“It’s OKAY to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave.” –Mandy Hale

It’s really, really scary to face cancer. There’s no getting around this and it only makes us nuts to pretend we’re not frightened.  When I listen to people in my office, in workshops, groups and panel discussions describe their experiences, beneath all the comments and questions, I hear the sound of fear. Often the words, the details don’t even matter – it’s like we need to find some reasons to voice the real terror that is striking our hearts and hitting us upside the head. In online groups, similar questions and familiar statements of concern show up time after time … the cries of fear are loud and the need to be listened to is palpable.

Why are we afraid of fear? In the cancer world we’re often told that fear is a “negative” emotion that will only make you sicker … maybe even kill you.  So fear becomes like a shameful stalker striding alongside illness, distress and confusion.  Sucking in our breath we pretend not to feel fear. Those who actually manage this denial are looked upon as the real conquerors and heroes – nothing stops them!  The rest of us feel wimpy and stupid and learn to keep our nasty, bad fears stuffed inside.  All that dismay and dread becomes an overwhelming anxiety that gets caught in the throat or cramped in the pit of the stomach.

You don’t need to carry all that suffering inside of you or bear it alone.  Here’s some suggestions on soothing your fears.

1. Breathe in through your nose- mouth closed.  Breathe out through your nose – mouth closed.  This simple type of breathing affects your parasympathetic nervous system and helps to calm your nerves.  Repeat this over and over again.

2. Think of people you can talk to when you are frightened – be sure to pick individuals you can trust to be present with whatever you are feeling.

3  Write down your fears and then tear up the piece of paper or burn it.  This helps you let go of all you are carrying around inside of you.

4.  Movement helps ease anxiety and helps us feel more in charge. You don’t have to run a marathon, you can even do some stretching while you are in bed or sitting in a chair.  A short, easy walk works wonders.

5.  Be kind to and encouraging to yourself.  Imagine you are talking to a small child who is terrified – you reassure that little one that you are there for her and hold her close.

Be well …