How to Deal with Morning Fear Bombs

Morning Fear Bombs

Morning fear bombs fell on the landscape of my mood all weekend. They knew exactly when I would wake up. Saturday morning just as I rolled over to move my face into the morning sun, I felt the first one drop. It landed in my solar plexus and the shockwave rang down to my groin and up through my ribs and neck.

It started with a thought, “I need to write Dmitry.” That triggered a distinct boom in my gut. Immediately another thought came into my brain.

“I forgot to move money from savings into checking.”


Then another thought.


Thought. Boom. Thought. Boom— each one adding to a the sense that dangerous intruders were entering my home, and death was soon to follow.

(If you’ve never felt this way, read on with amusement. The rest of us will forgive the lack of excitement in your emotional life.)

These fear bombs aren’t life threatening, but they sure feel that way. The mounting anxiety can be distracting at best, and poisonous when it gets out of control. Most of my anxiety actually begins with the fear feeling followed by a thought that seems to justify the feeling. I have my ways to unshackle them from my behavior when they happen like that, but these fear bombs came in the opposite order, thought first, then feeling. I’m not sure why it’s more distrubing that way, I don’t control either my thoughts or feelings or their sequence, but I’m dedicated to wiggling within them. Morning fear bombs can ruin a whole day.

Here are my tactics, and they often work. I’d love to learn some more.

Bombus Interruptus.

Not the perfect prophylactic, the pulling-out method is underrated in my opinion. The idea is simple, as the bombs fall, get out of the way fast. Interrupt whatever you are doing. Get your nervous system doing something else that’s just as intense. Here are a few from my repertoire.

Laugh. 10 minutes of Louie C.K., Eddie Izzard, or Wait Wait, Don’t Tell are good bets.

Call a friend. It’s probably best if it’s someone who doesn’t sympathize. Call someone who requires you to get it together a little. Tell them exactly the sensations you are experiencing. Don’t make up any reasons, just focus on describing the physical qualities in excruciating detail like a nerdy scientist.

Dance. Swing has been my cure. Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, unless that throws you into WWII flashbacks. Then try The Proclaimers. You can’t help but march with conviction, even if you can’t understand a word through their weird Scottish accents.

Anything to get your heart rate up. Jumping jacks. I’m always suggesting jumping jacks. Do jumping jacks.

Bombus Embraceus.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This oft-quoted quip flies in the face of my poison analogy. If fear is just an object to observe, feel fully, and let pass like weather, then maybe it’s worth drinking it in. Maybe it isn’t poisonous.

Regarding sadness, Louie C.K. suggests, “Just be sad. Stand in the way of it, and let it hit you like a truck. Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments.”

Can we do that with fear bombs?

I’ve done it with other kinds of fear. I let fear hit me before I go on stage. I let it well up when I have to tell someone something difficult. I’m not sure I can do it with fear bombs.

Can I use mindfulness to observe and detach from the feelings while I feel them? Yikes!

I know. I’m going to fool myself. I’m going to try a trigger. Let’s see if this works. When a fear bomb hits, I’ll say “Delicious!” It’ll be onomatopoetic. It’s a splash instead of an explosion. Delicious! I’ll let it wash all over me and see if, like with sadness, there is some poetry that comes with fear. (Wish me luck with that one.)

Bombus Dismantlus.

Getting up and doing something about the roots of my fear is the most effective way I know to prevent morning fear bombs. Then, going to bed having successfully addressed the real causes of my worries or at least having taken a few small steps quiets the morning to come.

This only works if the fears are based in reality.

When I panicked about cash flow, I turned my focus on my money-making business.

When the fear bombs were about my marriage, I had the big talk and changed things.

Most of the time fear is just fear. Make sure you know it’s about something you can change; then do the work, get help if you need it, figure out what works, and the fear will probably go away.

A NOTE ON DESPAIR. I take drugs to deal with what used to be a frequent visitor, Despair. I hated the idea at first. I thought I should be able to fight off the fucker with an awesome therapist, behavior modification, singing, diet, exercise, but I couldn’t and while Anxiety is annoying and sometimes punishing, Despair is out to kill. I brought out all the guns which included trying drugs. I wanted to kill Despair before it killed me. With the guidance of a skilled, loving doctor and many careful experiments dialing in exact dosages, Despair has been banished from my body. Hooray!

Do you suffer from morning fear bombs? How do you deal with them?

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Leave a comment12 comments on "How to Deal with Morning Fear Bombs"

  1. Eddie Izzard! And swing! Two of my favorites. You have good taste 🙂

    “Fear bomb” is an awesome way to describe those thought/feeling pairs that seem to come out of nowhere. The smaller, more everyday-type fear bombs actually tend to hit me more at night, as I’m lying in bed trying to fall asleep. I keep a pad of paper next to my bed and will jot down things to remember, do, or address as they pop up. Knowing I won’t forget them lets me fall asleep, and in the morning, they’re not so scary.

