sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Overcoming the Fear Factor as We Navigate Life

By Noelle Nelson May 02, 2023 Mindset

My back was bothering me the other day. Fortunately, I have a chiropractor who works wonders, so I called his office for an appointment: “The doctor is on vacation, sorry.” “When will he be back?” “Hmm. Let’s see. He just left yesterday and he’ll be gone 10 days, and…” I didn’t hear the rest of what the receptionist said. I immediately went into “fear and dread” mode.

Ok, not dread maybe, but certainly “fear and anxiety.” As in “What if my back gets worse while he’s gone?” “What if he’s all booked up on his return and I can’t get an appointment for another two weeks or more?” Whereupon my hip decided to join my back in its pain, and I thought, “Now, what? I’m falling apart!”

Fear and Anxiety Are Powerful

Hardly. But that’s what fear and anxiety do. They drag us down a negative rabbit hole that frankly does us no good whatsoever. Oh, a little fear nudge here and there is useful. Fear and anxiety are, according to research, basic survival mechanisms which tell us that there is potential danger ahead, and to pay attention.

But that’s all fear and anxiety are designed to do: warn us. Our task is then to look to solutions, life-preserving responses to the potential danger. And the first, critical response is to switch from negative thinking to positive thoughts. No, this isn’t pixie dust magic.

What We Need Is to Refocus

The ability to refocus our thoughts is what changes our perception of what is possible. Literally. We perceive the world around us according to whatever we’re focusing on. The more we focus on disaster, fearful events or possibilities, the less we perceive the opportunities for solutions that abound everywhere.

Our minds obediently jump onto our current negative thought bandwagon and offer more of the same. Of course I began to feel pain in my hip. When you understand the power of focus, it makes perfect sense.

Imagine how differently Ginette Bedard’s life, for example, would have turned out, if she’d trained her focus on all the possible problems and issues she might encounter as she started running at age 69. Like: “Who starts running at 69? That’s way too old. You have to start in your 20s, or at least by your 40s.” “How will my body hold up? Knees? Hips? The rest of me?” “Can I develop the kind of stamina at my age that a runner needs?” Somehow, Ginette managed to train her focus instead on all that would make her running possible, regardless of her age.

At 87, Ginette is still running, having participated in over 350 races, including 44 half-marathons and 20 marathons. She has no plans to stop. Ginette runs three hours a day, every single day of the year, regardless of the weather. Yes, even in winter, on a path shoveled through the snow.

Use Your Focus as a Tool

The power of focus is tremendous, both for and against our desires. Those of us who persist in opening our minds, and thus our eyes, to what will allow and facilitate what we want, are those who, like Ginette, reap the rewards. Those of us who stay fixated on fear and anxiety, worrying ourselves into tortured thoughts of more negativity, will not be open to and not see all the positive possibilities around us.

Is the answer to ignore the warning signs of fear or anxiety? Certainly not. Pay attention to the warning, be grateful for the warning, and then deal with the “warned” situation so you can move on to the fulsome accomplishment of your desire.

Whether it’s running a marathon or having a pain-free back, matters not. What matters is your ability to switch your focus resolutely from negative to positive. Resolve what stands in your way, rather than giving in to fear or anxiety and tumbling miserably down that rabbit hole.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What happens to you physically and mentally when you feel anxiety or fear? What skills have you developed that reduce your anxiety or fear levels?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Laura

Unfortunately I live with Chronic anxiety & fear. Medication has helped for the most part. Being aware of my fear really helps. In fact each year I choose a word based on the boo “My One Word”…this year’s word is FEARLESS. Despite my best efforts the anxiety rules my life in so many ways both big & small. Having said all of this there are times I may push or times I’m left doing the best I can. It’s the cards I have been dealt and I won’t allow myself to feel guilty when I don’t become a super star at something.

Beth

i dipped into this article, and i think it’s fine to encourage people to tamp down fears that keep us paralyzed somehow. i do ok with this, but i can use tips.

sadly, i find bringing up Ginette Bedard’s taking up running later in life a little annoying. kind of like stars turning 60 and posting a 30 year old picture of them … a little misleading.

Ms.Bedard’s running is an exception (and exceptional), not the rule — take a look at that crowd starting that marathon – really, how many over 60’s are on that starting line? kudos to those who are up to it, but i do hope she talked with her doctor first – they’re advisors, not authorities, but have you Talked to an orthopedic surgeon about running – esp at our ages??? bone density, previous injuries, balance issues – please don’t get me wrong – yes, let’s keep moving. but do stay safe. encouraging people at our age to take up running?? i know that wasn’t exactly the point, but there it is there. like it’s an example to follow …. think about it, just think about it …

i have hip issues. and compensating is wonking out a knee. i’ve had structural anomalies from birth that i’m just finding out about. and i’ve lived a great life – no regrets – but this bothered me – people thinking there are no limitations. ‘age is just a number’ – NO, it’s NOT. wear and tear, 60 years of gravity, congenital anomalies. age is NOT just a number. i think to buy into that is a slippery slope to idolizing youth as many of 60+ articles decry. i think it also minimizes Life Experience. but that’s me, i guess

Last edited 9 months ago by Beth
A Shively

Well done Beth, a good point made. While I find the article inspiring, a reminder to focus on possibilities, the example of the elderly runner is just…there is something compulsive about it. Running EVERY single day, even in snow – that’s an addiction, not a vocation. And how many people are involved in enabling her to do that, I wonder? Age brings changes and the real practical heroines are those who adapt and flow with physical change to create a good life whatever their issues. Nice article otherwise thanks!

Kate

I agree wholeheartedly with Beth and would have written the same words! I believe you have to focus on the average and not the exception. Age is not just a number and the majority face similar health issues as we age. Most people are not going to be super stars at an advanced age- let’s be realistic.

Carol Chignell

Wow! I needed to hear that today 😊

The Author

Dr. Noelle Nelson is a psychologist, consultant and speaker. She is passionate about personal growth and happiness. She’s authored over a dozen books including The Longevity Secret: How to Live Happy, Healthy & Vibrant Into Your 70s, 80s, 90s and Beyond and Phoenix Rising: Surviving Catastrophic Loss: Fires, Floods, Hurricanes and Tornadoes. Visit her at http://www.noellenelson.com.

You Might Also Like