Dealing with intense fear during times of uncertainty

The stock market went one way, my head went the other way — and through the glass ceiling.

It hurt. The fear hurt.

My eyes went from the bond market. Then to the stock market. And to the supposed chilling calm of the gold price. It was all red just like my face.

Thoughts of “Should I take cash out of the bank just in case?” entered my mind. Yes, as a former anxiety sufferer, sometimes, I lose it.

No one is immune to fear. There is no vaccine other than a game of MarioKart (unless princesses and go-karts give you nightmares).

The current state of the world could be interpreted to have gone from calm seas to tsunami conditions. During times of uncertainty, what you must do is deal with your fear. Otherwise, fear will deal with you personally.

It’s not pretty at all. The last few weeks have taught me a lot about fear and what it can do. Thankfully, I survived and you can too. Here are a few ways to deal with fear.

Inaction is Glorious
Fear can cause you to make some terrible decisions. So try turning off your action muscle.

Don’t make that financial decision or sell your house or tell that person how you really feel like it’s the end of the world and it’s your last chance to do so. Have a zero decision day. Or a zero decision week. Or a zero decision month.

Action can take you further but not always in the direction you want. Fear can drive you in many directions and eventually into a tailspin.

Happiness is Peace

Now there’s a thought to munch on. When everything is uncertain, perhaps happiness is simply peace. What does peace look like?

  • Time spent on the couch
  • Five minutes of calm
  • A clean kitchen
  • All the housework done
  • An hour of reading

Think about your goals differently during times of uncertainty laced with fear. Simplify your goals to “is this peace, or not peace?”

Mute Social Media

The challenge of social media is all the commentary. Everyone has an opinion and a take on the current state of the digital world.

But commentary can easily be mistaken for evidence — or even a headache that leads to a migraine. During times of uncertainty, you don’t need more commentary about the uncertainty.

You know you feel uncertain. That fear is all through your body. The guy from Australia with the beard and a can of beer hurling out abuse to the government won’t help you find peace. Too much stimulus when you’re fearful can overcook your brain.

The two social channels I would mute first are Facebook and Youtube. They are not curated and any person with a gun can shoot their mouth off.

Quit Solving Problems That Don’t Exist

Fear makes your mind believe there are more problems than you can handle. You start seeing your old shoes as a problem. You think about stocking up on supplies. You wonder whether you should send a guide to survive life to your parents in case they haven’t figured it out already in their 70s.

There are many problems in the world and they don’t all have your name on them.

Deal with your fear by shortening your list of problems. Own the problems you must, and get a refund on the problems that are not yours.

If all else fails, postpone solving problems. If your holiday in three months is going to get cancelled without a refund, deal with it in three months.

For now: survive your fear.

Stop Trying to Spot Patterns

Any dude with a computer can show you a pattern and then extrapolate it out and show a predicted outcome.

When your fear levels are high, there is a pattern in everything. And the patterns support your fear. Maybe the pattern is wrong. Maybe the current circumstances are a black swan and a white dove is on its way.

Pattern-spotting is fun. It’s a sport like baseball. It’s the past-time of the internet. But patterns explain everything — and also nothing at all.

A Walk and a Smoothie

I like this strategy; it’s simple and elegant.

The other day, fear was destroying my mind and causing me to lose balance. I went for a walk and bought a smoothie. An hour later, I felt better.

My girlfriend often asks me why I like to buy smoothies all the time. I realized it’s because it reduces my fear when partnered with a walk. I’m not saying it’s scientific, but it’s worth a try.

Don’t Be Sold

Fear sells. Fear can sell you lots of stuff you don’t need. Fear can cause you to consume more than your mind can hold. Fear can sell you a new car and also a mask.

During times of uncertainty, don’t be sold by fear. Sell yourself on rest instead.

Even Calm People Lose it Sometimes

When the world is in a panic, I find myself comparing my life to those who are calm. I say “But Tony Robbins is probably completely chill on his island and here you are freaking out and acting crazy. Why can’t you be like Tony?”

Here’s the thing: Calm people don’t always have it together.

Tim Ferriss recently lost his mind. His girlfriend said something interesting to him which he tweeted (and is now sadly deleted):

“Have you got your period too?”
Mr. Ferriss admits to losing his mind a little during these uncertain times. His girlfriend helped him course-correct a little.

Even the people you admire lose their mind on occasions.

Maybe your favourite author is sitting at home writing their next best-seller. Or maybe they are panicking just like you. It’s a thought worth pondering during uncertain times.

The Takeaway

We are all living a knife’s edge away from ruin. Such is the dance of life.

I wrote this on the shower wall this morning. It sums up the point nicely. Fear is a part of life and uncertain times will always an ebb and flow in and out of your life.

The challenge is not to spot the uncertain times; it’s to manage your mindset and keep calm. Happiness during times of uncertainty looks like peace.

This article first appeared on Medium.