Rick, age 77, used to work out at a local fitness center four times a week, and never felt healthier. But when the pandemic forced gyms to close in spring of 2020, he stopped exercising entirely. Frustrated and lonely, he began eating too many comfort foods and drinking beer almost every night. The result was predictable: within a year, Rick gained fifteen pounds and his cholesterol levels soared. He told me “I went from feeling great to feeling miserable. But I’m afraid to go back to the gym. Not because of COVID, but because I’m so out of shape, I’ll probably hurt myself like I did that time I threw out my back.”

My client Janet, age 80, had a different fear that was holding her back. “I’ve stayed home for a year now, and honestly, I think I’ve become agoraphobic. The people at the senior center keep inviting me to events, but I feel like I don’t even know how to act around people anymore. I’m afraid I’ll say or do the wrong thing. It just seems easier to stay home.” Yet, staying home all the time made her feel isolated and depressed.

As we age, we tend to be more cautious about the world and how we interact in it. We might avoid activities where we could possibly get hurt, or social events where we might have to make small talk and meet new people. The more fearful we become, the more we may shy away from experiences that can be beneficial for us physically and mentally. Unfortunately, negative thinking can become a pattern that holds us back.

In her book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway,” author Susan Jeffers notes that we all experience fear when we’re in unfamiliar territory and as we move through different stages of life. However, pushing through fear is less frightening than living with a feeling of dread and helplessness.

In Rick’s case, his fear of getting hurt held him back from any exercise. However, he had the choice to try activities that were easy and safe. Sure, it would take time to get back to his previous strength, but in the meantime, he could begin a walking routine and/or work with a trainer and start slow. Once he finally took those first steps, he soon became more motivated to get healthy again.

In Janet’s case, getting out was the only way for her to build up her confidence and face her fears. It was a relief to her when she discovered she wasn’t the only one who was feeling uneasy in social situations after being isolated for such a long time. She realized she had faced many fearful situations in her life but had handled them, and she could handle this one too.

Often it is not the circumstances but our own mindset that keeps us stuck. The only way to get rid of fear is to face it head on…and proceed, while being gentle with ourselves and taking smaller steps as needed.

If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 765-341-9295 or email us at Shannon@AgingLifeCareConsultants.com”. We’ll be happy to assist!