How to Deal with Anxiety and Fear

Image of a road in an article about a journey

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately, as the departure date for our three-month, cross-country road trip draws near. Because well, I’m afraid.

Last week at a bar in NYC, some dude I’d never met before asked me if I was going to bring protection. At first I thought he was talking about condoms and I was confused. I wanted to ask him what his deal was, but then I realized he was talking about a gun.

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if we were bringing a gun, I’d have like, six dollars.

Now listen, I don’t own ‘a’ gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate…

Why would I need a gun? Stop it. You’re giving me anxiety.

My mom’s boyfriend gave me some bear spray. That stuff seems legit. Says it can take out a bear at 30 feet! 30 feet! A bear! I should be good, right? That’s what I thought but, some people don’t seem to agree.

Wait do people really have guns? Jesus.

More than one person has flat out told me that I should be scared too, as if it’s never occurred to me before.

Um, no shit. Thanks. Have we met? Of course I’m scared. Do you want me to list off everything that I am actually, physically afraid of? How much time do you have?

We can start with my legitimate fear of the dark at the age of 32. I don’t know how many times I have to say it but, I’m really not joking. JB bought me a night light alarm clock so that we don’t have to sleep with the bathroom light on anymore. Didn’t work. We still do. Now there’s just a night light on too.

Oh and I just read that New Yorker story about “the big one” hitting the West Coast sometime soon. Yeah, apparently we’re 215 years into a 243 year cycle of epic earthquakes and any day now, boom. Something else to trigger my anxiety, now I don’t even want to go to Seattle.

Regarding our specific trip though, I’m mostly scared of rattlesnakes. I just read Wild. By the way, you couldn’t pay me enough to do what that chick did. Walk around in the woods for months on end all by myself. Sleeping in a tent. In the dark. Alone. Hell no.

I’m also scared of bears. We saw one at my mom’s house just the other night. It was kind of cool but, also very scary.

And let’s see oh yes, your occasional, run-of-the-mill, serial killer just lurking about on open stretches of road in the middle of nowhere waiting for our truck to break down. That’s how most murder movies start, right? In the woods … with a car breaking down … murder.

Come to think of it, we definitely should not have sex on this trip either. Everyone knows that the people who have sex in murder movies are the absolute first to get themselves chopped up, especially the chicks with big boobs. Oh no … You guys … I have huge boobs.

See what I mean? This is legitimately how my mind works if I let it run amok.

JB on the other hand, seems to be scared of very little. Not of the dark. Or bears. Or rattlesnakes. Or even serial killers. He keeps talking about “chances” and “the likelihood” and “percentages of people who actually get chopped up by serial killers”.

Actually, he is scared of being tickled. In fact, the guy is terrified of it. Really doesn’t like that at all.

The point is that my world is inhabited by a decent amount of fear.

And honestly, if something were to happen to JB out there in the wilderness of say, Alberta, I would be screwed. Before I met him, my personal definition of “outdoorsy” was sipping Sauvignon Blanc on the beach. I do have a right to be scared.

All of this being said though, fear is a actually big motivator for me. I’d really, really like to cease being such a giant pansy and I believe that taking action is how to do that.

Taking action in the face of fear is how we overcome it. The more we do it, the easier it becomes and the richer and fuller our life experience can be.

The bottom line is that I’m scared of a lot more in life than I need to be, as I think most of us are. Most of the fear we face is inside of our own minds.

As this trip approaches, fear is rearing its ugly head big time. I am beyond excited but, that excitement comes with a side of anxiety.

It mostly consists of shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, clammy hands and feeling like my throat might close. There are moments when I wonder if I’m making a giant life mistake and want to crawl under my desk and breathe in and out of a paper bag.

As the date comes closer, these moments have become more intense and more frequent but, being the well-trained self-help junkie that I am, I get it. I know what’s going on here.

It’s called a comfort zone breach and I’m steadily approaching it.

My ego is telling me to run along and freak out, chop, chop, go back to where I’m safe with dental insurance and the ecology of my life is not being changed or expanded in any way.

But after much experience and observation, I’m aware that these moments are going to come and then they’re going to go. The only thing to do is press on because, life is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway, amiright?

  • Going on that first date after your last break-up
  • Hitting the gym when you feel like you’re too fat and everyone will make fun of you
  • Making the phone call you’re dreading
  • Taking the chance
  • Asking him out
  • Quitting the job

Whatever your version of this road trip is in your own life right now.

If we’re on this road of growth, expansion and happiness, we know that any experience worth having is generally on the other side of the clammy hands and racing heart. It’s always on the other side of fear.

So, we have two choices. We can either shrink back and stay where we are or, we can feel the fear and do it anyway.

In my experience, most of the fears are unfounded anyway. In my experience, it’s always best to feel it and do it anyway. Ya know?

Here are some great tools to help you move past your own fear, if you’re struggling with it.

Okay. Here we go. I really hope I don’t get chopped up.

Dana

Author Dana

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