This post may contain affiliate links.

Fear Management in Fearful Times

Fear management in fearful times

The past few weeks have been frightening. There’s the fear that we or our loved ones will get sick and require hospitalization or die. There’s the fear that everything we’ve worked for all of our lives is forever gone, that we will run out of money to pay for food and heat, and that life in the United States or the World will never be the same. I am frightened by all these things. Very frightened.

But I’ve taken a few steps this week to reduce my anxiety level so it doesn’t become debilitating. First, I’ve stopped reading the news online. That is a big help. I still get a summary of the major news via email newsletters, but in a quantity, I can deal with instead of a firehose. We don’t watch TV at my house, but I’d encourage you to turn it off too. I still check my state’s website daily for the latest information about the pandemic and recommendations for action. The pandemic has become local and I trust my state’s health department because they understand our local situation.

I’ve also cut way down on my Facebook time and only check in on my closest friends and how they’re doing. Social media has a way of perpetuating outrage which is not helpful under the circumstances. There are other ways to connect with your friends. Email and the phone are much better and richer ways to communicate one on one. I’ve been reaching out to my family and friends, including friends I haven’t been in touch with for a long time. I’ve found it helpful to share my fear and feelings with them. There is comfort in knowing that you’ve been heard.

I’m not advocating unplugging completely, but the news is national and global, not local. What happens “out there” is a lot less important than what occurs amongst your family, friends, and in your community. As each week passes, our national leadership becomes increasingly irrelevant. Your Governor, Town Major, Fire Chief, Police Chief, Hospital Administrator, Food Store owner, etc. and local officials will have a far greater effect on our ability to get through this than anyone outside our communities. Think locally, act locally.

Getting outdoors is important, even if it’s just sitting outside in the sun on your porch with a lemonade and a paperback. Walking and day hikes, even if they are short, will help improve your mood. I look forward to going fishing and visiting my favorite secret waterholes when the weather warms up. I have friends who are gardening like mad, fixing their roofs and siding, cutting firewood, etc. Do stuff outside.

Reading books is also a great way to help calm yourself. I used to read many more books before I started writing about hiking for a living (writing a lot puts you off from reading), but I’ve started reading them again and it’s a good escape.

I have many good friends who work in health care and I am in awe of their commitment to providing care to all in these difficult times.  I don’t know how they overcome their fears, but they do. I also have friends who still volunteer by ferrying people to doctor’s appointments, who give blood and deliver food to people who are too old or incapacitated to care for themselves. Support them if you are able. Volunteer if you feel up to it. If you’ve survived a bout of Covid-19 and come through, I hope you’ll consider volunteering to help others who are suffering. We will need each other to get through this.

Frank Herbert, the author of Dune got it right when he wrote, “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.”

Manage your fear so it doesn’t manage you.

Take care my friends and help your neighbors through these challenging times.


  1. Blessings to you Phil. Thanks for your well written and compassionate suggestions.

  2. My weekend ritual for the last few years is to add a camp stove to my day pack. Take a hike with the dog and find a spot off the beaten track where I can make a cup of coffee and lunch. Thanks for reminding us to take a break.

    Tough times never last
    But Strong people do

  3. Michael Orenstein

    Thank you Phil.

  4. Amen, and love the Dune quote- I’ve also been remembering it!

  5. Great article and advice, Philip

  6. Experience helps, too. My grandkids have never lived through a “world has changed” moment. My adult children only have one such experience: 9/11 (which was a pretty profound experience.)

    On the other hand, I remember, as a little kid, being told to come inside because the fallout clouds from some country’s A-bomb test halfway around the world was passing overhead that afternoon. I also remember coming home from elementary school one fall day and, instead of my cartoons on TV, the president was standing there pointing out nuke sites on a map of Cuba. And, of course, 9/11. (I took a walk shortly before our governor issued the lockdown orders, and my thoughts were how I felt much the same that day as I felt on 9/12: old world gone, new world dimly appearing through the dust, and not very rooted yet.)

    Scary? Yes. Debilitating? No. I agree – hang in there, go for hikes whenever possible, and dial the news (and interminable, rambling, unhelpful press conferences) way, way back. You’ll feel much better.

