Using caution, not living in fear

Published 12:20 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fear is a word I am very familiar with and an emotion I have spent a good part of my life fighting.

With the recent events in Paris, it’s easy to fall into living life in constant fear and not without good reason. But that is exactly what terrorists want, and I am choosing to fight the urge of allowing fear to control my life — again.

After I had my first child, my son, I started suffering with panic attacks. For those who have been lucky to never experience them, you are in fear, every day, except you don’t know why. The body gets all screwed up and you’re in a constant fight or flight response but with no real reason for that fear. Fortunately, I found a therapist who specialized in panic attacks and I learned what they were, why they happened and how hormones played a role.

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I learned my brain picked up stimuli during each attack and used it to set off new ones. I also learned how to control them using self-meditation and awareness and eventually I was no longer plagued by constant fear.

It did leave me with a few phobias, however. Flying in airplanes, driving over high bridges, heights in general and wasps still cause me to panic, but I know what causes the fear and can choose to remove myself from the situation or, with the help of bug spray, remove the reason from my space.

When tragedies happen like in Paris, we’re often left feeling afraid even when there is no immediate cause in front of us. We’re afraid of the unknown. We don’t have control over it. We have no idea when a similar tragedy can happen here, as it did on Sept. 11, 2011, and the Boston Marathon bombing April 15, 2013. School shootings create ripples of fear and cause knee-jerk reactions. Parents now have to be afraid that their child will suffer more than a bad grade or scraped knee on the playground.

When I was learning to control my panic attacks, one thing I was taught was to not fight the attack. Let it happen and then see what happens. It took months to get to that stage but eventually I did it. And nothing happened. Life didn’t end and I didn’t drop dead of a heart attack, nor did I turn into a crazy person.

So now, I choose to not allow fear to rule my life. I’m aware of the threats. I am aware that bad things can, and do happen. I also know I have no control over most of these things and so, I put my control in choosing to live life.

This weekend, after the attacks in Paris, I was watching my granddaughters, 5 and 3. While the news played in the background, they played, they laughed, they pretended to be princesses and then they danced, doing the Whip and the Nae Nae. (Whatever that means).

I will do whatever it takes to protect my family and my loved ones, but I will also not allow terrorists to make me live in fear and waste precious, precious time that could be spent making Christmas ornaments with the grandchildren or baking cookies with my daughters or shooting some evil monster in a video game with my son.

I have chosen to substitute the word “fear” with the world “caution.” Some argue that we need to feel fear to keep us safe — don’t run into the street for fear of being hit by a car; don’t touch the stove for fear of being burned; don’t walk in dark alleys alone in fear of being mugged; don’t love for fear of getting a broken heart.

Use caution instead.

Use caution when crossing the road but never be afraid to venture to far away places.

Use caution when cooking but be open to trying new foods.

Use caution when walking at night and take necessary precautions.

Use caution when giving your heart away, but don’t stop loving.

Most of all, don’t fear what tomorrow may bring. None of us know what could happen. So just live. Educate yourself, be cautious, be smart and be alert.

But never let fear decide how you will spend your days on this planet.

Alyssa Schnugg is city editor of the Oxford EAGLE. Contact her at