It seems like we have been experiencing more fear and stress than ever before. And after doing some research, I ran across The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey, and in 2020 the percentage of people in the U.S. who are experiencing stress rose significantly in every single category they surveyed!
Before coronavirus threatened our lives, we seemed to have had more time and ability to disconnect and take periods for ourselves to take care of our state of mind. Now it seems like we lack that ability, partly due to our lack of vacationing, since for the last couple of years it has become harder to take the time needed to decompress from our daily routine. The other part from fear of traveling and travel restrictions that have impacted our ability to get away. So, it seems like overall happiness in our day-to-day life has diminished and the rise in the state of worry for the future and overall fear of the unknowns is plaguing our lives.
As I spoke to the man next to me on the plane to Bali, that’s where the conversation went. Lately, more and more people I have spoken to me about their fears, and these fears vary widely. Pandemic aside, their fears range from leaders that they lack trust in, to the escalating problems in the environment, to something as important as having financial stability and being able to support themselves and take care of their family (now and in the future).
One way of dealing with fear is to eliminate the threat that causes it, however many times these threats are out of our control. So, we are left with finding ways to combat fear within ourselves; the way to do that is with the opposite emotion to fear, which is not composure, or even resolution… It’s love.
In one of my favorite books, the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu writes…
“Through Love, one has no fear”
And now, more than 500 years later, neurobiological evidence has revealed that he was right. Fear, a primary emotion, is processed in the amygdala, the part of the brain that signals the body to go into fight or flight. And while this is necessary for survival, this fear response has been maladapted in our modern life.
Last week, a client who is a social media influencer, told me that she feels her chest tighten as she clicks on social media apps on her phone. This implies that the second she grabs her phone to check the impact her posts are making, her amygdala starts alerting her that there is a dangerous threat ahead, giving her a dose of adrenaline and cortisol in response, even though there’s nothing really threating her wellbeing.
Oxytocin is another hormone secreted by the body that reduces anxiety and stress by inhibiting the response of the amygdala to outside stimuli. When we have loving contact with others, connect deeply with nature and create joyful experiences for ourselves, the outside world starts to appear less threatening to us.
Therefore, Lao Tzu was right… love does drive out fear.
And what better way to love ourselves than to take time for ourselves; to reconnect with nature, to reconnect with ourselves and to gain a different perspective then the world that we have created for ourselves.
That’s why Bali was so important for me. After my mother passed away in January, I hurdled myself into work and attempted to mask what I felt and needed by giving more importance to things outside of myself. This caused my level of fear and worry to rise, and although I could feel it happening, I felt impotent to step out of the path I had taken.
That’s why when I had the chance to go on a retreat which had every second of my time and every activity planned, I knew I had to say yes! The change of scenery, change of perspective and time I spent connecting with others and nature was just what I needed to reset and refocus.
This is why Yoga and retreats are such a large part of my life and why I invite you to step out of fear and into love and join in one of them!