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March 02, 2022
How to Keep Fear From Overwhelming Your Family | S3 E8

In this powerful episode, Steve and Mary get real about the concerns we all have when things in the world seem to be spinning out of control. These tips can help you control your anxiety after hearing bad news and keep your family calm, collected and grounded.

Whether we are hearing of international conflicts, economic uncertainty, or continual threats to our health...there's plenty that can cause your family to be paralyzed by fear. 

How do you keep yourself and your family from being overwhelmed by the bad news that pours into our homes, workplaces and personal spaces?

In this powerful episode, Steve and Mary Alessi get real about the concerns we all have when things in the world seem to be spinning out of control, and give you some key pointers that will keep your family calm, collected and grounded even when the culture seems to be under siege by negativity.

Encouraged by this podcast? There's many more episodes like this available to help your family thrive no matter the circumstances...because we believe family is everybody's business.


00:00 Intro to Szn 3 Ep 8

02:11 Dangers of Decisions Based on Fear

05:47 Our Fight or Flight Response

8:40 How Fear Affects our Physical Health

14:25 Fear’s Effect on Mental Health and Behavior

20:09 How Faith Helps Us Overcome Fear

24:18 Balancing Empathy and Reality

27:00 Live Like Its Your Last Year

29:30 A Closing Prayer to Overcome Fear


Impact of Chronic Fear  - University of Minnesota

How to Handle Uncertainty - Article by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Quotes on Overcoming Fear From C.S. Lewis


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Steve Alessi  

Welcome to another edition of The Family Business with the Alessis, I'm Steve Alessi, and I'm here with Mary Alessi, and we're talking about things here that we can't talk about on Sunday, but actually, today's going to be a little different ma'am, because if we were sitting in our Sunday environment, we would probably approach this subject in a way that would help people deal with what's going on in the world today. 


And this is kind of a spin-off from what we talked about, In Episode 7, just a couple of weeks ago, we're talking about how to get back on our feet from COVID, how to get back into the flow of things, and here we are, two years of dealing with COVID. 


And this morning, and I'm dating this particular episode, but I think it's important that we could sense this or see this, that this morning, we woke up hearing that Russia had invaded Ukraine, right, and immediately, that just created this anxiety, I know within me, right, as I'm, even last night, going to bed late, checking out the news and thinking to myself, my gosh, it's going to be a different day when we wake up, especially for those in that region. So, here's what comes up, you know, when you're thinking about all of this, fear just comes over us? It does, and, so, today, I'd like us to talk about that.


Because how do we process everything in the world going on around us? How do we process it without allowing fear, to grip us to the degree that we could be paralyzed? And live in this anxiety and even causes us to do things that we wouldn't ordinarily do? You know, so you got a great story to tell about a young lady, when you were recently talking to her? Tell us a little about that


Mary Alessi  

Well, you know, in light of COVID, and people getting vaccinated and others not getting vaccinated and the struggle in the fight over that the lasting effects of this are those that got the vaccine, and are glad they did those that didn't and are glad they did, and then those that kind of wish on both sides, maybe they should have, maybe they shouldn't have.


So, there's no real clear line as to who are the crazies here, the ones that did the one that didn't, you know, you just don't know, but we all are processing it, post our decision very differently, right, so, I was getting my hair done, and she started sharing with me, the girl that was doing my hair, it was my first time meeting her, and she started sharing with me her frustrations with feeling forced to get the vaccine, and doing it under pressure to, and under duress that really wasn't forced from messaging as much as it was fear forced. And that really troubled her because she's realizing now that she rushed to do something being young and being very healthy, but now she regretted, did she really need to do it?


Also, she did it for travel reasons, and then this country she wanted to go to have lifted their travel passport requirements, so, she's frustrated about that, so, I was quiet, you know, I'm not going to share my personal view on the situation. I don't think that's our, that's necessarily our platform to do that, get deep into that, but, you know, we chose to do something different for us, for us personally, and that's the whole point is we should be able to make decisions for ourselves as human beings as citizens of this earth. 


