Simple Mindfulness Tools to Work Through Fear
The world can be a scary place sometimes. And let’s face it—fear is unavoidable, no matter how much we try to plan, prevent, or cushion our lives.
Fear is akin to our own internal security device or alarm system, alerting us when danger is near so that anything jeopardizing our well-being can be avoided.
And while these days it’s less common for us to find ourselves in the imminent life threatening danger that our ancestors faced or that exists for animals in the wild, there are still plenty of stressors and concerns that we face, sometimes daily, which are just as real.
It’s certain even the fullest and happiest life will contain fearful moments—and may even face sustained fear in light of ongoing situations—but that’s not to say fear is an emotion to be ignored. Suppressing such feelings or waiting for them to pass is a guaranteed way to create emotional indigestion and increase associated emotions like anxiety.
Mindfulness practices such as mantra, affirmations, visualizations, pranayama, and meditation are tools that help us to consciously experience emotion. This means we don’t try to escape our feelings or stuff them all inside, rather we see our fear for what it is and learn to work with it and through it.
Mantras for Managing Fear
Coming from the root words manas (mind) and trayati (saves), mantra means “that which saves.” A mantra is the repetition of a phrase, and as anything we repeat can become a mantra, this can work for or against us.
When we retell the same stories, we create mental grooves. These grooves can turn into ruts when our conversations are about how much we dislike something or someone, how bad things are going, or other negative or dark thoughts.
But when used positively, mantras promote self-awareness and help to heal and decondition the mind. This is a practice that is especially useful to call upon when memories have been triggered and you find yourself in a downward spiral of anxiety and fear.
Replace the mental ticker tape with one of the following mantras, or another one of your own that puts your mind at ease. Repeat it, or even write it, while you breathe slow and deep breaths.
- “I am whole. I am well.” Fear has the power to infiltrate our mind at any time and to make not only our thoughts but our entire being feel broken or disjointed. You might feel like you’ll only be okay when you’re able to put the pieces back together. Use this mantra as a reminder that you are already, and always will be, whole.
- “Everything is exactly as it should be.” Often times our fear stems from feeling as though we have little control over our lives. If you cling to control, this will only make things worse. This mantra will help you find comfort in knowing you’re doing the best you can, and that things always turn out as they are meant to.
- “This too shall pass. Nothing is permanent.” This can be the most reassuring thing to hear when you are in your darkest of times or lowest of lows. Whatever it is that you fear will ultimately shift and change and maybe even provide an irreplaceable opportunity for growth that will serve you later in life. Repeat this mantra when you’re having trouble remembering that these fearful times won’t last forever.
Visualizations to Evoke a Sense of Safety and Security
Visualizations can act as a dress rehearsal for life. If seeing really can be believing, and if we are willing to see that everything will be okay, we have the ability to create our own sense of safety and security.
This is a practice that is most effective when your fear surrounds a prediction, your preparedness, or an upcoming event. For example, if thinking about the presentation you have to give next week makes your palms sweat and heart palpitate, you can play out the presentation in your mind, encountering all the things that could possibly go wrong and right.
If you’re choosing this mindfulness practice to overcome your fear, be sure to do it in an intentional way. Set aside time to sit comfortably in a quiet space where your focus can be solely committed to your visualization. Take a few minutes to simply breathe and clear your mind before you begin. When you have completed, consider writing down what you saw and the emotions you experienced.
Breathing Practices to Ease Your Nerves
There is a strong connection between our emotions and our breath. When we are excited, surprised, or shocked, we often have a brisk and audible inhale. When we feel relief, a deep exhale or sigh typically accompanies the ease that washes over us.
We can use this concept to our advantage if we dedicate time for pranayama and bring awareness to our breathing in acute moments of fear. Here are two pranayamas that can be very helpful:
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing). Among the most balancing breathing practices, Nadi Shodhana is used to cleanse the nadis, or energy channels of the body. With this, we assist our body in creating calm and easing its way from a heightened sympathetic state that our body enters while in a state of fear to a parasympathetic state of calm. When you use this breathing exercise, be sure to be seated upright where your breath can easily flow.
- Simhasana (Lion’s Breath). If it works for the King of the Jungle, why not for us, too? Simhasana is a pranayama that can be used to release some steam, while it also helps to build confidence and release tension. When you practice, imagine yourself showcasing your strength to your greatest fears.
Meditations for a Centered and Calm Mind
The health benefits abound when we regularly meditate, including an improvement in emotional health, reduced stress, the ability to release anxiousness, and enhanced self-awareness.1 When we meditate, we can learn to carry a sense of calm centeredness beyond our meditation and into the day, helping us develop the ability to witness rather than react to situations.
There are an increasing number of meditation tools at our fingertips, including apps, videos, support groups, and meditation teachers. If you’re looking for a simple entry point, try So Hum Meditation and Empty Bowl Meditation.
Herbs to Further Support a State of Calm
As you explore and practice these mindfulness tools, you may be surprised to see how much power they have to shift your state of being and quickly bring about greater serenity. If you want even more support, here are a few herbs and formulas to work alongside your mindfulness practices.
- Ashwagandha has long been celebrated for its ability to support the body in coping with stress and calming the mind. As a highly regarded adaptogen, ashwagandha encourages quality energy without being overstimulating.
- Shankhapushpi is a powerful rejuvenative for the mind and nervous system, promoting emotional stability and mental calm.
- Stress Ease tablets offer strength, resiliency, and tone to the neuromuscular system, helping the body to better cope with stress.
- Tranquil Mind tablets are carefully formulated to soothe and calm the nerves while enhancing a sense of peace and well-being.
The more we practice and use these techniques, the more we learn to work through our emotions in the moment. In this way, we begin to find our way back to a place of strength, resource, and calm, from which we are able to face and tackle any fear head-on.