Cultivating Inner Strength

Global pandemic or not, life is going to serve you situations that spark fear. It’s perfectly normal to feel scared right now. And, it’s harmful to stay stuck in the story of fear. Staying in the story of fear is what you do when you continue to consume media and think thoughts that trigger a fear response. So, what can you do instead? Limit fear-triggers externally, and choose different thoughts internally.

Cultivating inner strength prepares us to face the unknown with more grace and more ease. When times get hard, we need our solid inner foundation of strength to lean on.

Here are three powerful tools that help me in cultivating inner strength in the face of fear.

1. Information

It’s the unknown that has your brain doing flips. We humans can’t stand not knowing, and we do all kinds of psychological acrobatics to avoid facing the reality that we don’t know much about much. What you make up in your head is almost always going to be worse than reality. Not to mention that what you make up in your head becomes reality, but most people aren’t in a space to hear that right now.

Dr. Caitlin Gordon in prayer pose, cultivating inner strength. So why do we do this mental catastrophizing? Because what feels comforting is certainty. Your brain will choose certain death or disaster over the unknown. That’s how much we dislike not knowing. Enough to jump to the worst-case outcome that’s somehow made its way into your awareness through a news story or Facebook post or movie or whatever. Soothe your monkey mind with cold-hard-facts. Not unique stories, personal anecdotes or single cases. Data. The data says that if you get COVID-19, you’re extremely likely to live through it, AND, you’re most likely to have mild symptoms.

2. Trust

This one is harder, but it’s so liberating. I trust that things are going to happen the way they are supposed to happen. I believe in divine intelligence, in the intelligence of nature, and in the power of my mind over my physical health. Meaning, if it is my karma to die during this pandemic, so be it (I’m pretty sure it’s not). However, if it were, I think about how amazing it would be to get to see where people I love who have died went. I am filled with curiosity around what’s on the other side, though not eager to get there. Reading books like those by Elizabeth Kubler Ross on death and dying has helped me feel less afraid of something none of us can escape. We’re all going to die, and ultimately we don’t get to choose when. There’s some relief in truly accepting that.

I choose the best possible feelings I have access to if I’m going to contemplate “worst-case” outcomes. I feel in my gut that I have many years left on this earth to offer my gifts. However, if touching a gas pump and forgetting to hand sanitize before I itch my eye is what ultimately leads to my death… I mean f*ck, that’s not me making a fatal error, that’s written. I trust that I can’t mess up my path. That it’s going to take a lot more than missing a few seconds of handwashing to take me out.

I don’t believe that by indulging hypervigilance and fear to a degree that harms my mental health, I can save myself or anyone else. I’m not going to put anyone in danger, but I’m also not going to pretend like I’m calling all the shots and can control everything. Because I can’t. And neither can you. Do your part to follow guidelines, but the outcome of this does not hang on your every move. There’s something incredibly beautiful about surrendering in all this. As in, I trust that this unfolds exactly as it needs to (surrender) and I trust I am safe and well because I choose to be safe and well (personal responsibility for the power of your mind).

3. Ground

Finding the ground gives me so much strength. I mean finding the ground both literally and figuratively. In this case, they are the same. Whether it is putting your bare feet on the earth or simply directing your attention to your two feet on the floor, rooting your energy downwards is going to help you feel strong. I imagine roots growing out of the bottom of my feet and wrapping down to the core of the earth, anchoring me firmly where I stand. The earth has you.

Let this sense of being deeply tethered remind you of your unshakeability, your inner pillar of strength, the warrior within. Think about all the things you’ve survived so far in life. You’re amazing. Keep finding the ground and giving yourself pep talks when you start to feel shaky, light-headed, scattered, full of racing thoughts, or in fight/flight/freeze mode. This too shall pass.

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