WORRYING ABOUT FEARS
During my burnout, I had kept all activities to a minimum. In combination with the lockdowns around corona, a fairly quiet time. Honestly, I really liked that. No appointments, no visits, no obligations, etc. In addition, the lockdowns ensured that I didn’t have to do anything. I was fine with online teaching, meetings via teams, most things didn’t go through.
I thought it was a kind of gift.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last forever, and “normal” life began to take shape again.
One of the consequences of this quiet period was that I reacted hypersensitively to situations that required energy. I started thinking of all kinds of scenarios in advance what could go wrong when I started doing this. I could worry about activities (which I didn’t worry about before), for days. The thoughts of what could go wrong piled up in my head.
I started building fears. Sometimes so bad that I had a panic attack.
For example, if I knew I had to drive somewhere next week, I would already have thoughts like:
– what am I going to do when the car stops
– and then when I’m standing next to the road, and no one comes
– and I panic,
– and it’s raining
– and it’s dark
– and I get hungry,
– it’s getting cold… etc… etc… etc.
I was thinking up fears and actually driving myself crazy beforehand.
These fears true:
-able to take over me
I could sometimes feel paralyzed by the fear. Which caused me to sleep badly, become moody, quickly become irritated, etc.
Later, I even started to fear the fear. I was already worried about the fear I would get. I started worrying about being scared, of getting scared.
In the end, I sought professional help. Because this of course costs a lot of unnecessary energy and is very inconvenient in everyday life. For myself, but certainly also for my environment.
Time to deal with it.
Together with the psychologist, I came to the conclusion that I had not developed real fears. My psychologist explained that I want to do everything I can to prevent burnout.
As a result, my brain reacts extra violently to possible problems and causes me to become afraid.
And that’s where the fear of thought arises.
I had to take the fear thought seriously. After all, it is also a signal that something dangerous may be coming your way.
However, becoming completely paralyzed from fear is usually not necessary.
The change that has helped me is to face the fear thought, to challenge the fear thought. That’s what every psychologist and burnout coach says…and that’s unfortunately the only way.
Only that feels very unsafe and certainly the first time it is. The fear can be so all-encompassing that you almost become paralyzed.
Fortunately, most fears are made for nothing, you only notice that over time.
A method that works for me is the baguette method. You can already use it for very small fears.
I also use it on students with fear of failure, panic, etc. at my school.
How that works, I explain below:
If you draw a baguette on a white leaf, you will get this:
Then you briefly write down the fear thought in the baguette.
Now you’re going to cut the baguette (the fear) into pieces. And then study each piece separately. The fear becomes so manageable.
For example, I once had a course in Amersfoort. My mind immediately shot into fear about the car ride I had to take. All the way from Nijmegen to Amersfoort, on my own…..
Now you’re going to name and challenge every bit of the problem.
I drive from Nijmegen to Amersfoort, what is the fear thought.
Fear 1: the car may stop (that could happen)
(Solution, bring a charged phone (you can call), an OV pass and the ANWB card)
Anxiety 2: maybe I’m getting tired (that’s quite possible)
(Solution, drive quietly, max 100km/h and stop at 2 gas stations for a cup of tea and on arrival you take 20 minutes me time)
Fear 3: it’s busy on the road and I panic (that’s possible)
(Solution: drive quietly, behind a truck, put Venice on (quiet music) and leave after rush hour)
Fear 4: I don’t know the way (that’s right, I don’t know exactly where to go)
(Solution, I have Google maps, I can study and print the route in advance)
Fear 5: I get hungry and thirsty (that can happen and is not nice)
(Solution, I’ll bring food and some drinks)
Fear 6: I’m alone and that doesn’t feel good (that’s right)
(Solution, put the phone on speaker and talk to others on the go)
Etc. etc. etc….in this way the fear becomes manageable.
On the day itself, you roll out this entire program.
After rolling out, you give yourself a short analysis.
You’ll notice that a lot of problems didn’t happen.
-The car just did it,
-it’s quiet anyway, everyone only drives 100 so there’s no point in rushing,
-it’s only 40 minutes so I’m not really hungry
-and there are 2 Mcdonaldses on the way
-I just called my wife (hands free)
By doing this, you make the fear manageable. You cut the fear into pieces, chop it so that you can deal with it better.
If you take very small minuscule steps, you will already notice that many fears subside.
Recently I have used this more often. A train ride to Zwolle, a party in Schiedam, a dinner in Venlo and a camp in Zeeland.
All full of fear at the front but controlled by chopping the fear into pieces.
That’s the growth.
Learning to handle the fear.
Trust that your body knows best what’s good for you. The fear is indeed useful. You are extra aware of possible dangers.
But getting completely in the grip of fear is usually not necessary.
The solution is to acknowledge the fear, take it seriously, and then challenge it. That helped me the most.