How to Stop Your Fears from Hurting You
Fear, panic, anxiety, worry, concern. These are various names for fear. Everyone has felt them and it hurts. Fear doesn’t hurt just emotionally though. Living in any of the variety of fearful states is also harmful to us physically.
One of the side effects of trauma is living in a frequent (or constant) state of fight or flight. It’s like living with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. This kind of fear hurts us in many ways.
The good news is there’s hope.
You can stop your fears from hurting you by learning how to calm them.
HELP INSTEAD OF JUDGEMENT
There’s a verse in the Bible I used to beat myself up with. Maybe you’re familiar with it. In Philippians, it says “Do not be anxious about anything”.
Those words didn’t help me to stop being anxious. They helped me feel judged for “being in sin”. I’d attack myself wondering what was wrong with me thinking to myself “why can’t I just stop being afraid?”
I spiraled in fear for a long time due to the childhood trauma in my life and judged myself for that too.
Then I discovered the truth. Being afraid is not a sin and I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I needed help.
God didn’t write “do not fear” 365 times in the Bible to oppress us. We aren’t like dogs he’s commanding to sit, or stay, or lay down. The truth is God understands how much fear we will have to deal with and gave us help every day because he loves us.
This help is called grace and it can calm your fears.
Unaddressed fear steals your time, your peace and also causes a host of health problems you may not be aware of.
Fear silently hurts you and I’ll show you how.
WHAT FEAR DOES
Fear ruminates. When you ruminate you rehearse something that hasn’t happened. This is also called worry. The dictionary defines worry as:
- to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts.
- to torment with cares, anxieties; trouble; plague.
- to seize, especially by the throat, with the teeth and shake or mangle, as one animal does to another.
Read that last one again and then close your eyes and envision that picture. Do you feel that tension in your gut?
Fear and worry hurt you by being physically destructive.
HOW FEAR HURTS YOU PHYSICALLY
When fear activates the fight or flight system inside you, it releases the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. In emergency situations, these are helpful. But not when fear has you by the throat.
The symptoms fear can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle aches and pains
- Nausea and digestive problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Breathing issues
- Racing heartbeat
- Trembling and twitching
- Suppression of the immune system
- Problems swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Short-term memory loss
- Premature coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
When you rehearse your fears the result is a chronic undertow within you. The constant negative internal energy will steal your health unless you find a way to calm it down. This is why God wants to help us stop being afraid.
Calming your fears is good for your immune system.
THERE IS WAY TO CALM
If fear has you by the throat what are you to do?
I lived with fear having me by the throat for many years, clueless how to calm it—until a certain day.
Here’s my story.
We were living in Arizona, far away from family. That alone was a big stressor for me that I didn’t deal with well. I was suffering panic attacks and taking Xanax even before we moved there. Add to that two deaths in the family, the housing crash of 2008, and unemployment to name a few, and I was a bit of a mess.
(Sounds oddly familiar to the turmoil of 2020 and beyond)
I was fearfully ruminating inside me: What about this and what about that.
One day while moaning to the pastor’s wife she told me to “cast my care.” Here were words like the ones in Philippians. They were familiar but instead of helping me, I felt judged, attacked. Self-condemnation said I should know better.
This was the day I discovered the help of God. The Spirit of Grace opened my eyes through words that escaped my own lips.
I snapped—”I don’t know how!”
Those 4 words were the pivot point in my life—I don’t know how. They implied there was a way—and if there was a way—then I could find it – enter hope!
We can find a way to calm fearful worrying.
FINDING THE WAY
After I got that epiphany, I prayed and asked God to show me the way, to teach me how. He did. Grace teaches.
It wasn’t instant. It was a process he carried me through. That’s how grace works.
He showed me that fear is a bully that pushes and demands action.
But because the action that it demands isn’t possible it leads to the pretend-action of rumination. Fear always plays the worst-case scenario in the mind and emotions.
Imagine all that fear like a surge of water in a tsunami.
That surge of water from a tsunami is going to go somewhere. The surge of water can’t be stopped in midair. The only thing that can be done is to redirect the forceful water to an intentional place.
Likewise your fear. You can’t just stop feeling the forceful fear. To calm your fear it must be redirected to a different place than inward rumination. The fear needs to be put somewhere outside of you.
I learned it’s all about trust.
To calm your fear you need to give it to someone trusted. The key is in the place you trust.
To be able to cast my cares on God required my soul to trust Him.
Trust is not something we can demand of ourselves. Trust is something that grows.
I learned that trust is based on love.
Fear blocks trust.
Love, real love is more powerful than fear and when given the opportunity it purges fear out of our hearts and builds trust.
Love doesn’t fear or worry. Love believes. Love removes the root of fear when trust is strong.
I learned it’s about His love, not me following orders.
What a relief. When the Bible tells us to cast all our cares on God, it’s because of His love for us, not a demand for compliance. He cares about us. Our cares matter to Him. He invites us to give them to Him because He can handle them and we can’t.
Learning to trust Love is how we put a stop to fear.
How much fear you live in is evidence of how much you trust Love, or don’t. There is no judgment where you find yourself—it’s just where you start. Love is patient, kind, and full of grace. My story is evidence.
My trust in Love was small but God took what I had and made it bigger. Now every morning I remind myself of what Love says.
Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. —1 Peter 5:7 AMPC
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:6-7 (TLB)
These words calm my fear and help me intentionally trust instead.
Calming your fears will produce increasing amounts of peace.
How much do you struggle with fear? Does it keep you up at night? Would you like some practical and love-filled help?
- My colleague and I are hosting a LIVE 90-minute Workshop
Friday April 30, 2021 12:30-2 (EST) Join us and get the help you need. Space is limited so don’t delay.
Danielle Bernock is an international, award-winning author, coach, and speaker who helps people embrace their value and heal their souls through the power of the love of God. She’s written Emerging With Wings, A Bird Named Payn, Love’s Manifesto, Because You Matter , and hosts the Victorious Souls Podcast. A long-time follower of Christ, Danielle lives with her husband in Michigan near her adult children and grandchildren. For more information or to connect with Danielle https://www.daniellebernock.com/