Rest Listen Pray

Fear and anxiety can be crippling but there are ways to manage these emotions. According to the Five Element theory, nourishing the Water element will alleviate these feelings.

Fear is not fun – it makes you feel vulnerable, uncomfortable and out of control. In extreme cases, fear paralyses you with heart palpitations, insomnia, mental confusion and overwhelming feelings of helplessness. It’s not pretty. Ok most of the time, it’s actually not that bad. You probably just feel an underlying sense of anxiety or tension in certain situations or with some people, such as your boss or mother-in-law.

Growing up, fear was my constant companion. I felt everything so intensely and the world seemed too loud for my liking. I sought refuge in books, my imagination and all manner of escapism. None of it worked until I learnt about the holistic approach of the Five Element theory in my Zen Shiatsu training.

The Five Element theory comprises the elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal. This theory is an elaboration of the yin-yang theory and was developed by ancient Taoists. It is derived from their observations and understanding of the macrocosm of Nature. As humans we are a microcosm of this macrocosm, and we can extrapolate their understanding of Nature to understand ourselves. To be balanced, the Taoists believe that we need an equal amount of all five elements.

Each element also has a corresponding emotion, and to manage our emotions, we just need to look to its corresponding element. Fear is related to the element of Water. If we are feeling fearful, all we need to do is nourish our Water element.

Here are 3 simple ways that we can do so:


To balance our Water element, we can look at the qualities of water and be more like it. All water sinks to its lowest level. Likewise, having a balanced Water element is related to our ability to lie down and rest. If we do not find the time to rest, we are in danger of burning out. This can lead to long-term health conditions, exhaustion and anxiety. You can prevent these symptoms by taking time to recharge and rejuvenate regularly. You can watch TV, take a nap, have a relaxing massage or simply put your feet up and read a book. As long as you bring stillness and rest into your life, you will nourish your Water element and manage your fears better.


The Water element is associated with our ability to listen, both with our ears and to our instincts. Our sense of hearing keeps us safe and balanced and also warns us of dangers in our surroundings by helping us communicate and connect with the world.

Our instincts give us more subtle perceptions about our life situations. Have you ever met someone for the first time and felt anxious and uneasy around him or her? Logically you had no reason to feel that way, but later on, you found out that this person was dishonest in a way that harmed and hurt you. Your instincts were absolutely right and were trying to protect you from harm. So, the next time you feel fearful, listen and trust what your instincts are telling you, then do what you need to do to keep safe.


The Water element is related to the deep physical structures in our bodies, including our bones, marrow and nervous system, as well as the deeper aspects of our psyche and world – such as our beliefs about why we are here, who we are and what life means to us. Our fears can be balanced by making time to reflect on the deeper meaning of life. The best way is through silent contemplation like prayer and meditation. A regular contemplative practice of at least 15 minutes a day helps to balance your Water element and will go a long way to help you stay calm. Just look at religious contemplatives like Buddhist monks who spend a lot of time meditating, they exude exceedingly calm and serene demeanors.


Facing your fear is not about battling it out or white knuckling it. It’s about knowing the deeper meaning of what fear is trying to communicate with you. You can do so by understanding the element of Water and taking steps to nourish this element. So the next time you feel afraid, just remember to try the steps above, take a moment to rest, listen in a little closer or pray. You might just find that your fear becomes your ally and lights your way to your total wellness and wisdom.

By Michelle Ayn Tessensohn

Michelle is a certified coach and facilitator who shows her clients how to resolve chronic stress, emotional overwhelm and confusion about career choices. She helps her clients become calm, confident and clear so that they can achieve greater career success, attract satisfying meaningful relationships and attain personal balance.




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