    The big ones, well…I usually have to take some kind of action. Even a tiny step helps. Even for the ones that are just in my mind, there’s often something I can do to prove to myself they’re in my mind. They don’t always go away, but I find action is better than just staring at the fear bomb.

    • Bombus Dismantlus!

      It is the best solution.

  2. Your thoughts on fear are out there, David, which is why I think they have a chance of really helping you and others. I’m not such a fan of distracting your brain from fear (or any other negative emotion) without dealing with the root cause of that fear. “Ohhhh! Shiny object! I won’t think about those terrible thoughts for a moment.” only goes so far.

    Converting fear from something to fear into something to embrace – something that’s natural and not “bad” – is always awesome, but damn hard to pull off. I’m a bigger fan of completely dismantling the fear and not having to continuously deal with it.

    I hope Sarah Goshman chimes in on this post because I enjoy her perspective on talking to fear. Paging Sarah! Sarah Goshman to the comments section!

    • Thanks Joel. After many years of therapy and learning how to face my fears bombs, feel my fear bombs, and take action to dismantle them, Bombus Interruptus is not to be ignored. Sometimes the shiny object is the best medicine. Somethings are fears don’t actually have roots.

  3. There are certainly cycles where my fear bombs are more common. Those times usually seem to have a fear anchor attached to them, as well, where the fear is not easily fixed or cast off for days or months on end. And while I wouldn’t label the most recent incarnation of this as “despair”, it did fall into the “dread” category.

    That was a longer-term process to fix, but I’m thrilled that it turned out the way it did. My self-confidence is back, and I’m able to handle the normal here-and-gone morning challenges more readily.

    • “Fear anchor.” I imagine it goes deep and stays the same place unless you drag it with you. What a metaphor! To follow, I guess you have to dive in to dislodge it. Like that?

      What did you do?

      (If you don’t mind.)

  4. Action seems to work best – deal with the issue at hand directly. Resolve it, solve it. But these would be for reality-based ones of course.

    Non-reality based? I have little scenarios that play in my head sometimes – the “worst case scenario” type… little plays or movies, with casts of characters, putting me into impossible situations that I have to deal with. The worst kind of stuff that I hate dealing with – squirrely, nebulous, hard-to-pin-down people-ick stuff. Other people’s ick. But I play them out and I try it on, often multiple times, to give myself multiple rehearsals, so to speak. It plays out many times, to give me a chance to “get it right”. So that I’ll know what to do if this ever really happens. In theory. And of course this stuff will probably never play out in the way that it does in my head. Thankfully. And then I reward myself in some way, after its all over. The equivalent of pats on the shoulder, a “good job, you survived, you’re ok”.

    • I do that too! The problem comes from obsessing about the worst case. I can wallow and brood over what I’d like to say to a certain weenie, knowing I hope I never see him ever again. Now, I’m all worked up about it.

      But hey! Thanks!

  5. I DO suffer from morning fear bombs, except for me they come in the middle of the damn night! I’ll wake up briefly in between dreams and think about something work-related. Then BAM, they start coming. They always feel extremely immediate and threatening, and in my sleepy state, it seems that there is nothing I can do about them. They are usually about money, or lack there of, and how I am ever going to possibly make enough to have a comfortable life. When I wake up, they seem like a distant memory and I’m back to my positive, confident self. They can definitely lead to an hour or two or three awake in bed. Not fun. How have I overcome them? Well, I try to occupy my mind with something else. I’ll usually try meditating while I’m laying there- just focusing on my breath. It usually works, but I’d love to find ways to avoid them all together.

    • I’m back to meditating. I’ve learned a few techniques and I actually use them to fall asleep. It’s very ritualized, but it works most of the time. The hard part about middle of the night fear bombs is that they get our adrenaline going which makes it almost impossible to get back to sleep. I give myself 3 attempts. If I’m still awake, I change venues. If that doesn’t work I start writing or even exercising or at least stretching: Bombus Interruptus. TV rarely helps in the middle of the night, even just ten minutes.

  6. I’m all for letting fear, sadness, depression, grief, and all of that hit me like a truck. That’s how I deal with it and in solitude (mostly). I’m not usually one to vent or talk it out because I’ve found that it adds to the anxiety. Music, crafting, or a TV helps too. Yeah, TV.

  7. Great ways to get destracted from those though bombs! I want to add one more way that helps me a lot, when crap gets into mind and you see no way out, just say “These are not my thoughts. The thoughts that I think right now are wrong/b.s./incorrect/…”. That is it. Say it and watch what happens. You will be immediately relieved from the stronghold of them. Still holding you, then say it again! 🙂 And then take course of Landmark Education, that is where I learned this trick. And if you want to go even further and understand how this all works, start reading books by Nicolai Levashov here :

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