And citizens of America, we should be able to make decisions for ourselves, so, as I'm talking to her, I'm trying to stay along those lines in my conversation with her, and then she asked me what my situation was, and when I told her she even got more frustrated at herself, because of that feeling like she was processing, I did this only out of fear, I said again, fear motivate me. 


Steve Alessi  

She did it, why? 


Mary Alessi  

Only out of fear, she said I let fear push me to do something that right now sitting here talking to you, I would not have done, and I just you know, stay quiet because I said well listen, this is where you made a decision. 


And you know, we could sit, and have this conversation all day long, but this is where you just have to have peace you have to trust that, you made the right decision for you, and for your family and move on because the after effects now of any decision we make, especially one vaccine, no vaccine, I got COVID, I didn't have COVID, I'm a danger, I'm not a danger, all that hodgepodge of ridiculousness, what it does to us is something that I think we're ignoring, we're ignoring  the impact that all of that uncertainty and stress is literally doing to our physical bodies, our brains, our digestive system, the way we're responding to the situation. 


And obviously, her reaction to fear is, man, I wish I hadn't. You know, other people are responding to it very differently. We all respond to it based on our circumstances, our environment and our experiences, and so for her situation, what I said to her, because I'm not a counselor obviously, but she kind of set me up to be in that moment, and I said look you just have to be at peace with the decision you made, and that's the answer be at peace with where you are and the decision you made, whatever it is.   


Steve Alessi  

One of the point there is that fear, caused her to do something that she wouldn't have ordinarily done, and that's the problem with fear, that's it, they say, it's either a fight or flight response, the human body will respond to something that comes at them that will create fear, and I'm laughing a little inside because, I'm reminded of when we were at the farm.


And we saw that one of the cows had given birth, and we wanted to go see the calf, and so all of us go walking out there to go see the calf, and we happen to start to walk a little closer to it. So, I wanted to see how close she would let me get to it, get to that calf. You all are about 20 yards away, and I'm walking up on, and I must be 10 feet away at this point, and all of a sudden, she turned, and now she's a cow, not a bull.


Mary Alessi  

We do not see this coming, she's a cow.


Steve Alessi  

And I'm thinking, you know, she's just saying when I've given corn to.


Mary Alessi  

She's up your hands. 


Steve Alessi  

She'll eat out of my hand, I just met her when I got 10 feet there when she went into mama cow mode to protect, like her little calf, she turned in, came at me, and immediately I had feet like hinds feet, I was screaming, trying to get away from that thing as quick as I can, that's how we respond to fear, sometimes it's the fight, or it's the flight and 90% of the time, it's the flight, we want to get out of there, we don't want to be in that environment, the threat is a little overwhelming for us. 


And sometimes, it'll cause us to do things we don't want to do, so, I guess today, what we're going to try to do is find the balance between fighting and flighting, when fear comes upon this, and with something like this, right, that we are in the middle of hearing that a country is being invaded, and seeing on the news, these are beautiful buildings, and these are people and their normal way of life, is going to be interrupted, it takes us back to the 30s When we think of Hitler invading the regents and what that must have seemed like, and we're like, wait, that doesn't happen in our lifetime.


We're not used to that. That's movies— 


Mary Alessi  

That's history. 


Steve Alessi  

That's history we've seen, but that the here's the first thing, you're thinking, this could happen or it will happen, we're not immediately thinking, okay, this is going to last a day or two, and things are going to be cool without loss of life, and you know, they're going to come to an agreement, they're going to talk it out, because that's what they do, they talk it out.


Mary Alessi  

They are not going to do it, there's no way they're not going to do it. So now, the fear grips you. 


Steve Alessi  

Now, what happens? You've heard that fear will have a response on the human mind. 


Mary Alessi  

Well, I was actually reading about it, which that's what I want to share, because we're not experts, but I was reading this from a medical journal, I thought this was very interesting, the impact of chronic fear, and I think why we're talking about this today is because we see the need as leaders to make sure that we're helping people get the right mindset, because there is an impact of chronic fear coming through COVID, it has set us up to be a lot more uncertain and more stressed out. 


