How to Perform Psychologically in the Face of Fear

This is game day, good people.

This is what we have trained for—though you might not have known it consciously.

After all, let’s recall how little of our brain activity is actually conscious; only five percent, a paltry amount.

You probably originally found me for tools to train your mental state for the next big promotion, or the next career conquest, or to unlock your untapped potential. Or maybe psychological pain was the portal to my office or blog for you.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that what we are actually training for is an existential intersection where grit, resiliency, and tolerance of fear and uncertainty are the most important skills we can have. These are the “soft” skills I keep talking about here in The Padded Room. Need to refresh your memory? Check out this post and this one too.

The relentless work you have done—the radical self-awareness, the focus on the unconscious, metabolizing your trauma, and the daily grind of discipline—now is when it matters most.

I repeat, this is game day.

The economic nose dive this past week and the barren shelves in stores across the nation are a stark reminder of what fear looks like on a global scale. Fear is a neurobiological ally wired deep in our reptilian brain. It’s a guide, a steer, and a true north. But it can also be a tyrannical dictator with cruel intentions, hijacking intuition, logic, and reason.

I have emphasized the need to perform psychologically in the face of fear.


The goal has not been to overcome or silence fear, but rather to repurpose its power from disruptive to instructive.


Click here if you need a reminder.

During these times, the surface layers of our daily lives are stripped away, replaced by uncertainty, unpredictability, and a simmering chaos that can disorient and disorganize us.

We are belly up, inners exposed, scrambling on our heels.

It’s not about the job promotions anymore. The next big presentation seems trite. All of the planning and provisions for your next big idea seem to be suddenly irrelevant.

When the chips are stacked against us, when normal rules don’t apply, when the whole damn world seems tipped on its axis, this is what you’ve got to work with— the space between your ears is where the battle is won and lost.

This is what all those hours of “practice” were for—the attention to self-regulation, relentless self-awareness, discipline of your daily habits, and finding the outer edge of your comfort zone.

You are ready.

You’ve got this.

And when all else fails, remember these Four Rules for Game Day:


1) Don’t lose your mind


You’re going to need it right now to help you steer the uncertain tides.

Know your edges, your weak spots. We all have them. And then use the skills you’ve developed to protect yourself from too much anxiety, information, and stress. It doesn’t behoove you to court panic or catastrophic thinking.

Protect your sanity.

This is not complicated.

But it is also not easy.

It takes what it takes (thank you for Trevor Moawad for this quote).

Do what it takes.


2) You land where you focus your vessel


Choose mindfully. Be very clear of where you focus your attention right now. If you focus on catastrophe, you will end up there. If you turn your attention towards panic, you will also land there.

Sure, get adequate enough news to be informed. But be mindful of falling into the 24/7 news trap: online, on TV, streaming live, and on social media. It’s endless. We must be the agent who disciplines our intake. It will not come from external forces right now.

Fear can lead us down cognitive paths riddled with unhealthy biases— availability bias, conformation bias, cognitive closure, and on and on. This is where your relationship with fear really comes into play. Make it count.


3) Stick to the fundamentals


Now is not the time to disrupt your routine; those habits that help us maintain discipline, grit, and resiliency. Rely on what works instead of reinventing the wheel.

As much as possible, maintain the core elements of your daily routine.

What do I mean by this?

Continue to exercise with modifications that reflect smart choices. If your local gym is closed, walk outside. Or, invest in an online program and roll out that dusty yoga mat. But movement matters, both for the mind and the body.

Meditate daily. It’s no longer about having time. It’s imperative.

Focus on your breath; it’s the gateway to self-regulation.

Get sunrise and sunset therapy every day. You have time for this now, too (thank you, Dr. Andrew Huberman).

Create time for meaningful work each day.

These kinds of practices will mitigate stress, promote wellbeing, and provide temporary structure to our new normal.


4) Focus on service vs survival


You’ll be amazed how good it will make you feel. It’s an immediate hit of dopamine and we could use a little of that right now.

Whether it’s supporting a local food bank or running errands for an elderly or sick neighbor, just do something. Contribute to the very best of what our shared humanity is capable of and watch the ripple effect spread faster than any virus.


Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll also be answering questions periodically in my Instagram stories, so please feel free to reach out and connect with me there if you have questions or need support.

Stay safe. Stay sane. Stay connected.

You’ve got this.

I am here for and with you.
Dr. Sarah

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