Hope or Fear: Which are You Choosing?

We are all feeling it… the empty pit in our stomachs, the racing heartbeat, the sense of feeling overwhelmed and panic-stricken.

Well, I’m here to say let’s change that. Let’s choose hope over fear.

Yes, you might think I’m a bit crazy or that I’ve covered my eyes with rose-colored glasses.  But let me assure you – I am of sound mind and spirit. As a board-certified Ob/Gyn with over 25 years of clinical practice, I have seen many cases where hope has overcome fear.  Times when I looked sternly into the eyes of a laboring mother telling her she can do it and push her baby out, rushing a mother down the hallway holding her hand as we go to the operating room for an emergency c-section, and consoling a patient after giving her the news that she has breast cancer and assuring her that we will get through this. With my own diagnosis of Stage 1 Breast Cancer in 2018, I needed to take a deep breath, look within and make a choice - to have faith that all will work out in whatever way it was supposed to or fall into the depth of despair. I chose faith.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve grasped to understand the happenings in this world – the pandemic of CoVID-19, the panic -stricken reaction of people and the media, and the immense burden this has taken on us. It almost feels surreal – could this really be life today? Well, the truth is, yes, it is. Once I conceded to myself that this was not just a bad dream but actually the harsh reality of our time, I then wondered what my role was in all of this. 

How could I positively influence how people were feeling and dealing with this new reality?

As a physician, I feel it is my medical duty to responsibly aid people with any type of ailment be it physical or emotional. As an individual, I feel the need to personally connect with each of you so you do NOT feel alone. As a leader I feel the need to share my wisdom and communication skills to bring reason and a healthy perspective to this situation.

The bottom-line truth is that we don’t know what exactly will happen. That is what freaks us out the most – the sense of uncertainty. We don’t have the answers, we don’t know exactly who and when someone might get infected, or what toll this pandemic will ultimately have. There are many moving parts – with the majority beyond our control, leaving us feeling vulnerable and powerless.

With this sense of uncertainty comes an inherent sense of helplessness, which further feeds our fear. Like an avalanche plowing down a steep incline, our fear gains more force with each second of descent. Ultimately, this leads to an ultimate outcome of dread and despair.

What if we could change the course of this avalanche? Stop the fear from gaining momentum and engulfing us? What would that require? It would require a brave and conscious change in mindset and the courage to choose HOPE instead of FEAR.

Hope is the opposite of fear. In times of uncertainty such as now, fear overrides hope and quenches it so it barely shows a flicker of light, leading to a state of both physical and emotional paralysis.  

So how do we choose HOPE instead of FEAR? We make conscious choices of how we react to the circumstances around us. Let me give you some of these choices. 

Watching TV /News. Do we choose to be glued to the TV, listening to the drama, the panic and the escalating hype of ultimate catastrophe? Or do we choose to watch/listen to only the necessary information available to us, limiting our exposure to the media? Yes, we need to stay informed but not to the extent that we are made prisoners to our technology. 

Checking Facebook and Instagram. Studies have shown that putting restrictions on the time you spend on social media can increase happiness and lessen stress. Yes, we want to stay connected but keep perspective. Again, with so many things in life – moderation is KEY!

How Can We Increase Hope?

1. Go to nature.  Walk in the forest, on the beach, or around your neighborhood.  Breathe in the fresh air and fill your lungs with hope. Take a 5 second breath in and imagine hope entering your body.  Then take 5 seconds to exhale, letting go of fear. Do this for 6 breaths – you’ll be amazed by how this 60 second respite will relax your muscles and clear your mind. 

2. Stay connected with friends and family.  We know that social distancing is the new tagline, but how do we stay connected when we have a 6-foot wedge between us?  Although we may not be able to touch each other on a physical level, we can bond on an emotional level. This leads us to new ways of connecting – using Facetime, Skype, or Zoom to see faces, hear voices and bring happiness to our hearts.  Staying connected has been shown to be a critical component to both physical and mental well-being.

3. Take up a new hobby or resume a previous one. Did you play a musical instrument when you were younger? Did you like to draw or paint?  Cook? Find new hiking spots? Whatever it is/was that made you happy, find it again and use this time as an opportunity to fulfill yourself with hope.  

One caveat: Please make sure that these activities don’t include any ‘SHOULDS”, only “WANTS”.

1. Have a mantra. It could be something as simple as, “All is good.  All is well”, “This too shall pass”, or “I am getting stronger and more hopeful every day.”  Create one that resonates with you and say it to yourself when you feel fear rising in your body.

2. Be grateful. Even in this time of uncertainty, there are always things to be grateful for.  Be it that your kids are home from college to complete their classes on-line, or you finally have time to clean out your closet and donate clothes to those who might need them. Even the smallest acts of kindness go a long way in making you feel grateful for what you have and can give to others. 

I leave you with one last thought – that you make the decision to choose hope. As a patient told me years ago, there’s HOPE spelled in my last name. I believe in my heart that I am here to provide you with guidance and hope during these challenging times.

Please share with anyone who you think might need a little “hope” to brighten their day.

In health and happiness

- Dr. Diana

P.S.  Here’s a pic of my mom at her 85th Birthday celebration!

What a gift to spend this time with her!