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Ways to Calm Your Fears

17 March 2020

Barbara watched Martha Beck’s weekly Facebook Live Event, The Gathering Room: Fearless, and had reinforced what she knows to be true—focused breathing helps when scary things are happening.

Tags: balance, barbara read, barbara watched, covid-19, martha beck, mindfulness

Martha Beck has provided our Allison Partners team with good insights in the past, so I knew she’d probably have something helpful to say as I struggle to stay calm during these difficult times. Her 8 March 2020 Facebook Live Event, The Gathering Room: Fearless, introduced a new to me breathing exercise that I’m going to paraphrase and share my reactions:

  • Gather all your fears together right here and feel them in your solar plexus. I hate that part because my vivid imagination can do so many things that are not good for me. But then I remember—I’m to face them, feel them, and then move to the next step.
  • Realize almost every worry is about what is going to happen in the future. Those things have not happened yet. She says to focus on the present—what is happening right this minute—I am drinking my hot green tea and writing in my journal. The sun is shining. My husband is fixing his breakfast. I’m looking at the colors of red, green, and blue in my office that I love.
  • Breathe the way the military trains people to breathe that slows down their thinking and breathing in stressful situations. Breathe out counting 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold your breath—1, 2. Breathe in—1, 2, 3, 4. Hold your breath 1, 2. Repeat as long as needed to calm yourself. The breathing slows your body and the counting occupies your brain and stops it from thinking terrible thoughts. Introducing numbers to the breathing process did stop me from thinking about bad things—That’s a new technique for me.

Worry has always been the demon I’ve had to manage. In my book, Turn Your Face, Chapter 7: Dance When You Can, I describe my journey with anxiety and how I’ve learned to take care of myself. Therefore, when bad things happen, I know I have to turn to my reliable tools and search for new ones like Beck’s breathing exercise.

The affirmations I learned in the CHAANGE program have been helpful to me for more than 35 years, and now they are my handwashing song. In addition, I am staying home, talking on the phone to people I enjoy, walking in my basement every day, listening to music and dancing in front of the mirror, working on a PowerPoint presentation for an upcoming course, relishing whatever work the Allison Partners team gives me, reading historical fiction about terrible times in the past where people persevered, watching sitcoms and comedians, carefully managing my news intake, focusing on quality sleep each night, and upping my craft game. I have finished a colorful scarf and am working on another for people I love.

My usual way of knitting hurts my right elbow, so I’ve watched YouTube videos about how to do it left-handed. I can’t quite pull that off, but I devised a new method where my right arm stays still, and my left hand moves over to catch the yarn. The end pieces of the scarf were very challenging. I didn’t know how long they should be. I bound off and then had to undo the binding and knit two more rows and bind off again. Any other time I would have been aggravated, but this time I just thought—"Oh a challenge, something new to do, and a way to occupy my mind.”

Whenever I can, I tell myself all the disciplined changes we are making as individuals and collectively will work. When doubt creeps in, I return to my tools above. How are you staying calm?


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Nancy Garofalo
Mar 19, 2020

Thank you for sharing the breathing exercise. I find that helpful. I too struggle with excessive worry and have for a long time. I am trying to keep very busy at home these days.  Thanks for your comments. The scarf is lovely!

Barbara Linney
Mar 22, 2020

Thank you. If I breathe and keep saying my affirmations, I am doing pretty well. When I have sinking spells, I have to also get up, walk, and breathe. I’m sending good thoughts to you and yours.


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