When you think about a beach vacation, what comes to mind? What do you picture?
Fish, seaweed, sharks, sea foam, water bugs, or clear sunny skies? The sound of surfing waves, the feeling of soft sand, or the desire for a perfect tan?
My daughter possesses a meticulous, organized, and clean nature. She finds solace in predictability and dislikes the uncertainty of nature. Consequently, she rarely enjoys hiking, dismissing it as “too dirty” due to excessive dust, bugs, bears, strenuous climbs, and perspiration. Her sentiments extend to the beach, where she’s concerned about encountering too many fish, seaweed, potential shark attacks, numerous water striders, and sea foam that resembles something less appealing than ocean spray. Needless to say, an afternoon at the beach hardly equates to relaxation for her.
She engages in constant mental chatter, worrying about fish nibbling at her toes, the potential for skin breakouts from seaweed, the risk of illness from water bugs, and the remote possibility of a shark encounter. This anxiety manifests as fear and panic, causing her to grip the boogie board tightly and draw closer to me, her heart racing and breath quickening.
Although most adults don’t experience such trepidation during their beach vacations, they encounter similar emotions in various aspects of life: anxiety, fear, panic, and uncertainty.
Consider parenting, for instance:
“My child isn’t getting the recommended 10 hours of sleep. I fear they won’t grow properly.”
“My kid isn’t an honor student taking five AP courses. I worry they won’t gain admission to a good college, potentially hindering their future success.”
“My teenager just started driving this year. I’m terrified they’ll get into a car accident.”
These fears also seep into the workplace:
“My patient is consistently late, but I still accommodate them, fearing a negative review if I decline.”
“My employees frequently take time off, and I allow it, fearing they might resign.”
“My colleague frequently requests that I see her patients, and I comply to avoid conflict.”
“My boss keeps overloading my schedule with patients, and I stay silent out of fear of termination.”
Relationships, too, aren’t immune:
“My husband struggles to control his temper and often raises his voice, but I remain silent, fearing he might leave me.”
“My mother-in-law says hurtful things, but I choose not to confront her to avoid conflict.”
“My boyfriend doesn’t respect my time, but I tolerate it because I love him and fear a breakup.”
Fear is a powerful force:
- Fear of abandonment.
- Fear of loss.
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of rejection.
- Fear of the unknown future.
Upon noticing my daughter’s fear, I addressed it, though she initially resisted, dismissing it as another “life lesson” while we were on vacation. Nevertheless, I encouraged her to shift her focus away from potential dangers and toward the beauty around her. Reluctantly, she glanced upward and marveled at the clouds and the endless expanse of the ocean.
I prompted her to consider looking beyond herself and cultivating curiosity about the unknown, a perspective she hadn’t explored before. I emphasized that what we feed our minds becomes a recurring theme, and if we consistently engage in negative self-talk or focus on worst-case scenarios, our brains will seek out evidence to reinforce those beliefs.
Awareness, I explained, represents the first step in breaking the fear-based cycle. I offered two simple questions for practicing awareness:
- What occupied my thoughts today?
- How do these thoughts make me feel?
My daughter’s thoughts revolved around the dangers of the ocean, leading to anxiety and panic. She had been fixated, her gaze locked on the potential perils rather than the horizon.
Now, consider your own perspective. Are you willing to challenge limiting beliefs and explore the vast possibilities that lie beyond your comfort zone? Do you even believe there’s a horizon to reach?
If you fall into the first two categories, why do you find it challenging to envision the possibilities? Is it the difficulty, past unsuccessful attempts, ignorance of the concept, lack of time, or sheer exhaustion?
Are you constantly preoccupied with what lies at your feet—fish, seaweed, flies, and perceived negativity? I implore you to look up, to cast your gaze beyond the horizon.
Sogol Pahlavan is a board-certified pediatrician, co-founder, managing partner, and CEO, ABC Pediatric Clinic. She, along with her sister, Silen Pahlavan, has grown their two-physician private independent pediatric clinic, serving 10,000 patients in East Houston, which is an underserved Hispanic community. After struggling with burnout, Dr. Sogol embarked on a journey of mindfulness and became certified as a mindfulness physician business coach. She is a TEDx speaker and a podcaster, hosting Mindful Living with Dr. Sogol. She is also the co-founder, SOULpreneurMD, which helps female physician entrepreneurs create profitable, hassle-free businesses, and can be reached on LinkedIn.