Yes, You Can Feel Safe in a Scary World

Yes, You Can Feel Safe in a Scary World

The coronavirus, raging wildfires, mass shootings—the world has become an increasingly scary place. You may be filled with anxiety about the latest threat—COVID-19—or wracked by obsessive worries about what might occur in the future. In our modern world, it seems like there is always a threat looming. Can you ever feel safe? You can’t stop what’s happening around the globe, but you can change what’s going on inside your brain to prevent fear from ruling your life.

Your thoughts are hardwired to be negative.

Given our ancestry, negative thoughts protected us from early death or becoming supper for more powerful animals. From our earliest times on earth, being aware of and avoiding danger was crucial to survival. Unfortunately, even when the world became safer, negativity bias remained in our brains.

Researchers have demonstrated that negative experiences have a greater impact on the brain than positive ones. People pay more attention to negative news than to positive news, which is why news outlets typically lead broadcasts with floods, murders, political disasters, and these days, coronavirus. Studies from the content marketing website Outbrain.com found that the average click-through rate on headlines with negative adjectives was an astounding 63% higher than positive ones.

Negative emotions outweigh positive emotions, which is why it is critical to discipline your natural tendency toward the negative and amplify more helpful thoughts and emotions to help you feel more safe and secure regardless of current events.

Here are 7 ways to retrain your brain to fight fear.

1. Change the B stuff.

We are not controlled by events or people, but rather by the perceptions we take of them. Perception is the way we, as individuals, interpret ourselves and the world around us. The view that you take of a situation has more reality than the actual situation itself. You don’t need to try to change the outside world, but rather to change your inside world.

Take a look at the following A-B-C model:

A is the actual event.

B is how we interpret or perceive the event.

C is how we react to the event.

Other people or events (“A”) can’t make us do anything. It is our interpretation or perception (“B”) that causes our behavior (“C”). Questioning the “B” stuff is so important. It can make the difference between feeling secure and fearing that your life is about to end.

2. Focus on what you can control.

So many external events are out of our control. Natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and health threats like the current COVID-19 pandemic can come out of nowhere and have devastating effects. Rather than letting your thoughts spin out of control about what might happen, shift your focus to the things you can do to prevent a problem or react to it if it affects you. With the coronavirus, the CDC and WHO have shared many strategies to protect yourself. Keep those top of mind, and repeatedly tell yourself you’re doing the right things to stay safe.

3. Disconnect from 24/7 news.

Staying glued to the TV or scrolling endlessly on news sites on the internet can fill you with fear. Allowing yourself to be constantly inundated with scary headlines can keep you mired in a sense of panic. Research shows that just 14 minutes of negative news has been found to increase both anxious and sad moods. Minimize your exposure by setting time limits for viewing and internet browsing. Stick with about 5 minutes during the day, and skip it at night completely when it is more likely to interfere with your sleep.

4. Adopt rational thinking.

Developing the habit of accurate, honest, and disciplined thinking is essential to feeling safe in times of stress. This is not positive thinking, which can actually inhibit feeling better over the long run. In fact, people who live by the philosophy “don’t worry, be happy” die the earliest from accidents and preventable illnesses.

Killing the ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) is one of the best strategies to change your thinking and conquer overwhelming feelings of fear and anxiety as well as obsessive worries. You can learn to eliminate the ANTs and replace them with more helpful thoughts that give you a more accurate, fair assessment of any situation. Simply notice your thoughts when they are negative, write them down, and talk back to them. If you can correct negative thoughts, you take away their power. This skill alone can completely change your life if you embrace and practice it.

5. Start every day with “Today is going to be a great day.” 

As soon as you awaken or your feet hit the floor in the morning, start the day by saying these words out loud. Since your mind is prone to negativity, unless you train and discipline it, it will seek out stress in the upcoming day. When you direct your thoughts to “Today is going to be a great day,” your brain will help you uncover the reasons why it will be so. You have a choice in where you direct your attention, even in times of uncertainty. This simple strategy can make a powerfully positive difference in your life.

