The importance of warding off fear

I, like many others, am finding that the weeks since the election have brought up a lot of challenging emotions. I do not want to assume that we all share the same political point of view, but nearly everyone I have been in touch with is concerned about extreme statements that were made made during the election and many of the directions being taken to date by the incoming administration. I need to address the emotional responses to those developments, and hope that we can all be empathetic to one another in order to be calmer, hear each other and discuss our points of view with respect.

For context, I want to tell you about why I am feeling especially concerned now. I am Jewish. My father grew up in Paris. When the Nazi regime occupied France in WWII, he and his parents and brother made a perilous journey through the country and over the Pyrenees mountains to stay ahead of the Gestapo, who would have sent them to a concentration camp. They were imprisoned in Spain for several months, and after entering Portugal (also without papers), they found safety and finally got visas to come to the US. Many of my relatives were not so lucky. In addition, my mother-in-law, who grew up in Germany, was an 11-year-old child when her mother sent her out of the country on the Kindertransport to save her life. So, my first-hand knowledge of the ways that authoritarian leaders curtail freedoms and are dangerous is keen. And, while nothing of that extreme nature is happening now, I see very frightening similarities in the way our president-elect has spoken over the last year and since the election, has rallied support employing blatant lies, has tolerated and encouraged the hateful and dangerous behavior of extremists, manipulates the media, and is surrounding himself with people who have histories and agendas for curtailing liberties in many ways.

And, many other agendas trumpeted by the incoming administration are very worrisome. These include proposed changes to healthcare policy and education, building relationships with authoritarian leaders of other countries, and reducing protection of our environment, to name just a few. This does not feel like the America I have always know. And, as I hear from so many people, concerns about matters like these lead to feeling fearful.

And fear is a problem. Because when we live in a state of fear, we are actually inhibiting our ability to think. We suffer from high levels of stress. We can become paralyzed.

Now, more than ever, we must not let ourselves become victims of fear.

We must think clearly and remain able to discern. We must be informed and alert. We must think together about the actions we can take to have a positive impact in times of uncertainty or danger.

But how can we stay informed and yet resist the overwhelm of constantly reading and watching the news (and steering clear of so much false news)? How can we foster the kinds of clear conversations that will lead to the emergence of wise end positive ways to respond effectively? How can we take prudent actions without getting carried away? How can we protect against living in a state of anxiety?

A wise friend told me that at her church, they often say: Want what you have. Do what you can. Be who you are. These words struck me as helpful guides for these times.

Want what you have. This seemingly simple statement emphasizes the importance of being grateful for what you have. There is scientific validation for the benefits of gratitude, for thinking each day of at least three things for which you are grateful, and why you are grateful, too. Rather than longing, feeling gratitude for what you have keeps you grounded. It keeps you in the moment, it and ensures that you do not lose sight of the goodness in your life. For despite your concerns, there are so many reasons that it’s a wonderful time to be alive.

Do what you can. None of us has all the answers or can do it all. Accepting this is important, and keeps overwhelm at bay. But, the message also tells us that we are able to do many things. We can help others in need. We can foster important connections and facilitate meaningful conversations. We can contribute to organizations that are doing important work that will be needed now more than ever. We can teach tolerance and model living with love as a driving force. And, we can — and must — each be leaders as we do our important work in the world.

Be who you are. We are all unique and distinctive human beings. This is the time to authentically be who you are, and appreciate yourself. Be true to your values and beliefs. Honor the contributions you can make to your family, your community and the world.

As we strive to be vigilant without getting pulled into fear, we have opportunities — to be courageous and to be creative. We need to muster courage for the important work ahead, and we need to activate creative thinking now more than ever. We can come together for comfort and support, inspiration, and also a sense of power to be able to collectively effect change.

Courage and creativity are among my fundamental principles for living big. When we are courageous and creative together we can ward off fear and live through challenging times with more confidence and hope. And in addition, it’s important to know that love is a powerful antidote to fear. When we focus on the power of love we are stronger. (You may want to check out this article, that I found to be both insightful and inspiring).

I’d be happy to hear about how you are feeling now and what is helping you to ward off fear.

And, as we look ahead to the holidays and the conclusion of 2016, I send you my best wishes and a vision for a new year filled with love, tolerance, abundance and peace.