FACING FEAR ITSELF

(Published in Spiritually Speaking of The Daily Guardian on April 19, 2021 [e-paper] and April 21, 2021 [online edition]

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

—US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his inaugural address in 1933.

We live in an age dominated by fear. Whether now because of coronavirus or earlier because of the threats of nuclear war, terrorism, environmental destruction or economic depression; there is always something to be afraid of.

Whether it is on the global scale like the things mentioned above or it is at a more personal, family or local stage – fear is a constant in our lives. There is no point denying it but instead to overcome it by pulling the bull by its horns.

Courage is not the absence of fear but it is the management of fear by facing it head on and changing the mental conditions within us that have contributed to us feeling afraid. Everybody in this world has some fear or the other, but through a conscious effort we can overcome our fears in order to live better, peaceful and more productive lives.

Many times, the things that we are afraid of are just in our minds and the likelihood of these things happening is very rare. Let us look at some examples through a little mental exercise. Think of the worst fear you have. It could be anything. You could fear losing a loved one, or falling very ill, facing financial crisis or any other such fear you may have. Think about it in a calm and rational way. How often has it actually happened? Probably never or at the most rarely.

Let us take the coronavirus situation that we are all currently facing. Let us look at some numbers. According to JHU CSSE Data—the total number of cases of coronavirus in India since the start of the pandemic is 14.3 million out of which 12.5 million have recovered. The total number of deaths is approximately 174,000 since the beginning of the pandemic. That means of the people who have got it only 1.2 per cent have died. 98.8 percent of people have survived. The current population of India is about 1.36 billion, which means that 1 percent of the Indian population has gotten Covid-19 since last year. 99 percent of the population have not got it. About 174,000 deaths out of 1.36 billion people means that only 0.01 percent of our population died of coronavirus. 

Now let’s look at normal non-Covid deaths in India. According to Medindia data, 26,789 deaths occur daily in India, this means 9,778,073 deaths annually. So, in a span of more than a year 174,000 deaths happened because of Covid—this is only 1.7 % of the total annual deaths in India. This means that 98.3 percent of people who died in India in the last year, did not die of Covid-19. 

Having said this, we should take all proper precautions to save ourselves and others from getting Covid but we should not unnecessarily panic. Heart disease, cancer, road accidents, TB, suicide kill more people annually in India than Covid-19. 

What is it that we are afraid of? How likely is it to happen? What will happen if it happens? Most of the time we never get to see the things we are afraid of—either they never happen or even if they do they weren’t as bad as we thought it would be. But in either case, it is important to face the fear head on. There are many situations in life that we are afraid of. Most of these situations do not involve any kind of physical harm. There is a fear of failure or rejection.

Have you ever had a lingering anxiety or worry about having a particular conversation with someone about a ‘difficult’ topic? Have you wondered how someone would react if you said or did something in particular? There are many situations in life that we dread. We constantly keep imagining the worst possible outcome. The fear, anxiety, worry and dread keep increasing with each moment that the fear is not faced. But when you take a bold and courageous step and face your fears—stand up to that bully, have the difficult conversation, get that medical checkup done, take that plunge and start a new business and so on – when you actually do the thing you feared you will immediately feel a huge burden lifting off your shoulders. 

Some other ways to ease your fears are:

Deep and slow breathing whenever you are afraid. This will instantly make you feel better.

Ask yourself ‘What is the worst that can happen?’ Many times we are afraid of irrational situations that never happen.

Don’t be afraid of rejection. Sometimes we put off having a conversation or asking for something we want because of fear of rejection. Most of the time this is irrational and unwarranted because many times the rejection does not happen. But even if it does, ask yourself “So what?”. Pull up your socks and try again later

In relationships as well, we are afraid that we will lose our loved ones in some way either through death or an end of a relationship. In the former case, there is really nothing that we can do about it. People die when and how they are destined to die. You can only try your best to help them. In the case of an end of a relationship on the other hand, people are often afraid of losing their significant other through a variety of ways. The most common fear is that the other person will stop loving them. If this happens, it is not the end of the world. Life and love go on and you never know who you might meet in the future.

Keep yourself calm by having faith in a higher power that you invite into your life to give you what is best for you, irrespective of if it is the outcome you want. Have faith that a higher power resides within you and that it will always do what is best for you.

So yes, we are living in strange times. But it is not the end. This is only one more chapter in our human story. Do not take the pandemic lightly but also do not overly panic. Numbers are rising but they will subside when people start to take more precautions. Live your life with caution but not worry or panic. Remember you are not alone. We are all in this together and as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”