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Facing Your Fears After 60 with Positivity and Action

By Dr. Margaret Rutherford August 05, 2022 Mindset

You’re afraid of breaking a hip when you fall. You’re saying good-bye to dear friends, who’ve lost their battle with cancer. You worry if you’re forgetting words like you always have, or if it’s becoming a pattern.

You do what you can to stay optimistic. You look for what you can control. You exercise. You focus on staying connected with people and being active. You do Sudoku and read voraciously.

Then, someone in your community commits an act of terror, or you watch vicious violence occurring in the streets. Whether it seems due to religion, race, hatred, fear or lack of conscience, your view of the world can become frightening.

Trauma’s Reach via the Media

All you have to do is hear about it. Imagine it. Especially if you’ve had any psychological or emotional trauma or abuse in the past, your sensitivity to violence may be greater than normal.

After 9/11, I helped patients who couldn’t get the falling buildings, smoke, or people jumping to their deaths out of their minds. And they lived nowhere near New York City. They had only watched it on TV.

You can begin having nightmares or flashbacks, which are symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. You can become very anxious, and never go to movie theaters or malls. Your life can become smaller and smaller. When this becomes severe, it can develop into agoraphobia, literally a “fear of the marketplace,” which pragmatically means you don’t leave your home.

Coping with Trauma through Engagement

Many people will not develop these symptoms. Most find a way of coping. Yet even in the best cases, innocence may vanish, and trust in others become diminished.

What can you do? It’s important, because connection and engagement with others has been consistently shown to fend off not only depression, but a myriad of other problems as we age. Isolation is not your friend.

Reid Wilson, an American expert on anxiety, states, you have to change what you’re thinking in order to manage your fear. Although it may seem counterintuitive, you don’t wish the fear or anxiety away. You have to manage it. Work with it.

Other than medication, here are some ways to manage anxiety and not allow fears to govern your life.

Engaging in Mindfulness and/or Meditation Practice

Just a few minutes of meditation a day can make a huge difference in your ability to detach from your anxiety. There are guided meditation apps like Headspace or 10% Happier that can help you practice.

Seeking Therapy

There are many techniques to deal with anxiety. CBT, or cognitive behavioral therapy, or EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, are two that immediately come to mind. Therapy offers a supportive relationship, where you can discuss your fears and gain more perspective on them. Whatever anxiety you have, you can practice slowly confronting it.

Exercising Away Stress

Decreasing anxiety is just one of the bountiful benefits of getting moving. Aerobic exercise, where you work up a good sweat, is a wonderful stress reliever.

Keeping your Perspective

What you focus on can become more real in your own mind. And if you only focus on painful things, then you can stay sad or overwhelmed. A vital skill to living well is “compartmentalizing,” meaning that you are able to put painful feelings or experiences away, to box them up so to speak, so that you can focus on other, more important or enjoyable things in the present moment. When you have the time to work through those feelings, you get that “box” down again.

Creating through Music, Art or Gardening

Creating your own beauty, being involved with building something or growing something can be a wonderful antidote to worry and fear. Whether it’s planting a garden, being in a play, or learning how to sculpt, there is something calming about creation. It can provide balance.

Talking with Others

We all have our own little bit of wisdom. Talking with friends about how they’re handling getting older, or any anxiety they may have about the state of the world can help you widen your own understanding, and gain a new attitude or idea.

Helping Others

If you’re involved with efforts in your church or your community to help those in need, it gives you a sense of purpose. And that very purpose can keep your thinking and attitude more positive. When you see and are involved in making positive change in your own world, it can counteract a sense of futility or despair.

What strategies do you use to face your fears and worries? How do you cope with viewing negative and traumatic events in the media? Have you been able to connect with others to share experiences? Please share and connect in the comments.

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Beautiful article. Most of the time fears and worries come from the monkey mind…it’s all over the place. We anticipate what could happen in we did this or that. And this is all based on memories of previous experiences. Personally i find that meditation and bringing myself into the present moment are true healers. I have recently lost a dear sister and i went thru the grieving process but at the same time i was telling myself that we are all on a path and we all try our best in life but at some point we really must understand that we are only here for a brief period of time so we need to celebrate the lives of those we loved dearly without regret. Yes i can see the world falling to pieces too but then i enjoy even more a beautiful sky and the white clouds…a cup of coffee while reading a book…a talk with a dear friend. All this is life. Lets just do the best we can being the best we can.

The Author

Dr. Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, has practiced for over twenty years in Fayetteville, Arkansas . Her work is found on her own website, as well as HuffPost, Psych Central, Psychology Today, The Gottman Blog and others. She's the author of "Marriage Is Not For Chickens", a perfect gift book on marriage, and hosts a weekly podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford.

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