3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

Today, I’m giving you 3 strategies you can use immediately to fight fear in all areas of your life.

I’m a practical girl.

I can philosophize and get all prosy, but at the end of the day, give me practical anytime.

I believe that fear is at the root of nearly every battle we fight, if not every single one.  I battled fear all my life until I realized what I was up against.  I was trying to deal with secondary emotions, not always realizing that fear masquerades as other feelings.  And that disguise makes it harder for us to get at the source.

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For example, rejection could have a root fear of being left out, or not being good enough, not lovable.  Insecurity could have a  root fear of not measuring up, or fear of being worthless.  Rage could have a root fear of being weak or of losing position or control.

When it hit me that fear is at the root of so many struggles, I started to pay attention to the people around me and what they did to fight fear and stay in peace and joy.

I watched myself go through things and change, and I paid attention to what I did that worked and what didn’t.  Three of my favorite strategies are in the list below.

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3 Things You Can Do Today to Fight Fear

  1. Start pumping in the positive messages.  Right now.  Whatever works.  Whoever.  And keep ’em coming.  Move against the fear, not with it.  A comedian you love, songs, speakers, scripture, TED talks, podcasts, redemptive movies and television shows, etcetc.    This is a good time to keep the material at a PG-13 or less.  Lots of drama yields stress, which is just an everyday word for fear. Try different things until you feel encouraged. If you are aware of any level of fear in your life, begin to saturate your mind with positive messages.
  1. Repeat the positive messages you hear out loud.  The words we speak and focus on affect our brain development and our response to stress.  A current theory in the field of neuroscience holds that our brain function, and even DNA, can be changed by focusing on one simple positive word like “peace” or “love.”  Of course, the more positive words you hold on to for longer periods of time, the greater the positive effect on your brain, and therefore, your response to stress.  Just pick a quote from one of your positive messages above, or even a single word right now, like “peace.”  And start saying it over and over.  It does take time for a significant long-term change to occur in terms of neuroplasticity (the changeability of the brain), but most people I talk to feel relief almost immediately as they focus on positive messages with their speech. 
  1. Take 3 Deep Breaths.  & add some lavender.    Many people are familiar with the idea of deep breathing, but how often do you actually do it?  Right now, close your eyes, take a deep “belly breath” on a count of eight.  Hold it for a count of eight, and exhale, a controlled, slow breath for a count of eight.  Can’t do eight counts?  Start with a count of four and work up.  You can do this anywhere, anytime.  And your lungs will thank you!  Also, stop by the health food store or call your friends who know about oils.  Get some lavender sachets, lavender tea, lavender oil, whatever, and start enjoying the fragrance.  Research at the University of Maryland, among others, has confirmed that lavender has soothing effects.  (If you use essential oils, research safe practices and always dilute.)

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More lists to come, things that are more lifestyle changes or might require you to order a book or watch a video or develop habits.  But I wanted to start with things that you can do right now.  I still do all of these things if I find myself in a struggle.  I diffused lavender oil in my room the other night.  Best night’s sleep I’ve had in a while.

What practical things do you do to fight fear?

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Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deut31:6

Prayer for those fighting fear:

Father, thank you that You never leave us.  Thank you for Your hand on us.  Today, I’m binding fear and praying that my friends will feel Love, stronger than any other thing.  Jesus, be more real than any circumstance, any anxiety or stress or insecurity or pride.  Or any other type of fear that comes to distract.  Fear cannot have our peace.  I pray for supernatural strength.  For encouragement.  For joy and laughter in the face of circumstances.  For ministering spirits to go out and bring comfort and reignite the feelings of passion and purpose that cause us to fight fear like we mean it, to rise up and move against the lies instead of letting them steamroll us and steal our destinies.  I pray for victory and breakthrough in every way today, in Jesus’ name.

Shoplifting, Lego Robots, and the Brené Brown TED Talk on Courage and Vulnerability. {WATCH}

One time, I shoplifted.

Actually twice.

Once, when I was twelve, I took a lollipop from the candy store.

I ate it, but it tasted like death.

The second time, I was 18.

I know.  My character should have been more developed by then.  It was not a proud moment.

I was with a friend when I saw a package of six tiny Christmas bows.  They were the size of a penny.  So shiny and cute.

Tons of kids shoplifted in high school, but I never went along with the crowd, until that day.

I don’t know why those little bows stole my heart.  When my friend saw how much I wanted them, she said, “just take them.  They will fit right up your sleeve.”

So I did.

I stole.  Christmas bows.  At Christmas.  To put on Christmas presents.  To celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

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I could never open them.  I did not know what to do with them.  I never knowingly took anything again that wasn’t mine.

I was reformed.

That package of Christmas bows sat in my Christmas box until after I had kids.  I finally gave them to Goodwill.

Confession is good for the soul.

