our conversations. They respond to our fear with fear.
The problem is they do not posses the same cognitive tools that adults possess for processing that fear. In fact, many adults have not fully developed these tools for themselves, let alone how to teach them to children.
I thought I'd take us on a bit of a journey to acknowledge what some of you may be feeling, what you can do to find peace when you feel afraid, and how to help your children navigate their emotions in unsettling times. Here's my journey and the tools I use.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
A couple of weeks ago I realized how much more I was reacting to the stress of 2020's events then I thought I was. I'm no stranger to highly stressful circumstances so through the years I've learned how to sustain my inner peace regardless of my outward circumstances.
Lately, however, with a global pandemic, economic upheaval, and unprecedented political unrest, people everywhere are reacting in some way. I've found my own self-talk changing ever so slightly as time and the stress of this year have continued to compound and intensify.
Perhaps you have experienced this as well.
I wasn't reaching my goals and I was finding myself confused and frustrated on how to proceed in the midst of so many uncertainties. Slowly this confusion morphed into overwhelm and fear.
There it is. I said it. I was feeling afraid. I didn't recognize it at first, and then I didn't want to admit it.
I'm the epidemy of the ever-optimistic Pollyanna. I have a degree in this stuff. I wrote the book (several) on emotional safety. The problem was I didn't recognize what I was really feeling. I thought I was just being hard on myself, questioning why I didn't accomplish so many of the items on my Type-A-Personality To-Do-List that I had meticulously outlined last January in all three of my planners.
My first mistake was addressing the symptoms of how I was feeling and not taking the time to find out why I was feeling that way.
Take a Deeper Dive
Thinking about your thoughts is called metaphysics. It sounds like a big, scary, sci-fi word but it's really just the awareness of your thoughts and in the world of psychotherapy, it's the first step to emotional healing.
Metaphysics is like having a skeleton key to a carefully locked gate that bridges your conscious thoughts with your unconscious reactions. It's in this space that your brain allows you to be both an observer to discover why you are doing certain things as well as a master programmer to manually override your automatic responses.
It's a pretty amazing function but it only works if you use the skeleton key that gets you into your brain's master control room. That key is a series of questions that opens the lock. The brain is a sucker for questions and can't resist trying to figure out the answer when you ask yourself them.
For example, if you are acting out of fear, you can stop, ask yourself some questions that unlock that metaphysical space so you can figure out why you're doing what you're doing, or feeling how you're feeling. It's not always as obvious as you think it might be. People do this in some form when they brainstorm, or when they meditate or pray without even realizing how these activities affect brain function. Mindfulness, is a metaphysics technic you may have heard of for behavior management that's gaining popularity.
This is what I did when I asked myself a series of questions to reveal the real reason why I was feeling so overwhelmed.
Name It and Own It
... and then, what I already knew in theory, became clear to me.
Oh yeah, life changed with circumstances beyond my control... beyond anyone's control.
... and it happened to everyone on the planet at the same time. I'm not the only one reeling from the deluge of out-of-control circumstances assaulting our emotional safety like waves crashing on the shore.
And then it hit me. If I, the perpetual optimist and hyper-overachiever, am feeling this stressed, I wondered how everyone else was coping... and that's when I found it. I found peace in the middle of the panic.
I realized that I wasn't out of control, everything else was. I also realized that I was not the only one feeling this way. We're all reacting to national and global events that are affecting us personally. The whole world is responding to fear... and rightly so...
Our unconscious brain is far more intuitive than our conscious brain. It picks up on things and disconnects that we often don't notice or realize are affecting us. It's telling us that things are not right. As our unconscious brain goes into alert status we feel anxiety, fear, and overwhelm. We hate these feelings so we react to them in ways that will hopefully alleviate them and remove us from the situation.
It's a pretty cool alarm system. It can help us be proactive and preventative to situations we haven't even identified yet. At the same time, our brain is a bit hyperbolic when it comes to protecting us so we don't want to be controlled by this alarm system either. We have peace that passes understanding available to us regardless of the circumstances.
Make a Decision
Armed with this epiphany we have a decision to make. We might not be able to change the circumstances around us, but we still have a choice.
We can be overcome by fear or we can overcome it.
Winston Churchill famously said, "Fear is a reaction, Courage is a decision".
Mark Twain and Nelson Mandela both had versions of this saying, Courage is not the lack of fear, but action in the face of it.
As educators, our students look to us for peace in the midst of chaos. We can't give away what we don't have so it's imperative we learn to live in the peace that's available to us.
I'm giving away a free mini-course called Face Your Fears to help you walk through theses steps to help you get to the core of your feelings so you can put together a proactive action plan instead of living in reactionary responses.
Then I want you to teach it to your students.
The Championeers! Cowpie County Adventure explores innovative problem solving utilizing some of the metaphysics tools of mindfulness. It's a much deeper dive into the process than this short overview can provide, and of course, students love it. Remember, all of our courses are now available for online learning and can be utilized by individual classrooms or as a school-wide system.
Enjoy peace as you Face Your Fears and overcome them.
Together, we can do this!