It’s been said that millions of Americans suffer from a malady referred to as panophobia.  For those unfamiliar with the term, panophobia means the “fear of everything.”  It’s that uneasy feeling of insecurity that usually manifests itself on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings.

Few people take the time to analyze this feeling or look inward to determine its cause.  And while we may not want to admit it, our subconscious understands this phenomenon very well.

Something deep inside of us knows that there’s something inherently wrong when we’re being paid more than we deserve, when we’re not doing something as well as we could, or when we’re not as prepared for something as we should be.

Panaphobia is a tenacious monkey on our back that we cannot run from.  Years ago I worked with a salesman who wasn’t performing up to expectations.  I’ll call this man Jerry and the details of why Jerry wasn’t selling aren’t important.   Nonetheless, Jerry was being paid more than he deserved—and he knew it.

I didn’t know Jerry well, but I wanted to help him, so when he expressed his anxiety saying, “I need a vacation” I knew instinctively he was barking up the wrong tree.  Now whether or not Jerry sold anything wasn’t my concern, but as a colleague I offered the following counsel—“Jerry, you don’t need a vacation, you need to sell something.” 

You see; Jerry was trying to run away from this monkey and felt the “quick fix” (if there is such a thing) was a seven-day cruise in the Bahamas.  But when panophobia sets in, there’s no running from it.   Panophobia will follow us to the gym, the grocery store, while we’re on vacation and just about everywhere else.

To quote respected speaker, writer and author, Earl Nightingale, “There’s a simple cure for this malady—it’s to throw our-selves—not out the window, but into worthwhile activity.”  Nightingale’s focus was about throwing ourselves into our work, but there’s another way to tackle panophobia, which fortuitously presents itself during the holiday season, i.e., throwing our-selves into an activity where we give back to the community.

Most of us are happiest when living up to our full potential regardless of the form it takes.  But as a writer for the Huffington Post suggested in a recent article, “giving back” always seems like a later thing rather than a now thing.  We’re short of cash, we don’t have the time or perhaps we feel we can’t make much of a difference are the usual excuses.

But giving back can be easy, and even fun, when we realize we don’t need a ton of cash, a crew of volunteers or a boatload of time.  All we need do is use skills or knowledge we already have and share them with others.

  1. Animal shelters are almost always looking for extra help, and if you love animals, why not give it a whirl.
  2. If you have a flair for fashion consider organizing a clothing sale and donating the proceeds to a worthy charity.
  3. Our pets make us smile, so consider bringing your pet to a senior center or a rehab facility.
  4. And ladies, the next time you’re baking for your family or a work event, consider doubling your batch and giving the extras to a local police or fire station.
  5. Many organizations are always looking for volunteers to help with kids’ activities—schools, after school care programs, day care centers, camps, church groups, mentorship programs are but a few.

These are but a few ideas from the aforementioned HP article that don’t cost an arm and a leg—we’re limited only by our imagination.

Let me close this commentary by sharing a true story that touched my wife’s and my heart.  Last February we took two of our adult children, their spouses and two grandkids to Kenya on safari, which included a visit to a Maasai village.

Our grandkids had seen photos of a native village and already had an idea of the poverty existing there.  So in preparation for the trip, our granddaughter Saphira and grandson Jonah (ages 12 and 9 respectively) took it upon themselves to bring pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners and other practical gifts for the children in the village—the reaction of the Maasai brought tears to our eyes.  Of course we were proud of them, but more importantly, we could see how our grandchildren were already developing a giving mindset.  Somehow I doubt panophobia will ever be an issue with these two.

The notion of giving back or helping others always takes on greater significance during the holidays.  So what better time to look beyond our-selves and perhaps kick-start a habit of giving back, a habit that hopefully will continue throughout the year?  And who knows, such munificence may well prove to be the perfect antidote for panophobia.

Quote of the day: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”—Winston Churchill

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