A New Years Resolution for Fear

01/12/2017 05:24 pm ET

While most New Years resolutions focus on losing weight, exercising more, or finding a new job, have you ever considered a resolution to manage your fears?

Most of us at least think about creating New Years resolutions to reinforce a goal and keep our lives moving in the right direction. That can be difficult after a death or divorce, when it feels like the sands are shifting under your feet and you don’t know where to turn, who to count on, or how to heal. Perhaps one resolution could be to take a hard look at your fears and address them so they don’t control you.

Try this simple technique. Down the left side of a piece of paper, make a list of all your fears. Recognize that some will be huge, like a herd of thundering elephants, while others are really not that big, like mice with microphones. Then on the right side, brainstorm and come up with a list of options, no matter how outlandish they might seem.

For instance, if the fear is that you have to learn new skills when you thought you were too old to do so, perhaps the options might include:

  • Invite a friend to take a class with me.
  • Start with something small that I know I can manage so I gain confidence first.

If the fear is that you may not be able to afford your home, some options might read:

  • Meet with my financial advisor to discuss investments, reserves, and possibilities.
  • Sell things from the attic, basement, and other rooms that are no longer needed.
  • Invite family members to move in with me and share expenses.
  • Do enough remodeling to take in a renter or a couple of local college students.

It may also be helpful to imagine the worst possible scenario. What is the absolute worst thing that could happen? Then determine whether you would still be OK if it did. Chances are pretty good that, even though you may not like it, you could survive and find a way to deal with even the nastiest consequences. Knowing you will be OK in the long run can take power away from your fears.

As you do this exercise, you may find that the simple act of putting your fears on paper where you can see them makes them more manageable. The University of Chicago found that when students preparing for major college exams wrote down their fears ahead of time, they scored higher on the exams. It gives you a sense of control over fears when they are named and written so you can literally look them in the face.

Throughout this process, be assured that neither grief nor feelings of fear need to last forever. When you allow their expression and deal with them honestly, they will eventually resolve. Don’t let fear or grief rule your heart, and open up room for hope and healing.

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