overcoming your fears

Halloween, with its manufactured frights, is over but the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy – nicknamed Frankenstorm – are ongoing throughout the East coast. The power of the storm has created widespread destruction and raised real fears about coping with the aftermath – rebuilding the country and the lives of the affected. Our collective thoughts, prayers and good wishes go out to the victims of the storm as they attempt to deal with their situation.

On Monday, we had three tips for helping when you’re anxious and frightened by events in your personal life – gather information, search out resources, draw on your strengths. Today here are four more suggestions to help you deal with your fears and stresses:

Acknowledge your concerns. Accepting the fact that you have worries is not a sign of weakness but actually the first step in gaining the strength to address them. When you let go of denial and share your doubts with others, they can provide insight, validate your feelings or allow you to consider them from a different vantage point. With the new perspective, you can begin problem-solving and eventually overcome the obstacles that have been frightening you.

Ask for support. Your family and friends are there for you if you let them know your needs. When you draw on the connections you’ve built in your network, both the giver and the receiver feel better. Hurricane Sandy has led to a surge of reaching out through the social media – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram – allowing people isolated by the storm to experience it together. In the next weeks and months, face-to-face support groups will gather to discuss continuing issues in greater depth.

Change your attitude. Reframe your negative thoughts into neutral ones and your neutral ones into positives. Consciously shift your focus from what worries you to what pleases you. Studies indicate that when you write down three things you’re grateful for each day, your mood improves and your optimism increases. Exercising daily reduces negative emotions while it empowers you to take control and develop resiliency. And humor is a great tension reliever – as are deep breathing and meditation.

Share the responsibilities. Remember that you don’t need to live up to anyone else’s expectations or feel guilty that you can’t accomplish everything by yourself. If you dwell on your fears of failure, you slip into a downward spiral of diminished self-esteem. But when you give up some of your obligations, you have more time to nurture yourself and take care of your needs – including a good night’s sleep and a healthy diet. That helps you grow and puts you more on track to achieve your goals.

Despite the genuine personal tragedies created by Sandy, millions of Americans are pulling together to face their very real fears about how they will cope with its effects. The challenges are great, the struggles difficult and the process complex. Let’s offer them our support – practical, emotional and financial – as they gain the courage and determination to live through this worrisome and stressful time.

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