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Five Things Fear Hates: How to Fight Fear With Fear

teacup nature quote
In case you can’t read the quote, it says “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” – William Shakespeare

I don’t know about you, but right now I feel fearful a lot.

When I don’t feel fearful, all I have to do is open up my inbox or browser window.

Most recently, I heard that a tiger at the New York Bronx zoo has come down with COVID19.

To be honest, nothing else I’ve read or heard about the virus to date made me as afraid as that.

This in spite of knowing that coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can hop from animals to people and (apparently) back again.

Recently I was listening to a livestream by one of my favorite mentors. Not surprisingly, she was talking about this global fearfulness and how it is becoming a pandemic in its own right.

Then she said, “I am going to teach you how to fight fear by telling you to do all the things fear hates most.”


(Honestly, I feel compassion for my fear and for fearful-me. But I’m not excited about becoming fear’s doormat either.)

So here goes. Here is a list of all the things fear itself fears the most so you can use them as needed in the days and weeks ahead.

1. Oxygen (breath).

If ever there was an emotion that thrives on carbon dioxide, it would be fear.

I can’t make coronvirus go away. But I can fill up with oxygen – from a safe six or more feet of distance away, of course.

So I do that.

If I can string several of these deep-breath-moments together, the fear starts to recede because it doesn’t have enough carbon dioxide to feed it anymore.

Me: 1 / Fear: 0

2. Gratitude.

I’m not going to lie. I have been guilty of complaining some (okay a lot) here and there.

Complaining feels more proactive and productive than just sitting in a little ball quaking in fear.

But really, they are the same.

The more my fear can get me started on a robust round of complaining, the more it can convince me that my whole life isn’t just on hold but it is wearing cement shoes (i.e. going to where there is literally no oxygen at all – see #1 here for more on this).

Feeling grateful for tiny-seeming things that aren’t really that tiny – my health, clean water, oxygen, warm water to shower in, a soft bed to sleep in, my precious companion animals to spend my days with, having work still coming in so I can pay rent – these are awesome fear-busters.

Since I have started to have trouble getting to sleep and then staying asleep at night, I often use gratitude in the evening. I will lay down in my bed and list out at least five things I’m grateful for.

Combining deep breathing with my gratitude list doubles the impact.

Me: 1 / Fear: 0

3. Laughter.

Morning is when I tend to feel the most clear-headed…or at least it used to be.

These days, when I start my usual daily routine I often find myself wallowing in what I have come to call “smallness.” Smallness basically means that nothing I do feels like “enough.”

No, I don’t have a cure for COVID19. I also don’t know how to cure cancer or even seasonal allergies.

Or that mysterious chronic pain in my left knee.

And while we’re on the subject, I still don’t feel brave. Or competent. Or adult.

You see where this is going.

Mornings are also the time when I usually post my social media for the day.

So what I’ve started doing is watching old Ellen Show videos on YouTube – the really funny ones about auto-correct texts gone wrong or improperly worded signs.

This morning I laughed so hard I pulled a muscle in my left shoulder. So be it. It was totally worth it.

Me: 1 / Fear: 0

4. Service.

My parents are elderly and local and if I want to be able to go over and help them I can’t see anyone else, which is totally fine with me.

But I notice when I do go over and can complete small tasks like setting up my dad’s new iPad for reading in large print or procuring a fresh stash of toilet paper for my worried mom, I feel less fearful for a moment.

You see that? I did that. I solved that (admittedly somewhat infinitesimal first world) problem.

It reminds me of that prayer about serenity – grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can tell the difference between a coronavirus vaccine and a package of toilet paper. So I do.

Me: 1 / Fear: 0

5. Nature.

Truly. I realize this list probably seems very….lightweight. (Some people may even post later and tell me this. And it wouldn’t be the first time, either.)

No one is wearing any boxing gloves in this post, or any gloves at all for that matter. There are no masks or sanitizing agents or ultraviolet light beams. No one is getting the heck out of dodge or bulking up on immune-building supplements….although I have been doing that, too.

Although frankly, doing that doesn’t really help my fear and can actually feed into my fear if I’m not very careful about when and how I do it.

What does help is witnessing nature.

The trees are just there. Every morning. Outside my windows. They wave when the wind blows and let the hawk family nest in their branches and tolerate the woodpeckers digging for their dinner.

My interspecies family, Pearl, Malti and Bruce, are oblivious about the “new” threat sweeping across the planet. This (I suspect) is because they’ve already got their hands full with all the other threats that just come with the territory when you are small and delicious and appetizer-sized.

Sure, add another fear on top of the already-towering pile. Who really cares at this point.

And yet they have learned to adapt. To feel the fear and do it anyway. When that is the only choice you’ve got, you do what it takes.

I find nature so inspiring as I attempt to turn quivering, cowering me into brave me. And slowly but surely, I too find out that there is a lot more to me than just my fear.

Which inevitably works out to where….

Me: 1 / Fear: 0

I don’t know if this list is at all helpful. At the very least I hope it is not the opposite of helpful. Did I forget any fear-banishing tactic that works really well for you? Share yours please – we can all use all the help we can get right now and always.

With great respect and love,


Five Things Fear Hates: How to Fight Fear With Fear

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). Five Things Fear Hates: How to Fight Fear With Fear. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Apr 2020
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