Clearly everyone around us has been that we've all walked through that, now we're seeing these optics of war breakout on our television screen ad nauseam, it's everywhere, It's all over social media, there's an impact that makes on our bodies, and it talks about physical health, this is a really cool article, it talks about how fear weakens your immune system and causes cardiovascular damage, actually causes damage to the heart, that's why you have to get past being afraid as quickly as you can, you've got to get through those processes, It also causes I don't know if I knew this, although I always knew ulcers were from stress, but I never thought of stress as being fear. 


You know, combined because it causes gastrointestinal problems, like ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome, so, when we're not getting on top of it, it starts to break down in our system, it decreases fertility because when you're stressed, your body's just completely stops and shuts down, and it leads to accelerated aging and even premature death, fear the impact of chronic fear, and this is not us saying it, this is from a medical journal that I'm reading, and if you want me to keep going, there's more here?


Steve Alessi  

Well, I think what you're getting at is what's happening on the outside isn't staying on the outside of people. 


Mary Alessi  

No, no, no.


Steve Alessi  

It's having an effect on the inside of people, things that you don't even see, that's right, and that's going to cause people if that in itself is causing just a physical reaction on the inside, I know, stress can cause the arteries to tighten,  which then can lead to a cardiovascular event like I had, we started the building program here at our church. 


And little did I know the stress of that, would create that kind of physical response in my body, so, I know stress will do that, but fear has that tendency to start dealing or affecting us in the internal, and sometimes we don't even know it until we have an encounter where we blow up, and you can track that back to fear being a part of that, because we were dealing with the what ifs, we were dealing with the boogeyman, we were dealing with all those things that we're not even seeing. 


But I mean, because this, even this war, this invasion is a long way away from us in America, but we're connecting with it, so, we're not feeling it personally, but yet we are but its impact, fear is bringing it to our show. 


Mary Alessi  

The world has gotten so much closer, I remember, as a kid growing up Russia was like Russia, I would never go so far away, social media, the world and the all of that has brought Russia it feels like it's just next door,  It doesn't feel far away. It's really not that far away, when you really look at it, but when you're not tuned in are dialed in, and you don't really care, and your sensors aren't out, you feel like oh, that's not going to impact us, today, everything that happens anywhere on the globe somehow impacts us, whether it does or whether it doesn't. 


And it really doesn't, so, sometimes you have to learn how to know, when to say when I can't receive that information, I can't see those pictures, I've got to put my phone down, for right now, nobody turns the TV on, because you've got to preserve your health. 


It also talks about how when you're fearful, and you stay stressed that your immune system plummets, I was talking to a girl yesterday that we met for the first time, and she was telling me that she went to an integrated doctor specialist, because she just couldn't get over COVID, she just felt tired and down and rundown. And he told her he said, well listen, you have to start distressing. 


It's not as much, I can put things in your body that will help your immune system, but she was also going through divorce at the same time, and he said, you're going to have to get to a place of peace, where you find rest in your mind and in your brain. And literally train yourself to start finding that place of peace and rest, because he said, you're not going to get ahead of this thing, because the stress of this, and the fear of I've got to tell my young children, and this is their new reality and then COVID, and all of that it's created this immune plummeting environment for her body, and so she was sick, not just from COVID, but her immune system was low, because of all the effects of it, not just the sickness.


Steve Alessi  

Wow, the ripple effects of that. What is fear? What kind of if we go back, just a COVID, we're afraid fearful of COVID, we have that fear going on. We're holding it in some of us we're processing it, it comes out and at different times, what is that fear doing to the marriages that are dealing with COVID, and the fear of COVID that's right, what is it doing? When you have problems on the job? You bring that stuff home with you, and the fear of that job? What's it, what kind of effects it having on your family? So, much of the fear in the world because we see what's going on in the world today is having an effect on us just beyond us being afraid.


Oh my goodness, yes.