  7. Well said. I agree when you are writing so much you cannot read, but they both feed each other. Somehow we make it all work. In these crazy times, time on the trail means time to clear your head. Stay local, stay well.

    Thank you for always being constant with good stories and reviews.

  8. Totally agree that reading is a good escape, I’ve been doing a lot more of it the last few weeks to stay out of my own head. Love the Dune quote too! That exact quote has been something I’ve been trying to force myself to mentally to recite to channel my inner Bene Gesserit and get through this whole thing stronger.

  9. Take a deep breath (except when within 2 meters of your neighbor), this will pass.

    I’ll leave with my favorite Franklin D. Chicken Little quote: “The only thing we have to fear is… the sky is falling!”

  10. I hear you. I’ve been trying to keep my anxiety levels down but it’s a challenge. We should have a “telebeer” some evening.

  11. As we say when a trip goes other than as planned.. “The mountains will be there another day.” let’s just do what we can to assure we’re here to climb them then.

    • I agree totally. Hiking is a hobby not an essential event. Take a month off and observe social distancing. Soon we can get back to our normal life.

  12. Well said Phil. Sometimes in life we get a big “attitude adjustment” and this is one of them. Now is time to go outdoors and meditate, pray and soak in God’s creation. The silver lining in this dark cloud of the spreading pandemic is that Mother Nature is getting cleaner with our much curtailed use of fossil fuels. Maybe after the pandemicwe can build on this and greatly mitigate our climate crisis.

    I’m looking forward to a summer of solo backpacking in my nearby SpringMountains and an October of mule deer hunting in central Nevada with a friend. We’ll drive separate SUVs, use separate tents and keep our “social distance” at camp. BUT… we’ll still have that fellowship a hunting camp brings.

    Chuck, my hunting buddy, and I are seniors but in relatively good health. We respect all the new pandemic safety protocols and will do so well into 2021. We want to bring home venison and no virus.

  13. Thanks for that Phillip. For awhile now I’ve been counting on you for reasoned and reasonable advice on our common hobby, good on you for having the capacity to also share your fears and strategies with us too.

  14. Well stated, Phil, thank you.
    May I have your permission to copy and post on FB for my family and friends?
    I think that they need to hear this.
    Linda Selover

  15. Thanks, Phil. Great advice! I continue to day hike most days and find that ” forest bathing” continues to be an adventure when becoming one with your surroundings. I’m a man of faith and knowing that the beauty of nature is God’s handy work only aids in reducing my anxiety and fears of the unknown. I await the day when getting back on the trail for multi-day hikes will provide me the calming and solitude I crave.

  16. I’ve been clearing blowdowns on a local trail near my house…. it’s not well traveled but every now and then people do come along… So I step back 10 feet, say hello from a distance, have some water and take a break before going back to work. Feels much safer than going to the grocery store; plus it gets me out of the house, and useful work gets done.

  17. Good idea, Groundhog. I walk a sectlon of country road armed with a garbage bag and a broom handle with a nail on one end and pick up some of the junk left after the snow melts; pop cans, plastic bags, odd gloves and other pieces of stuff. I wear gloves and rarely have to touch anything. The whole bag goes into the garbage. I rarely meet another walker and am getting outside to hear the birds and forget about the rest of the world for a while.
    Every little bit counts .

  18. Amen! It’s so easy to get caught up in the endless 24 hour a day news coverage. I only watch my Governor 30 minute daily news conference now, I get enough National from him. Also, very happy to see so many more people then ever out walking the streets in my neighborhood and doing so with proper social distancing.

  19. Well done and a excellent reminder. Also Glenn G. 3/29 couldn’t have said it any better!

    You do many gear reviews, how about your favorite book review!

  20. Great post Philip. Thanks for that.

  21. Great post. I turned off the news and went into the woods. Got to your site because ticks suddenly became the biggest threat to me during the quarantine. Thanks for the write-up on permethrin. Probably saved me from lime disease.

  22. Phil: I have developed great respect for your trail and gear advice and now you’ve upped that to include personal advice. Thank You. DAT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve *