A pattern of fire sparks coupled with winds and fueled by abundant, parched greenery has made the fall months, especially October, a time of fear and anxiety in my neck of the woods. Even just the threat of wildfire brings the potential to be without power, water, or phone service for days on end. And then, of course, looms the worst possible loss, of one’s home. This fear is real, it is huge, and it is my new reality.
This fear of fire — terror, really — defines the way I now exist in my world. How will my neighbors and I cope with this going forward?
Elders Are Particularly Susceptible
Fear is awful; chronic fear is unhealthy both emotionally and physically.
Since 2016, citizens have been dealing with pervasive fearmongering from both left- and right-winged politicians. Instead of rational arguments, they seek support through scare tactics: “Vote for me or the world you know and love will end.” Older people are more susceptible to the most intense fear because we don’t see a sure way to recover from a life-changing event. If my house burns down, do I have several years to emotionally and physically wade through the hassles of rebuilding? If the scariest politicians get elected or re-elected, will I live long enough to see my sort of normalcy return to our nation? Hell, I flip out if my path to the half and half is blocked at the grocery store because it’s 6 a.m. and they’re restocking the shelves for the umpteenth time!
Each kind of fear and how we individually react to that fear is very personalized. Perhaps it’s flooding or hurricanes that could take you and yours down. Perhaps it’s a dreaded disease for which you lack the funds to procure the needed medicine. How one person deals with the fear is always different than how another might. I’m a sponge; I absorb fear. My spouse lets it flow through him, not dwelling on what could be.
The commercial capitalization founded on fear provokes a sort of fear in and of itself. Commercials warn: “Because you live in wildfire country, you need this generator (or face mask, or emergency light).” “Don’t be caught without. Stock up now.” Like the web posts that challenge us to “Learn the silent signs of colon cancer,” fear tactics are more and more prevalent in our daily lives. But how can we trust products that are touted as a means to feeling control over fears? Are the fears even real?
Ways to Deal
Regardless of what your fear is or how you respond to it, there are some ways you can minimize the impact on your well-being. These include:
- Face the fear by naming it and identifying exactly how it makes you feel (irregular heartbeat, sweating, dizziness, etc.).
- Talk to one of your sanest friends. Share your feelings and brainstorm ways to deal with them.
- Increase your exercise. For some reason, exercise helps release the tension associated with chronic fear. The same can be said for meditation.
- In line with more exercise, avoid those things that don’t support you. For me, that’s unhealthy eating and drinking. For others it might be to quit perpetuating fear through wasteful conversations and interactions with others.
- Talk to your family doctor for suggestions on how to deal with your fears. S/he may know of support groups that can help.
- Carefully examine your options relative to that thing you fear. Perhaps it’s moving out of the area that routinely experiences wildfires, earthquakes, flooding, etc. Perhaps it’s unplugging from news outlets and social media that exacerbate fears and that glorify fearmongers. It might be to create an emergency evacuation bag.
- Spend time in nature; be with animals/pets; support others who are struggling.
- If all else fails, seek professional help.
There’s actually a lot you can do to gain the upper hand over fear. It helps to shift your focus to the positive emotions in daily life. And remember to identify meaning and purpose in all that is around you.