It is affecting us, in so many other areas. We're seeing people not just okay, do things they don't want to do we're seeing outbursts right from people that it's just not them. We had somebody recently just looking at her interesting uncharacteristic, responding in a way that took all of us back a bit, our jaws were open because we're like where,  did that come from? And the truth is they just been locked up for so long that the fear yes caused them now to not only do something they don't want to do like your friend, but now act in a way that's just not them.


Mary Alessi  

No, no, I so it's interesting you say that because I want to also share with you what it says about the brain because you know, Lauren, our daughter, she's going through her Master's right now in psychology, and she just took a course from a brain doctor, I thought this was so interesting, he was saying how the brain does not like it, it gets hostile when it doesn't have answers, when the brain doesn't get answers, it has a hostile reaction, so, when you go through seasons of uncertainty, you don't have answers. 


You can't leave that open-ended. You can't live the worst case scenario. What if? And I think we said that on the other episode, if you've not listened to it, go listen to that you can't be around the but you never know people, you just can't dine too much with them, be around them too much, because you've got to get to a place of certainty, well, I don't know the future, but I never did, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but I didn't know COVID was coming, and life was good, but it says about the brain when it doesn't get answers, it's interrupted. 


And it responds, possibly, which would explain people having these weird outbursts that are not normal to them, and you were actually going, are you sure that's the same person because they would never? Well, when you go through stress, and you are over stressed and over? Fearful for too long, and you don't start talking against it, this is what happens, and it says here, brain processing and reactivity. This is what happens with chronic fear, fear can interrupt processes in our brains, that allow us to regulate emotions, we can't even control our emotions, it says, read nonverbal cues and other information presented to us reflect before acting, and act ethically. 


This impacts our thinking, and decision-making in negative ways, leaving us susceptible to intense emotions, and impulsive reactions, all of these effects can leave us unable to act appropriately, now, today, we're calling that mental health issues, and a mental health crisis, but the bottom line of it is, it's not mental health, your brain is going I can't take much more fear, you got to protect me from this. 


And I know it's hard because we feel like we're victims of this world that feeds us fear 24/7, and they do, but really, the power is in our hands to know when to say when, and say okay, I'm yelling at my kids a little too much, my husband and I are having issues we've never had before, a man on the job, I'm just slow, I used to be slow to anger, now I'm just mad all the time, those are signals your brain is given off to say, protect yourself, as we say in church before you wreck yourself. 


So, there are ways to do that, there are all kinds of help out there, which, hopefully, go to church, get in an environment where you're around people that are more peaceful, be intentionally around people that speak faith for the future, and hope for the future, and not just fear.


Steve Alessi  

Wow, I started to — I was laughing or smiling— 


Mary Alessi  

You always do that at me, I just keep rolling, I don't know what you mean. 


Steve Alessi  

I was so proud of you, for staying to keep going and staying the course, because I think what I picked up on, was when your brain doesn't know what to do, It it kind of goes into overload.


Mary Alessi  

It does. And it reacts.


Steve Alessi  

It reacts. 


So, you know, I just know, and this is a problem I have— 


Mary Alessi  

Here we go. You're going to make excuses for yourself, I know you, almost 35 years. 


Steve Alessi  

No! No!


I just, I'm thinking about when we're going through something, and you're hammering me with you this. You're doing that, Why this? Why that? 


Mary Alessi  

I don't do that. 


Steve Alessi  

And I'm sitting there on the other side, like okay, after 30 minutes of going back and forth, I just don't know what to do, and I'm like enough doesn't fit. 


Mary Alessi  

You're like that flame right there. 


What's that movie?  The little cartoon movie? 


Steve Alessi  

Well, wait! So, it's not me, it's a natural response to when the brain doesn't know what to do.


Mary Alessi  

No, but that cartoon movie, what's it called? Was that call with the foil? Inside Out? Where it's the inside of a little girl, her emotions and a little fiery red was anger, and she when we saw that movie, I was like, there's dad that's dad. But you know, there's truth to that. Oh, there's truth to that movie. We know, we think we overly spiritualize, or we think our emotions are some invisible thing, they're not your body is responding, your emotions are really the signal that something's going on, that you need to find peace and rest in.


