In our previous posts, we discussed how there is nothing more fundamentally “alive” than fear. In fact, it’s fear that keeps us alive despite the tigers, freezing cold, and food scarcity that have historically plagued our species. Perhaps this is why fear is so much more powerful than hope.
Psychologists estimate that it takes 10 compliments to counteract a single critical comment, 10 exposures to beautiful, hopeful images to neutralize the fear of seeing a scary picture. The rule of 10 dictates that fear will draw you in at 10x the power of hope, beauty, and opportunity. During times of overwhelming fear, this means that you need to PROACTIVELY reduce the number of exposures you have to the fear and intentionally jack up your exposure to hope, beauty and opportunity.
How can we do that? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Remove the news apps from your phone and time box your news exposure. You can get everything you need in 5 minutes once a day! I always follow what I call my “daily heart attack” with some intentional. I find doing something like this helpful. This is one I do with my kids sometimes when the state of their world seems to have them tied up in knots. For them, that usually means that they have to stop playing video games, but I feel the same sense of frozen panic reading the news. There are endless meditation, hypnosis and flow apps in the world. Try some out; you’re going to need a way to walk yourself back from the edge.
Figure out your strategy for social media and stick to it. My social media strategy is similar to my news strategy. Limit and time box. I went in right at the beginning of this mess and put my most panicked friends on mute. They need to be who they are but my love for them doesn’t obligate me to be exposed to their fears in real-time. I go on once a day and go through my list: I check the coach and therapist groups so that I can see what today’s panic is about so I’m keeping my finger on the pulse of my tribe. Then I check out a few groups that are consistent sources of joy and constructive energy, liking and commenting enough to keep people encouraged, and then I log off.
This doesn’t have to be your strategy!
You can choose to check it every hour on the hour. You can check it once a week. You can put up a header image that says “Sorry I’ll be at the beach during COVID-19” and not look back. It’s entirely up to you and what you want from your day.
More than anything, I just want you to make some choices and be intentional.
Replace news and social media WITH something. A vacuum can’t survive in the infinite universe, so you know it’s not going to work in your life! By this I mean, you have to replace a habit with a habit.
Otherwise, what will you do in the bathroom, in bed, while your kids are off getting the crayons, and when you just want to sit and veg out?
You need a plan for those moments, too. I suggest you make yourself a list of approved websites, a few youtube playlists filled with cat videos or Zumba videos, and download some feel-good books on your kindle. Now, instead of endlessly scrolling through the New York Times App, I read some of whatever feel-good novel I’m reading.
Yesterday I real “The Art of Inheriting Secrets” (free with Prime Reading!) and it was exactly the escapist feel-good novel I was looking for.
What’s your jam?
Should you read Dirk Gently? Abe Lincoln, Zombie Hunter? Or Great Expectations for the 100th time? Whatever works like candy for your brain, get it downloaded and in place!
Tomorrow we will dive deeper into how to counteract fear with the opposite of fear: presence in the present.
For now, I encourage you to be as intentional as possible with your ratio of fear to hope. Nothing matters more.
Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.