A tool for dealing with fear and anxiety

Kim Henderson
Reading time: 4 minutes

By far the hardest part about going through cancer for me was the fear and anxiety that seemed to pervade much of the experience. Fear crept on me like a sucker-punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of me when I least expected it. In my experience, the physical effects of cancer treatment were like a walk in the park compared to the places my fearful mind took me during those dark days.

Fear and anxiety go hand in hand. And, as I have come to understand, it’s my thoughts that create the emotions I’m feeling, that produce the fear and anxiety. Your thoughts are creating your emotions, every minute of the day. However, most of us fail to recognise this simple fact. Can it be that simple?

A woman mediates alone on a beach in the morning sun
Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

There’s a distinct feeling of freedom that comes from recognising that your thoughts are responsible for the way you are feeling today. As humans, we are all constantly thinking. Our brains are literal thought machines, designed to be constantly gathering data, evaluating, judging and trying to make sense of the world around us. Our brains link associative experiences in order to give meaning to our lives. Without our brains, we would not be able to understand our environment. These super-computers are our biggest ally and also our greatest enemy.

Thinking happens so unconsciously that most of the time we are not even aware we are doing it. Thinking, like breathing, is so automatic, that until you place your awareness upon it, you don’t know you’re doing it.

Take a moment to focus on your breath.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Now think about this: until the moment I brought your attention to it, you were completely unaware of your automatic breathing capability. Unless you have recently climbed a flight of stairs, or been on a run and become breathless, you will remain blissfully unaware of this totally automatic process.

Thinking is exactly the same. Somehow, we become so conditioned during life, that we are unconscious to the fact that we are all constantly thinking. Thoughts come and go, as frequently as Twitter updates. And yet, we don’t realise we have the ability to control our thoughts, and this includes controlling our reaction to our thoughts.

We all do it so automatically and so naturally that we forget that:

  • We can manage it;
  • We have the power to direct it; and
  • We are actually in charge of it.

Being unaware of this can have serious ramifications in our lives including leading to, but not limited to: worry, angst, tension, anxiety, uneasiness, fretfulness, fearfulness depression, panic, and sometimes even a complete mental health breakdown.

Your thoughts can cripple you or crown you. Your thoughts can magnify your weaknesses or celebrate your strengths. Your thoughts can overwhelm you with an ocean of negativity or surround you with a tide or positivity. The choice is yours.

You can choose to focus on the fear and pain and continue to suffer. Or you can focus on the lesson that the struggle is trying to teach you, and continue to grow. The choice is always yours. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Especially when it doesn’t feel like it.

By far one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned during the past few years is meditation. Far from being just a way to relax, meditation is a tool I use to centre my thoughts and create positive focus. Meditation enables me to gently release thoughts that are not serving me.

When I first began a meditation practice, I didn’t really know the first thing about it. I felt silly and awkward, but I was in such a dark place with my thoughts controlling my every waking moment, that I decided I had nothing to lose. I decided to give it a go.

I downloaded a free, simple, guided meditation from isha.sadhguru.org. I committed to practising meditation twice a day, and the results were breathtaking. Although it was challenging at first, within a few days, I was able to gently let go of some of my troubling thoughts.

Within a couple of weeks, I was able to recognise when my dark thoughts were creeping up on me. It was like I was able to step outside myself and observe my errant thoughts, holding no judgement about them whatsoever. The practice of just observing those thoughts, without judgement, seemed to allow them to dissipate.

I have since begun practising a few other guided meditations by some outstanding spiritual teachers Rebecca Campbell and Gabby Bernstein and I am grateful that they continue to share their wisdom with the world.

Perhaps you have reached a point in your life where you are ready to finally get out of your head and to move onto the next step. A new, more powerful place awaits you. Why not give meditation a go? You might find it becomes an essential life tool.

Peace. Unity. Love.