And not just the person confessing.  Allowing each other the freedom to fail is a gift.  And accepting each other, failure and all.  And loving, in spite of it.

Fears of failure and of rejection break relationship.  Fear of being left out or misunderstood because of imperfections we can’t control, our body shape, our age, our family tree.  Fear of being unlovable because of screw ups and missed opportunities and bad decisions.

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These fears cause us to try to cover up and act like something we’re not.

And healthy relationships can’t be built on lies.

I don’t know why humanity still struggles with this.

Like we think anyone is perfect.  Like it’s a surprise that people make mistakes and don’t know everything.

It shocks me when my kids cry over something new they learned at school, and they can’t do it perfectly the first time.  Like, kids, seriously, it’s school.  The whole point is finding out how much you don’t know and learning how to do some of it, right?

But when their little egos confront their own ignorance, that bubble of thinking, “I’m the best Lego builder in the world!” gets busted. They discover that, not only can you build awesome Lego structures, but you can also mechanize them.

Lego robots.  A whole new level.  Dang.

And they have to do the hard work of focus and self discipline until they achieve some level of mastery.

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And then, when they conquer that thing, they are elated.

It’s a cycle.  That is repeated often.  And it makes me look at myself.

How often do I encounter my own weakness and suddenly hate my life?

Like it’s a surprise.  Like it’s never happened before.

Right.

There is a thing that well meaning people do sometimes when you confess a failure.  They will say, “Oh, you didn’t really steal.  Or, let’s reframe that.  You didn’t really fail/sin/screw up.  You are a great person.  Don’t beat yourself up about it.  God loves you just the way you are.”

I love the heart of encouragement, but it seems to me that there is a hidden fear of failure in that kind of response.  Pushing back the idea of failure with both hands so that no one has to be embarrassed, or not know what to say, or see each other with eyes wide open.  Like when you walk in on someone in the toilet.  That one awful moment of being frozen with the door open and seeing that thing you can’t unsee.

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But, um, you know, people go to the bathroom.  Is it really that shocking?  And people screw up.  All the time.  Really good people.  Pretending we don’t and being afraid of admitting it makes for some seriously pointless conversation.

I love when I say, “Wow.  I did this thing.”

And the person next to me says, “Amen.  Thank You, Jesus.”  Or, “Oh.  Yeah.  Me too.”

Like they are happy for me when I see something I need to see.  Like they aren’t afraid of it.  Like they might even like me more, because I was willing to go there.

I appreciate that level of real.

It’s why I love Brené Brown.

I’m a huge fan.

Her viral TED Talk on “The Power of Vulnerability” was one catalyst in my walk away from fear and shame.

It’s my favorite ever TED Talk.  The guy who plays eleventy million  pop songs on the ukulele is a close second.  And the lady who power poses like Wonder Woman in the bathroom.  If you don’t know yet, I love when people maximize time in the bathroom.  It’s just so efficient.  People go there.  Might as well admit it and use the time wisely.

This talk is funny, deep, honest, and life changing.  Seriously.  If you only ever watch one TED Talk, this is the one.  Click here for link.  Over 26 million views and counting today, for a reason.

Courage, shame, and vulnerability.  I’m praying for all of us to get that breakthrough.   

Courage, the original definition of courage..it’s from the Latin word “cor,” meaning “heart.”   And the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. . . the courage to be imperfect.   

–Brené Brown

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If you find yourself wanting more of Brene’s insight, her follow up talk, “Listening to Shame,” where she discusses dorm room break-ins, vulnerability hangovers, and the fear of shame, can be found by clicking here.  

Empathy is the antidote to shame. . .The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle: me, too.  

Brené Brown

Confess your faults to each other, and pray for each other, that you might be healed.  Jas5:16.

For Lupé, the Beautiful Dancer.

Last week I locked my keys in my car in Echo Park.

Echo Park is lovely now, but it was known for gang activity in the not too distant past.

Rush hour was easing, and the sun was setting.

My friend, Gloria, and I stood on the sidewalk and waited on the locksmith.

Gloria is a great person to be locked out of a car with in the middle of a city.  She just stood there laughing.

No stress.  No anxiety.  No worry.  No fear.

We were trying to visit the Aimee Semple McPherson Parsonage and Angelus Temple.  Everything was closed, so we couldn’t go in.  But we walked around and took a few pictures.  Fifteen minutes passed.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.

I looked at Gloria standing by my mini van in high heels on dirty concrete.  It was hot.  We were thirsty and tired.  And the crowd around us was changing as the sun went down.

I started singing.  “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  It seemed appropriate standing outside that temple.  It seemed a declaration of a choice.  Also.  I once saw Jen Hatmaker sing it in a moment of exasperation, and it really made me laugh.

Gloria started singing with me, and we stood there on the sidewalk with people walking by all around, just singing.

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We made it through a couple of verses and then couldn’t remember the third.  Gloria said, “Oh, I’m so thirsty.  I wish we had some water.”

