My biggest fear growing up was Quicksand.
Yesterday, as we were balancing working from home and caring for my 5 year old, my son wanted to do a science experiment. He opened his book of experiments to “the Quicksand Experiment”.
My mind immediately shot back to those Gilligan’s island episodes of the late 1970’s I watched as a kid where someone always encountered and got stuck in the quicksand.
As I laughed at my irrational fear, I also realized I didn’t know much about quicksand.
So I got curious, and googled, “can you die in quicksand”?
The answer is yes…but it’s not that easy.
Two things I learned about quicksand:
Your situation goes from bad to worse when you panic and make big, sudden movements.
The more you panic, the deeper you will sink.
To release yourself from the sand, You must have slow, steady, micro movements in your legs, to loosen the sand. And don’t try to call for help, because, it will take the strength equivalent to lifting a small car to get you out of the quicksand.
Now what does this have to do with the fear we are all experiencing now during this unprecedented time?
We all may not have had a fear of quicksand, but we all know that feeling of fear when we can’t stop thinking something bad might happen.
Our fears today during the COVID-19 pandemic are unique…and are very present and real
- As physicians you may be asked to do things you haven’t done in years. No matter your role, you are probably asked to get outside of your comfort zone.
- With a lack of PPE, there is a very real fear for frontline clinicians of contracting and spreading the disease.
- There is fear around social distancing with your kids.
- Fear around being “enough” when you think about your staff and panel of patients you must keep safe.
And for all of us, there is the fear of the unknown, how long might our current situation continue? What will be the economic impact?
Will we get our basic human needs around safety, security and connection met during a time of social distancing, business closures and working from home.
Let’s talk about what you do with your fear. This is the very first topic I’m addressing in my free video series on supporting the general wellbeing of those who are risking everything during this pandemic to help the rest of us.
But let’s talk about fear in a way that NO ONE is talking about fear that focuses on what we actually want on the other side of this.
Everyone else is talking about their fears, (which is good), and either connecting around them if they are shared, or judging others for what they see as irrational fears.
But what I’m talking about is acknowledging that fear, and then using that fear to shift your experience and expand your control within this crazy time when we often feel out of control.
I believe that there are two different kinds of fears.
Rational and Irrational fears.
Rational fears feel very likely to come true and there is a high probability they might. Irrational fears still feel very likely to come true, but there is a low probability they might come true.
Most people say, forget about the irrational fears and examine the rational fears to get to the root cause.
But what I’m telling you is you need to treat the fears the same, because in our minds and bodies, they feel the same.
So let’s not judge the fear, but let’s name the fear.
Because if you don’t and continue to try to stuff down that fear, it will come out. Usually when it wakes you out of a deep sleep in the middle of the night or comes out through some unflattering behaviors.
And when it does, we can either use our fear for good to launch us forward in a way that is aligned with what we want or we can use our fear to continue to divide us.
Today, I’m asking you to use your fear as rocket fuel.
Use your fear as rocket fuel to launch you into a new more empowered way of experiencing this pandemic. We will overcome and we will become more connected.
Here is a very practical and quick tool that you can use anytime and anywhere when you feel that fear rising.
5 Questions to Turn your Fear into Focused Action
Before you ask yourself the following 5 questions,
First, Force a pause.
Find a quiet room, (even if it has to be a closet or bathroom)
Close your eyes
Take 2 deep breathes,
Write down the answers to the following 5 questions:
- What is my fear? NAME IT! Complete this sentence: “I’m scared that ________________.” OR “My fear is _______.”
- What is most important to me during this time or during this circumstance?
Think about your relationships, your values, your beliefs, how you show up in the word, how you want others to feel when they are around you.
3. What is within my control?
4. If I didn’t allow my fear to hold me back, what is the one action I can take right now to move me closer to what is most important to me and what’s in my control?
5. What are the thoughts and actions that I am thinking and doing that are taking me further away from what is most important to me? Name them and commit to reframe them, stop doing them, start doing something or adjust what you are doing.
What does doing this exercise allow you to do?
Well, like surviving quicksand, it prevents you from making sudden, irrational movements or decisions based on fear.
It helps you make the slow, steady progressive actions that will free you from the grip of fear.
It provides you with the resource to save yourself from your own fear, and not rely on others to fix it for you. Only through this work, can you help others do the same.
It helps you tap into your rational mind to assess the real threat that exists within these fears.
It allows you to take focused action that moves you out of your fear and into service.
My challenge to you: Over the next 2-3 days, apply this tool. Use it to take new action.
Imagine a day, when we have all faced our fears and used them for good and connection instead of the source of divisiveness.
Imagine a day, when your fear or insecurity doesn’t stop you in your tracks but it guides you
Imagine a day, when your ability to overcome your fear allows you to inspire those around you to do the same.
Carrie Koh is a TEDx speaker, consultant, executive coach and healthcare executive with a passion for enhancing the way we communicate with one another to ensure efficient and innovative results with greater fulfillment along the way. She is the leading authority on cultivating resiliency and teaching high performing leaders to overcome obstacles to lead teams to new heights. She would love to connect at www.carriekoh.com