It is natural to feel some fear during a global pandemic. Fears about health, jobs, personal finances, geopolitical conflict. And beneath all these is the great fuel of fear: uncertainty. Who knows how long this pandemic will last or what the fallout will be. I have always been a fearful person and spent much of my life trying to come to terms with it. The reason why I have been on expeditions through places like Siberia, the Taklamakan Desert and Afghanistan is because, deep down, I wanted to get a handle on my fear. The golden rule is that we should not try to deny our fears, or ignore them, but take the brave first step of understanding our fears. First, what are you fearful of? You may only be aware of a lingering sense of dread in your body or mind. But ask yourself what you are actually afraid of, specifically. Don’t be vague. Name them. Write them down. This will give you power over them. “I am afraid my parents might catch the virus and die”, or “I am afraid about losing my job/business and then I will not be able to pay the rent”, or “I am afraid about …” Share them with a trusted friend. Most of us are ashamed of our fears, but when we share them, we will feel relief and find our friends are understanding. We will also discover that we are not alone – by being vulnerable, we are helping our friends share their fears with us, too. Book review: Walking Home From Mongolia, by Rob Lilwall Next, how is your fear affecting you? Our natural nervous-system response is fight, flight or freeze. These responses can be very helpful as they motivate us to overcome the danger, but if not understood they can manifest in some unhelpful ways, like making it hard to sleep, making you moody, causing procrastination, increase in drinking or becoming a control freak. Next, how real is the danger the fear is warning you of? When I cycled into Siberia in late-autumn, the Russians told me that I would soon be eaten by a bear. I felt terrified and my mind filled with images of a gruesome death. As it turned out, of course, the bears all hibernated. The real risk was minimal, the fear was inaccurate. So assess how real the genuine danger is. If the real risk is minimal, try replying to your fear with this sentence: “That’s not true because … we have savings … the government is supporting our industry … my parents are strictly isolating themselves …” Have your reply ready when the fear re-emerges. But what if your fear points to a genuine danger? Let’s face it, right now health, jobs and businesses are in real jeopardy. In that case, let your fear energise you to make preparations and reduce the risks. Harder than Siberia in winter: Hong Kong adventurer conquers China desert Before I cycled through Afghanistan, I prepared by researching the safest route, finding a network of safe contacts to stay with and learning appropriate cultural behaviour. A month ago, when my mum in England confessed that dad was still sneaking out to buy the newspaper every morning, I phoned the local newsagent and paid for the delivery. If you have financial fears – don’t just fret. Sit down – today – and work out your real financial situation: your savings, your monthly expenditure and, crucially, how long you can last (both for if you do and don’t have your job). Brainstorm ways to cut costs – and cut them now. Brainstorm plans for what you can do in worst case scenarios. If I lose my job, can we downsize? Sublet a room? Move in with family? Find other income? Such actions may sound tough, but they lead to the final point of understanding which is that, at root, all your fears come down to one great fear, which Susan Jeffers, author of Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, summarised as: “I will not be able to handle it.” But Jeffers points out, actually, yes, you will be able to handle it. It may be hard and painful, but you have come through tough times before and you will come through this. Take a deep breath and acknowledge to yourself, however hard it is “I will handle it”. This will disarm the toxic side-effects of fear and liberate you to move forwards with a clear mind and your head held high. Fear is a terrible master, but a helpful servant. By understanding it and taking appropriate action, we will feel better in the now and be better equipped for the future. Don’t ignore it, or deny it. Listen to it, understand it, talk about it. Harness its energy and act upon it. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.