Jeanne Takenaka

Have you ever really considered how fear affects us?

Over the past number of months, I’ve had to accept the reality that, for most of my life, I’ve allowed fear to be the boss of me. Yes, I’m hanging my head a little at the admission. I’ve been a Jesus-girl since I was fourteen. You’d think decades of walking with Him would have cured me, right? 

Ummm, nope.

Most of us have a basic understanding of the different kinds of fear. There’s a fear that comes because something threatens us. Usually this kicks our adrenaline into high-gear. Our breaths come short, our hearts pound hard, and our bodies are equipped to fight or flee. We need this kind of fear when we face dangerous situations. 

Then there’s the kind of fear that I’m confessing to. It’s a long-term thing that grabs hold of us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and wreaks havoc. 

9 Fundamentals About How Fear Affects Us—Then there’s the kind of fear that I’m confessing to. It’s a long-term thing that grabs hold of us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and wreaks havoc #tellhisstory #fear Click To Tweet

***Quick note: I’m not a licensed counselor. I’m sharing from a layperson’s perspective.

Red flowers in a dim place, a reminder that when fear makes us feel like we're in a dark place, there is still hope

Understanding fear

Fear is normal. We’ll each face fear in our lives. It’s what we do with it that determines our outcomes. 

Fear can keep us safe. In dangerous or new situations, a degree of fear is healthy. As our bodies react, we can prepare to flee or protect ourselves in the short-term. 

Fear can be good, when it challenges us in a positive way. When we are afraid of trying something new (skydiving, anyone?), fear can be what prods us to accomplish said activity and then experience that sense of achievement.

Fear can be debilitating when it dictates our decision-making processes and perceptions. Allowing fear to determine our responses to life will cripple us if we don’t overcome it.

Causes of fear

Some personalities tend toward fearfulness. For others, fear drills in after traumatic or emotionally-impacting experiences. When I was a girl, my sensitive nature made me a great target for bullies. They said or did something hurtful, and I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. In self-preservation, I withdrew from my classmates. 

In time, I learned how to function without being vulnerable. I became a people-pleaser in order to avoid being snubbed. This fear of rejection affected me into my forties. 

People who’ve experienced trauma—whether from an event like a car crash or the loss of a loved one, or those who faced various kinds of abuse—may react in strong ways. They may seek to avoid certain people or situations out of the fear of re-experiencing pain they’ve known in the past. 

Long-term fear affects our thoughts, our decisions, our heart, our perceptions. It’s so sneaky, we may not even realize its influence for years. Learning how fear affects us enables us to deal with it.

9 Fundamentals About How Fear Affects Us—Long-term fear affects our thoughts, our decisions, our heart, our perceptions. It’s so sneaky, we may not even realize its influence for years #tellhisstory #howfearaffectsus Click To Tweet
Yellow flowers growing around a barbed wire fence, symbolic of how fear affects us. We try to grow our lives, but sometimes fear pokes boundaries around us

How fear affects us

Fear impacts each aspect of who we are. 

Physically

Long-term fear affects our minds with brain fog. We may have difficulty processing information or remembering things. It impacts our hearts by increasing our blood pressure, causing chest pain and more. Fear affects us in other areas, like sleep, our digestive systems, and our immune systems.

Mentally

Fear causes us to feel stress. When we live with an underlying sense of uncertainty, we begin to see everything through that filter of fear. This steals our joy. If we live like this long enough, our emotions begin to shut down, and we physically feel the effects of long-term fear.  

Emotionally

  • Fear skews the way we perceive our relationships with others. Depending on what we’re afraid of, we may find it difficult to trust people with our hearts, thoughts, and feelings. When authenticity is missing in a relationship, it won’t go very deep or be satisfying. 
  • We may withdraw from people because we feel shame for having the fear we do or because we compare us at our worst with others at their best.

Spiritually

Fear affects so many areas of our spiritual life. It causes:

This is a limited list of how fear affects us. How do we deal with this nemesis? I’m not sure we can completely eliminate it from our lives. Rather, we learn how to overcome it.

Meme with the words, "'I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.' Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)" on a backdrop of a yellow flower growing up from a brick foundation

Initial thoughts for dealing with fear

There are tons of articles available to read for ways to overcome our fear. Here are a few ideas that are frequently mentioned:

  • Find ways to reduce stress
  • Take care of ourselves by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising
  • Self-care is a thing. It’s not sinful or selfish to give ourselves time to rest. This may look like doing something we enjoy (Reading? Hiking? Having coffee with a friend? Something else?).
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Talk with someone about how we feel—a counselor or a trusted friend
  • Pray and talk or journal with God about the fear. Be gut-level honest with Him. He can handle it.

Conclusion

The next few blogposts will unpack this concept more. This is important to me because it’s been a lifelong issue.

God has shown me areas where I’ve been impacted. Fear took root in my younger years. I’ve had to work on my thought-life and on following through with what I always said is the best thing to do:

Trust God, no matter what

Yellow crocuses growing, a reminder that  we can change how fear affects us

This is much easier said than done, isn’t it? We’re going to unpack that too. 

I’m not allowing fear to boss me around anymore. I’m thankful our Father is always trustworthy and always loves us, even when we have trouble letting go of fear. He always protects us. He always walks with us through fearful situations, and He works healing in our lives. Let’s hold onto that truth.

What about you? What kinds of fears have you grappled with? As you consider how fear affects us all, how do you navigate through it?

Come share your story at the Tell His Story linkup. Connect and be encouraged by like-minded friends! #tellhisstory #linkup Click To Tweet

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