6. End the day with “What went well.

Another exercise that has been shown to quickly increase your feelings of well-being is called “What Went Well.” Research has shown that people who did this exercise were happier and less depressed at 1-month and 6-month follow-ups than at the study’s outset. Right before bed, write down 3 things that went well that day, then ask yourself, “Why did this happen?” In a 2017 study, this simple exercise has been found to help people in stressful jobs develop a more positive sense of wellbeing.

7. Calm a panic attack in 5 minutes.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by anxiety, and your heart starts racing and you can’t catch your breath, take heart in knowing that you can calm a panic attack. Here is a 4-step prescription to fight panic:

  • Breathe! Take slow, deep breaths to boost oxygen to your brain to regain control over how you feel.
  • Don’t leave. If you leave wherever you are, you’ll start to associate that place with panic, and you’ll give it power over you.
  • Write down your thoughts. If your thoughts are distorted, talk back to them.
  • Take calming supplements or medications if needed. Remember that this is the last step to be used only if the first 3 aren’t effective.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or other mental health issues, you aren’t alone—45% of Americans say the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their mental health. Just because you’re sheltering at home doesn’t mean you have to wait for the pandemic to be over before seeking help. In fact, during these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting to get treatment is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time. 

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples, as well as in-clinic brain scanning to help our patients. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk

11 Comments

  1. “remember the long game and play the short game ”

    I really get a lot of comfort from this phrase right now ;thanks

    Comment by rick — April 8, 2020 @ 3:18 PM

  2. excellent advice. It takes lots of discipline and it can be done if one is motivated enough.

    Comment by marsha cooper — April 13, 2020 @ 11:55 AM

  3. Thank you for the information. I plan to share with others.

    Comment by Samantha Williams — April 15, 2020 @ 4:15 AM

  4. Great advice. Thank you

    Comment by Margaret Deeble — April 15, 2020 @ 4:25 AM

  5. wonderful advice for the most stressful time we find ourselves in.

    Comment by getahun — April 15, 2020 @ 4:58 AM

  6. The good doctor is a great help to many…This is a very excellent list of items to follow…I suggest the good doctor and many of the readers seek the hymn…”Be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me, and I will give you rest”….Believe & having a strong spiritual foundation will eliminate or greatly reduce fear…and is less expensive than taking a picture of your brain…

    I really enjoy the articles…No problem…I realize this will be eliminated immediately…

    Comment by Dr. Henry Sinopoli — April 15, 2020 @ 8:59 AM

  7. I agree with you!

    Comment by Amy E Mulroy — April 15, 2020 @ 9:09 AM

  8. Another one that’s trite and not true…….it’s all good. If that were true then nothing would need to be changed or challenged. Life is a balancing act which takes constant EFFORT to overcome bad with good. Not just a whitewashing of whatever happens

    Comment by alison hoffman — April 15, 2020 @ 9:19 AM

  9. I appreciate all your information regarding anxiety and fear. It is VERY helpful for my family.

    In addition, your podcast , ” 2 Minute Anxiety Solutions.” coincides with you information on handling fear.
    You are my HERO because you share EVERYTHING your audience NEEDS to keep our brains well and active.

    * I feel the pandemic has changed my COMMUNITY; helping others and prioritizing what is truly important in life.
    Despite the uncertainty we live with.

    Blessings to you & your family,

    Comment by Linda — April 15, 2020 @ 9:58 AM

  10. I am living by the Bible verse-God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. It also helps to detach from a steady
    diet of the news. If I feel a little down, it helps me to get out in the sunshine and remind myself of what went right-and do something for someone else. We are wired for connection, and we all need to connect with friends and family-and remember we are not alone. Judy Belew

    Comment by Judy Belew — April 15, 2020 @ 11:26 AM

  11. Thank you Dr.Amen.
    It is such a pleasure to have met you and the service you do.
    As a recovered Herion, cocaine addict clean 35 years, I am now in the recovery community as a recovery coach. I hear Mental health would be better and through prayer and meditation I met you and just signed up for BRAINMD Certification course.
    Thank you and the team for helping me to heal my brain and supporting me in supporting others to heal their brain.
    I just can’t take seeing these women on 7 and 8 bottles of pills 3 x a day.
    Best of success in the New Order of Spirit doing a new thing.
    Vanda Guzman

    Comment by Vanda Guzman — April 15, 2020 @ 1:01 PM

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