Fear Full

When, in March 2020, we were called upon to engage in a national lockdown, it naturally caused fear and alarm. In fact, it was designed to alarm us into action; into staying at home and wearing masks and washing out hands and disinfecting everything. However, the circumstances that we all found ourselves in varied widely and a year later, with the prospect of life getting back to some degree of normality, some people find themselves, quite naturally now, trapped in the cycle of threat. We perceive a threat to ourselves or our circumstance created by a change in the situation and prepare to react. The stress response. It is designed to make us more alert and ready for action, but when we are stressed for any length of time, without the capacity to respond, as we were in lockdown we reset our threat perception. Suddenly, that state became the status quo and now the thought of going outside and mingling with others feels threatening. We changed the narrative or it was changed for us, and that is the key to this whole situation. Someone else was managing it. Now we have to regain some degree of autonomy over our actions and our perception and that will be tough initially. However, it is really important to understand that the stress response or fight or flight is only the first phase in a bi-phase process, meaning that the second phase is necessary to complete or finish the cycle of stress. When we don’t engage in the second phase, the calm after the storm, then we simply overexert all physiological processes associated with the first phase. This leads to tight muscles pulling at joints, high blood pressure, inflammation due to excess cortisol in the bloodstream. Not really recommended.

And so, I wrote a poem. Please remember too that you can watch me recite the poem in full on my You Tube channel, A Stitch In Rhyme.


When you feel your heart begin to race
and sense that danger’s near…
don’t be alarmed: it’s natural
‘cos what you feel is fear.

Fear is the first emotion that
it’s likely we will feel.
It starts the chain response to stress:
a threatening ordeal.

Our inbuilt innate systems mean
we’ll fight to stay alive…
and as a species, fear is what
has helped us to survive.

For fear is an emotion that
serves to motivate.
We invent things like smartphones
which can help facilitate…

our life beset with obstacles,
where to simply run and hide
isn’t always the best option.
We must take things in our stride.

But sometimes the anxiety wins
and the threat won’t go away.
We’re just not sure how we will
ever make it through the day.

Our perception can at times distort
our sense of reality
and we feel isolated;
overwhelmed by what we see.

Our coping mechanisms fail;
a breakdown in the system.
And we are captured deep within
a threat reflecting prism.

To counteract the symptoms
of emotional distress,
we need a conscious strategy:
a bit like mental chess.

We need to interrupt the code
that we’re under attack,
and communicate that we are safe
which helps us to bounce back.

The stress response is a
two-part physiological process.
The second phase will slow things down:
its purpose is to calm us.

So if we slow our breathing down
by taking longer breaths,
we declare a new intention
in our reaction to stress.

And we can punctuate this
reconfiguration too
By counting down from 10-1,
and when the count is through…

You might find that the ‘boom-bodi-boom’
has softened in your chest,
and that this exercise has
helped you get back to your best.

Your health is your most prized asset:
a valuable commodity.
And ongoing suffering really isn’t
great for anybody.

So, if you’re feeling fear full
in the present situation…
just, stop and breathe to help you soothe
your rogue imagination.