Working with Fear

Link to more resources on fear below.

View or download the print-friendly PDF version.

While mindfulness most directly shifts our relationship with fear, there are a number of ways that we can temporarily calm ourselves when fear is strong. These strategies can be combined or sequenced in any way that you find is effective. Practice when you are not feeling fear, as well as when fear does arise and discover which ways of paying attention most help you to find an ease-filled presence.

  1. Grounding:  Sit comfortably and become aware of the sensations where your feet meet the ground. Feel the weight of your body on your seat and notice the warmth and pressure where your arms or hands rest on your legs. Let your breath be slow and full, and feel the sense of gravity, of belonging to the earth.
  2. Resource anchors are places to rest the attention that can help collect and quiet the mind, as well as arouse an increased sense of ease. These can be employed separately or in some combination.
    • Rest your attention on a part of your body where sensations are neutral or pleasant (e.g. the feet or hands).  Alternately, you might attend to feeling the whole body sitting; or let your attention focus on sounds and the space where they are occurring.
    • Place your hand(s) gently on your heart, belly or cheek (or a combination of these) and feel the sensations of warmth and contact.
    • Mentally repeat a whispered phrase of reassurance, comfort or love: “It’s okay sweetheart.” “I’m sorry and I love you.” “I’m here with you.”
      NOTE: You might also repeat a set of phrases, as in the lovingkindness or metta practice: “May I be happy, may I be free from inner or outer harm, may I be peaceful, may I be free.”
    • Visualize something or someone that brings a sense of comfort, safety or love – a person who you trust, a place in nature that you feel at home in, a spiritual figure or deity. You might imagine a loving being embracing you and/or filling you with healing light.
  3. Name out loud  the sounds, feelings and images that are right here in the present moment: “Seeing the trees through the window, hearing the sound of the radio, feeling the weight of my body on my seat.”
  4. **Breathing slowly and deeply:  Match the length of the in-breath and out-breath so they are approximately 5-6 seconds each. If it helps, count slowly to four to keep them the same length. Let the breathing be continuous, without a pause between breathing in and out.
  5. Relax parts of your body that feel tense:  Bring a gentle attention to these areas with the intention to soften, to let the sensations float in awareness. Pay particular attention to the shoulders, hands, and belly. Also relax your face, including your tongue, from the tip right to its root.

**See also: Richard Brown and Patricia Gerbarg, The Healing Power of the Breath: Simple Techniques to Reduce Stress and Anxiety, Enhance Concentration, and Balance Your Emotions

Tara Brach, Ph.D. –

More Resources from Tara on Fear:

Transforming Two Fears: FOF and FOMO
There are two common fears that can block us from our full potential – fear of failure (FOF), and fear of missing out (FOMO). This talk explores how to meet these fears with mindful presence, and discover within them the essence energies of loving awareness and full aliveness.

Part 1: Beyond the Fear Body
Part 2: Beyond the Fear Body
A central part of spiritual awakening is recognizing and befriending fear, and in the tender intensity of fear, discovering the awakened heart. In these two talks we explore the suffering of becoming identified with the fear body, and the skillful means that enable a full and liberating presence with fear.