Guatemala Life Lesson #3 – Fear and Anxiety

Life is extra hard when you have constant fear and anxiety, and right now, anxiety is at an all time high, both for kids and adults. Why is this?

There are many contributors, but one is that recently our culture has changed, we now live in protection mode. We live to protect ourselves and our kids from everything. If someone or something has gotten hurt in any way, a new rule or law emerges. This seems like a good idea at first glance, but it changes our paradigm of life. We start looking at life completely different, and honestly, we stop living it.

Think of the good ol’ days, kids ran and played and were away from their parents a good part of the day. There was no helicopter parenting. They climbed and fell from trees, they swam in mucky creek waters and caught water creatures of all kinds, they rode there bikes around town all day…and without helmets (gasp), some drove huge tractors as young kids, they were expected to work hard and help the family. Odd as it may sound, this way of living instilled in children an inner confidence. That feeling of I can do hard things. When children got in the car, they weren’t constantly reminded that they could crash and die if they didn’t have their seatbelt on.

Now fast forward to our day – sanitizer, helmets, seat belts, rules, rules, and more rules, and more sanitizer. Parents are constantly telling their kids don’t do this, don’t do that, do this, do that, or you will get hurt…or even worse. There are so many limitations and restrictions that our kids, and even us as adults, can’t do anything without thinking about the possible hazards. We are constantly protecting ourselves and our children from the what ifs, some more than others. 

I had an epiphany about this while we were in Guatemala.

Despite many dyer circumstances, despite being exposed to more sickness, death, and unrest, the Guatemalan kids are happier and live with less fear and anxiety. How can this be?

These kids live in real life, the present, just like they did in good ol’ days. They don’t live in protection mode or what if mode. When they experience difficulties and even tragedies, they get through it, they build resilience, and they move on. They feel and recognize God’s love and help to overcome hard things, which builds a trust and confidence in his plan for them, and removes the idea or responsibility that we often put on ourselves that it is our responsibility to control all aspects of our lives.

Many Guatemalans have to worry about how they are going to feed their family that day, they don’t have time to worry about pretentious what ifs.

We witnessed a very powerful lesson from these incredibly resilient people, we will be mentally and emotionally healthier if we live life to it’s fullest, and not in protection mode. Protection mode might protect us from some physical bumps and bruises, but what does it do to our minds and souls? It ties us down and holds us captive.

We had the opportunity to hike and ride horses up an active volcano while we were in Guatemala. It was amazing and invigorating!

There was no signing of liability papers. No talks about what could happen. We got there and off we went with our guides.

My daughter who has a very real fear of fire, “nasty Guatemalan dogs”, and is not a thrill seeker by any stretch of the word, was walking up the active volcano with a “nasty Guatemalan dog” by her side. (He thought they were best friends! Ha!) She was walking because she was afraid to get on the horse with strangers in charge of them and without any instruction on how to do it. The what ifs were definitely at the forefront of her mind and she was in protection mode. She has become very accustom to the American way, and at first, she wasn’t sure about the Guatemalan way.

By the end, she was having a blast, holding onto a small little strap of the saddle, barely hanging on.

She overcame all of her big fears right then and there and on her own accord. It’s easier when you’re not being told all the things that could happen or could go wrong. Kids can feel the vibe in the air, and she could sense there was no reason to be afraid. My mama heart was so happy as I watched her overcome her anxieties. There is something about overcoming a fear that brings a deep confidence within, and that’s what happened to her.

The Guatemalans taught us time and time again to live in the now, not in the what ifs or protection mode. Fear only holds us back and keeps us from soaring, it can even debilitate us.

It’s interesting to think how we live in a free nation, yet so many of us live in shackles of fear and anxiety. If you deal with anxiety, it won’t disappear overnight, but try living the Guatemala way, live in the here and now, not in the what ifs or protection mode. It’s amazing how freeing it is.

Bubble Wrap Photo Credit: The Catholic Catalogue