Steve Alessi  

And this is why, somebody keep me posted on our time because I didn't put my timing up. Sorry guys, this is why we will discuss this at a table, but we also discuss it in our church, environment because the whole church environment helps us see that though we may not know what's going on in the immediate, we have a higher perspective of things when we tap into our Heavenly Father, a relationship with God, God shows us something that even though we don't know what's going on around us in the immediate, we can still trust that He has a plan. 


And whatever that plan is that we don't see, we can trust Him without necessarily needing to know what the plan is.  Because here's what I do know, He's good. I have a relationship with Him, He's going to take care of me, and I don't need to know what tomorrow holds, I just need to know him, that's right, and when we go through this, here's why, in our church environment, we're seeing more people come through with more joy, they've learned how to manage the fear not to compartmentalize it, but put it in its right place.


Mary Alessi  

Not to suppress it.


Steve Alessi  

Not to suppress it. 


Mary Alessi  

Deal with it. 


Steve Alessi  

Not to act out, but to let it drive us more or closer to having a God relationship, because he's the only way our faith in Him is the only way that we're going to be able to get through all of this, so, we saw, you know, Alan Paul was saying two years ago, it was COVID, now, two years later, it's war. 


You know, every two years, we're going to be dealing with him, right? Is that how life is these days? And could it get even quicker, you know, instead of two years, 18 months now we've got a new crisis, there's people listening to us that maybe in the next three months, all of a sudden, they're, they're losing a job? Economy is not in their favor, stock market is investments, weird there, what's going to hit them that fear says, what's going to hit me next? Where we've learned to find faith, we say no matter what comes next, I'm going to be okay, If you're listening to this podcast today, listen, you stay connected to your Creator, you're going to be okay. 


You're going to figure out that there's more for you right now than there is going against you, and that should bring peace that should bring calm, that should allow your mind to be at rest, and you not overthink, and process all of this to where fear starts to leave you leads, you can't let fear lead us at this time, I was more in empathy today, today watching what was happening in my heart broke for the people of Ukraine, I don't know what's going on with the even the people of Russia that their leader has forced them into this, and that's sad. 


So I feel more for them, listening again for a few minutes to a Ukrainian church, on Instagram, doing a live prayer two pastors, husband and wife praying in Ukraine, for God's hand to protect them, my heart goes out to them, but I don't have to let fear now caused me to start questioning, okay, what happens to us next? Will we be drawn into this? How many of our boots will be put on the ground? And how will we handle this? Will this be another? Another 30s? World War Two? What are we doing? Where are we at? I don't have to let fear take me there. 


Whatever tomorrow holds? I still know the One who holds it all. 


Mary Alessi  

Yeah, Amen. 


Steve Alessi  

And that's God, which is why we as a family, so much of what we do is centered around our family businesses around building up people of faith, because the only way you're going to make it through these days is that.


Mary Alessi  

And that's not an escape hatch from reality, you know, that's something that we've struggled with over the years being pastors and being in ministry, oh, you're just trying to escape reality and speak words of faith because you don't want to deal with the reality of the consequences of the situation you're in, no, it's not an escape hatch It is a way out, though, it's a healthier way out when you understand that staying in a place of fear and stress is very destabilizing. 


And the truth is, it doesn't add value to the community, you won't add value to your family, you won't add value to yourself, you've got to get to a place where you are stabilized, and you know, you can't save everybody at all the folks that are hurting today in Ukraine, we can pray for them, but here's the reality, there's really not much we can do, we're all helpless and hopeless, you know, this is a system of man, we can pray. 


But we have to, we do have to think about ourselves and where we are, and all the empaths out there those that are naturally predisposed to have a lot of empathy, and you know, do something the world's on fire with, there's a limit to what we can do, and we're no good to anybody, if we're not in a place where we could just help the ones around us.


Steve Alessi  

And I would say to those that are listening, be careful what you open yourself up to watch. 