As she said it, a woman in a pink sports bra walked right up to us and said, “Do you work here?  I really need some water.”

It was so odd, like she almost repeated what Gloria had said.  And she came out of nowhere.

She appeared.

Her arms and chest were covered in scars and faded tattoos.  She was a beautiful woman, but older than she seemed at first.  The short top was a few sizes too small.  She was bursting out of it on every side.

“I tried to get a drink of water at the pharmacy.  They said they don’t serve hookers in there.”  She was indignant.  “I’m not a hooker.  I’m a dancer.”

We asked her name.  “Lupe,” she said.  We told her ours.

She talked on in frustration of how she had been treated all day.  As she walked through town because her car broke down.  She was going to sleep in it that night.  She had been to the temple before, and the people were nice, she said.  She thought they might give her water.  She was visiting from Vegas, looking for a better job.

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Gloria asked Lupe if she felt safe in her line of work.

“Oh.  Well.  No one’s ever tried to kill me, but they try to rape me in the parking lot when I leave.  I learned to change clothes before I go.  Now I just wear an old sweat suit, and it’s fine.”

“Wow,” we said.  And we just kept chatting.  Kids.  Shoes.  Lupe liked Gloria’s dress.

We were just three women talking.  She said she was thirsty and hot.  We were, too.  She said her feet hurt.  Ours did, too.

As we stood near the church, two other women and their children walked up and tried the door, and found it locked, like we had.

They had tourist maps in their hands.  The gold crosses around their necks shone nearly white.  They walked by us.

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Gloria and I are always friendly, we can’t even help it.  We spoke to the women.

They sped up walking.  They would hardly look at us.  I saw them staring hard at Lupe, and they almost covered their faces with their maps.  They mumbled something in reply to our greeting and walked quickly away.

Lupe just glanced at them and then back at us.  She seemed unfazed, but their behavior was so unnecessary.  It was weird.

We talked a little more with Lupe, but she wanted to walk in a public bathroom outside the temple.  We felt like we needed to wait with the car.  We told her we would give her money.  We wanted to pray with her.  She said she could use prayer.  We said to just meet us at the car when she came out.

She walked in the bathroom, and  we walked back to the car.  A few minutes passed, and we wondered if we should check on her.  We walked back to where we could see the bathroom door, and we saw two men walk in.

Gloria and I always find pennies.  They remind me of something Heidi Baker always says, “Stop for the one.”

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As we left Echo Park, Gloria bent down and picked up the filthiest penny I have ever seen from under a bus bench.  It looked like it had been wrapped in bubble gum and rolled in dog hair and dirt.  But, under it all was glowing copper, no doubt.  Still a penny.  Still forged with a purpose.  Still valuable.

I don’t know if Lupe had planned a meeting with those men or not, but she never came back to us.  We met some policemen later, near the time we finally got the car unlocked, but they didn’t seem worried about her.

I pray she is safe.  I pray she knows she is loved.  I pray she sometimes thinks of two women who enjoyed spending time with her outside of a church.  I pray she goes back there and tries again.  And the doors are open.  And she finds what she’s looking for.

What she’s really looking for.

I pray I get another chance.  To love well, to reach out, to go one step further in serving and in boldness.

And I pray for the women who passed us by.  As lovely and clean as those women were, they were the opposite of pretty, dressed in judgement.  Walking in fear.

We can always do better.  I pray they can try again, too.  That they get another chance to minister to a stranger.  That they find what they are looking for.

Really looking for.

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God is love.

What Will You Do With Your One, Wild Life? {LISTEN}

In the last two years,

I moved from the midwest to Los Angeles County.

I put two children in the L.A. County Public School system.

I rode the Superman ride at Six Flags

and the Tower of Terror at Disneyland.

I defied gravity.

I cut my hair.

I watched my son suffer and beat death

while I prayed for miracles over his grey skin.

I have met celebrities and homeless men.

I have seen demons.

And I have heard them, too.

I fought disease in myself,

and the mind games that come with pain:

depression

desperation

defeat.

I have auditioned,

been in a commercial,

and sung on stage in front of hundreds of people.

I have driven to LAX

on the 405 in rush hour traffic,

and that, my friend, is no joke.

I jumped off the high jump at the local trampoline extravaganza.

It was only one story, but it was a lot for me.

I have done a thousand new things

and met a thousand new people.

I have worn my heart on my sleeve.

I have been passed over

and celebrated,

and both can be hard to handle.

I started a novel.

I turned 40.

I turned a corner.

I turned away from fear

and into myself.

And I wonder

what else is out there for me

for us

when we turn away from fear.

What can you do

to turn more and more

into

yourself?

For me,

I’m going to

see what else

I can cram in

to this

one

wild

life.

Inspiration song from Gungor.  What will you do with your one wild life?!?