Monday, March 5, 2012

Stop exhausting yourself with fear

Fear is exhausting!

As the tornado sirens blasted incessantly last Friday, I sat covered with pillows in my studio supply closet. I don't mind telling you that, after years in hurricane and earthquake regions, it's tornados that scare the daylights out of me.

The tornados skipped my spot on earth but golf ball size hail bombarded my house and studio.

When the skies cleared for a gorgeous sunset, I felt so depleted that I simply could not get myself back to work. Why not? I wondered. I hadn't done much of anything except sit out the storm all afternoon.

Then I realized how utterly exhausting fear is.

Fear arises in response to many triggers.

Triggers for fear can be simply a matter of "I'm so busy. I have so much to do. How am I going to tackle my tasks in the amount of time I think I have?"

Or, "I don't know how to do what my next task requires."

Fear exhausts us because of mental anticipation of what might happen in the future (worst case scenario) and primal physical reaction (fight or flight.) Ironically, over busyness is often caused by fear of allowing life to unfold outside of our (perceived) control.

While there's not much to do about where a tornado lands, there is something to do about everyday fears.

I've written about breathing before and will do so again. Conscious breathing is a fabulous tool to center yourself and bring yourself into the present moment, out of your fearful thinking.

Conscious breathing gives you some time and space. Taking that time and space to make a decision is another great tool. Allowing yourself to make a decision gives you the opportunity to choose between reacting and acting. When you take decisive action, you dissipate fear because you are no longer anticipating and you have chosen to not react.

Then there's the fear of the unknown. I don't know how. I don't know what the outcome will be. We never really know the ultimate outcome of our actions. But one thing is for sure. We will be buffeted about like a seed in the wind if we do not direct our attention to decisive action.

We're learning machines. Many potential students are afraid of or loathe the computer and do not understand how an online course in drawing and watercolor could possibly work. I'm not in love with computers but they're great tools. It can be kind of a pain to learn new things but then you learn how to do new things and it's not so bad. In fact, learning how to do things that we think we can't do can  be awesomely empowering.

For example, if you had told me six years ago that I would have installed two floors all by myself, I would have thought you were crazy. Now, one of the first things I brag on to visitors to my studio is the floor that I prepared and installed (with underlayment) all by myself. A couple of years later, I installed a completely different type of flooring in my bathroom. (I'm still amazed.)

Most creative activity requires cutting through fear. Drawing, watercolor, writing, all require cutting through fear. You can talk about being creative, procrastinate about creating or take a deep breath in front of the blank page and make a mark. The stroke of a key, a pencil, pen or brush signifies victory over fear. But you must allow the action to continue.

So then there's practice. You practice cutting through fear. The more you practice cutting through fear, the more engaging with the present moment becomes a habit. Then that habit starts spilling over into other areas of your life and work.

As for time, a lot of our issues with time revolve around our perception of it. This makes time sort of elastic. I start all of my basic drawing lessons with timed exercises and it is simply astounding how long one or two minutes can seem.

As you practice engaging with the present moment, you'll have more time and less fear.

Join me for my next Online Drawing and Watercolor Course starting April 5th.

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