Mary Alessi  



Steve Alessi  

So many movies these days, yes, condition us for a time of lawlessness and a time of just 


Mary Alessi  

War and despairs. 


Steve Alessi  

War, end time, apocalypse, all of that stuff, and your mind can't help but go there, and then of course, you've got good,  hearted people in the church that are thinking this is it, you know, the end of the world is coming, and I would say even there, we don't know what tomorrow holds. We don't know when that apocalypse comes, we don't okay, and if you were to ask the people back in the world wars, back in the Depression, they would have thought the very same thing some of us are thinking today, yeah, it can't get any worse. It's the end of the world. 


Mary Alessi  

Hitler was the Antichrist. 


Steve Alessi  

That was it, he was the Antichrist, and, so, we got to be careful, we don't buy into that, what we have to buy into is, all right, I don't have to know everything about tomorrow. And I'm going to be okay with that, I just can't let fear motivate me to act in a way I don't want to act, I don't let fear come in and cause me to live with regret, and I missed out on the opportunities still enjoy the great day that I have to live today, the great marriage, the family, the business, the job, hey, all of this. Because God's with me, God has for me, and from that standpoint, I'm going to be okay.


Mary Alessi  

I'm going to be okay.


Steve Alessi  

In the midst of all of this, and I don't have to give in to fear.


Mary Alessi  

No, and I want— this thought popped into my head, I hope I didn't interrupt you. But this is what I did, so I'm going to keep going, when we talked about how the brain doesn't like open-ended truths, it wants to have answers, and it gets hostile, If you knew you had a year to live, if a doctor told you, you have one year to live, and this is how I think and how I process when I want to get past my fears, okay? It's a tangible practice for me, when you had the heart attack, I knew I could not stay in that, "Poor Steve, poor Steve," I couldn't do that. That was not good for me, and it wasn't good for the kids. 


So one of the practices that I would have is, I would honestly think, okay, what's the worst case scenario? I have to think about that, and say, well, that hasn't happened, so I'm going to go on and have a good day, and I'm not going to stay in this place of fear, so if I knew I had one year to live, how would I live it? I would surround myself with my children with my family, I would say take me to see all the beautiful places I haven't seen, I would find a place of peace and joy. I would load my year up with all the good things to the very last breath that I could take that I could do. 


Steve Alessi  

I would not live that last year, filled with stress, filled with worry and anxiety, there's no point, yeah, there's no point. And sometimes we need to give our brain a break, when we know better, we do better, and we just need to say, what is the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen ain't happening right now. 


Mary Alessi  

It's not happening in my life right now, I have the power to take control of my thoughts, my actions, and my words, so, let me start, because what will happen is, the consequences of those hostile outbursts, because you're — you might have a legitimate reason, but it is still under our power to control that, and to not suppress the fear, deal with it and process it, but we can't keep taking it out on the world around us, because then, that impact that we're having— man, it just has a ripple effect that doesn't go away.


Steve Alessi  

Yeah, I think we got to recognize it is what it is, and when we recognize it, then we are able to deal with a better, two years ago, people were thinking the same thing, that's it, we were so filled with fear, we didn't know what was going to come next, hey I'm back in 2007, after my heart attack, fear. We didn't fear absolutely what quality of life is available next, right, there's always something that's going to come our way that causes us to fear, we better figure out a way  to deal with our fear, and not fear our fear, and let it cause us to do things we wouldn't do 


Now, listen, we're done, and I don't usually do this, I don't think I've ever done this, but there are quite a few people of faith that do listen to our podcast and some that may not be people of faith but, I just want to do this for you, wherever you're at, I just want to say a simple prayer, and that prayer today is that God would be with you as you struggle, and deal with what you see, taking place around you, and that the Lord would give you peace in the midst of these times.


And if there's fear, he'll give you the ability to release that fear, and may you find faith in Him to help you deal with the challenges of today, Amen, well, a little different than what we usually do with our Family Business podcast with the Alessis, but we hope today was an encouragement to you, so, stay strong, stay out of fear, keep the faith.