Fear is the Mind-Killer
7 Ways to Combat Anxiety and Be More Present
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.” –Frank Herbert, Dune
Fear is common. We’ve all been afraid to take risks, make decisions, and create the change we need at certain points in our lives. Fear and anxiety are a natural part of the human experience. I used to have frequent anxiety myself, even panic attacks. It took a lot of practice, devotion, and determination to combat them – and I say combat, not defeat, because I still have my anxious moments. While I may not have conquered anxiety for good, I have done my best through meditation and living in the moment.
Here are some techniques I’ve learned in my travels that help combat fear and anxiety, allowing one to be more present – or as Ram Dass says: Be Here Now.
Ongoing Practices for Being More Present:
- Yoga: Yoga is my favorite practice for being present, as it emphasizes physical awareness, breath work, and the importance of Stepping Onto the Mat.
- Tai Chi & Qigong: While not the same, both are movement-based practices medically proven to reduce stress and improve strength and balance.
- Meditation: Great for calming the mind, learning to focus, and staying on task. Just ten minutes per day is enough to begin changing your mental habits.
- Running: I hear this is a great one, but I don’t do it – unless it’s away from a large bear.
In-the-Moment Practices for Anxious Moments:
- The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique: Originally derived from yoga, this method of breathing creates a sense of calm in the body. It works just like it sounds: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7, exhale for 8. Repeat until the anxiety passes.
- Do a Task with Your Non-Dominant Hand: This is a fun one. I learned this from my yogi in India. Pick an everyday task like brushing your teeth or combing your hair and do it with your opposite hand (i.e. If you’re right-handed, use your left). It helps you concentrate and stay in the moment, which is difficult to do these days.
- Do a Task with Intention: This is similar to the last one, only more reliant on the mind. Choose an everyday task, like washing your hands or eating your lunch, and do it with pure intent and focus. Remove distractions like your cell phone or television, and simply do the task while focusing on nothing but the task. What is it like to appreciate the flavors and textures of your food? To feel the soap on your hands?
We become so used to the path we take that our routines become a blur and we forget to stop and smell the flowers. This is often part of the reason we feel so anxious in the first place. Slow down, take notice, appreciate the intricacies of life. Observe the cracks in the sidewalk, heed the small details, and really look around. Next time you feel anxious or become obsessed with an outcome, take a deep breath and remember: there’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.