Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #52 Choosing Courage and Calm over Fear

May 08, 2023 Jean Balfour Season 2 Episode 52
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #52 Choosing Courage and Calm over Fear
Show Notes Transcript

Have you noticed yourself feeling a bit afraid recently or perhaps worrying more or generally being really affected by the doom and gloom news that we are surrounded by in our media?

In this episode of making sense of work, Jean shares ideas for how we can overcome the paralysis that fear brings and move towards courage and calm. 

You can find the 4-fold breathing meditation with Danielle Van de Velde here:

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Hi everyone and welcome to making sense of Work. Have you noticed yourself feeling a bit afraid recently or perhaps worrying more or generally being really affected by the doom and gloom news that we are surrounded by in our media, in in our social media? I've certainly heard a lot of this from clients and personal connections, and I've noticed it myself. I've noticed the sense of worry and concern that's kind of hanging around in the background. I. The thing is worry and fear are not good for us. They stop us from being our best selves. They stop us from being creative. And today in the podcast, I'd like to share ideas for how we can approach this and move towards either courage or calm. I'll share some practical ideas for how we can release and let go of fear and move towards living a full life. Before we dive into this, a couple of small asks from me. Firstly, if you'd like to be kept up to date on podcast episodes, please sign up to our newsletter at It would also be great if you could go into your app and rate and review the podcast Growing. The impact of any podcast is partly dependent on your reviews and ratings, and I would really appreciate your support. So what's happening? I, I think we were not actually doing so well before Covid. Then when Covid happened, it's like we fell into a fear cycle. We are seeing more the impact of climate change, for example. It's very real and along with geopolitical issues. And economic worries. It can be hard not to be really hooked by fear and to get caught up in this worry cycle. It's also not just happening in the wider environment. We're afraid of things happening to us personally, and sometimes we're afraid to do things even if they're good. We're afraid of dying, and yet we're afraid of living. We're afraid of living into our best selves. We're afraid of being a parent or of not being a parent. We're afraid of becoming stagnant, and yet we're afraid of change, and we're also afraid of things we have to do, like going to the dentist or we're afraid of things we want to do, applying for promotion or speaking at an event. The problem is that fear and worry are paralyzing, and unless we are prepared to feel courage or calm, we can end up by doing nothing, feeling defeated and really feeling discouraged by our fear. We all have big fears and little fears. Big fears about life and death stuff, financial security, the welfare of our children, but we also have these little fears that also feel like big fears like the one that I had while I was preparing this podcast. With no small sense of irony, I noticed that I had some fear around creating a podcast around fear. All sorts of fear related thoughts. I'm not saying anything new. Why will people want to hear this? How do I talk about fear big and small in 20 minutes? And of course, fear about judgment of others and potential shame and as fear does to us that fear was actually stopping me from finishing my preparation. It was paralyzing me. Until, of course, I spotted this and got back into action. So we all have these fears going on, and it's a very real thing, and our lives always has been. Perhaps it's a bit heightened at the moment, and so in this moment of doom and gloom, it can feel like the best action is just to wait and see, instead of seeking ways to be in the world. Differently to be in the world differently alongside all that's happening. As I've said, when we're afraid we are a bit prone to stop all action, and because of this tendency, we are all likely to retreat a bit maybe, or to wait to be ready to deal with whatever we're afraid of. But what we are afraid of might never happen and we would've let life pass us spy. And so I believe we shouldn't let fear paralyze us. I also noticed that when I'm afraid, I'm often ruminating. I'm playing out possible scenarios of what could go wrong, and I know I'm not alone. Along with all that general rumination about all that could go wrong, I see it in the media and I pick up that negativity in the environment. We all pick it up and our brains move quickly towards that negativity and more rumination. They don't ask our permission. Our minds just head off in a direction of what could possibly go wrong. All the negative, messy stuff. There's a further problem with this and that is that good news doesn't make full click bait. And all media, including social media, works on stories that stir up fear and make us want to read more or watch more, so that we think we can be prepared for in free eventuality. But of course, that's not happening. All that's happening is that we are becoming afraid. As you know from a neuroscience perspective, our brains have this really strong negativity bias. They're programmed to protect us, and in order to do this, they look for all that could possibly go wrong. They're just doing their job. Actually. Our minds, my mind is doing its job to keep me safe. And then this podcast, I want to help us to think about more that we could do. What could we do differently? How could we find a different way to live with this huge negativity around us? Because I believe that we can do this and that we do need to get back in the driving seat to thank our brains kindly for their help and keeping us safe. And choose other options. So here are a few ways that I've found to deal with fear and move towards courage and or calm, and I say courage and calm, or courage or calm because we don't have to choose courage. That can seem like the best approach to find, a courageous way to move forward, but sometimes it's about being calm and it's in the calmness that we will be able to accept the fear and be released from it. So I'm going to, as I said, share a few ways for us to approach this experience of fear. Let's start by one that may not seem very logical. One thing about fear is that it's often lurking in the background and we are not aware of it. We're not aware that it's there or the impact it's having on us, and so we might actually need to bring it to the surface. We need to bring our fear into focus because when fear is off to the side, when we don't face it, it's always much bigger than if we bring it into view, look at it and face it. We still don't necessarily have to act on it, but we've faced it. My own experience with this is that every time I face something I'm frightened or scared about, it becomes less frightening. So for example, if you're afraid of doing something and you are seeing all the bad that could possibly happen, lean into it and take time to go inwards and maybe with your journal or through some sort of mindfulness practice. Explore all the things to do with your fear, everything that you're frightened of, really face into it, and then look at what would happen if you didn't do the thing that you're frightened of, because often there's some beauty on the other side of that thing. It's just that the fear is stopping us. So the first place for me is to face into our fears, to look at them, even though there are many things that we can't do much about. If they're off to the side, they hold a lot of power. If we look into them, they have less power. We can choose curiosity over fear. When we are afraid, we tend towards concrete ideas and things that we can control. When we were fighting for our lives in our early development, this was fine. We needed to stay alive and so we either were gonna fight, run, or freeze, and that was all well, but mostly life and death situations are not what's affecting us. So rigid careful planning may not be the best solution. It will be curiosity and creativity that help to get us out of any bad situation. If we could just choose to move a little bit towards creativity or dreaming or imagining a brighter future instead of ruminating on the doom and gloom, then we might release something that will help us. The future predictions are usually based on past experiences, which also doesn't allow us for different future experiences. So again, we may need to go against our nature here and look for alternative positive outcomes. Look for the creative, look for what's possible. We can create a different future experience in our mind's eye, and then we can form it and feel it. So you could, when you notice yourself afraid again, write down all that could possibly go well in a situation or brainstorm ideas for how you'll move forward, or talk to a friend and a coach about optimistic outcomes. We can look for facts in any situation. I heard recently on Ted Lasso, find out before you flip out, and I love this. So, so often our fear is based on a little bit of information and our brain is coming up with all the possible bad things that could possibly happen. And when this happens, we can notice and say, okay, thanks brain. That was helpful. And gently look for what we actually know and what. We might have to either find out or wait patiently to emerge. We can look at the full reality of the situation and link to what I said earlier. We are likely to see more by doing this and facing it, and by doing this, the fear will lose some of its power. But in doing this, we can also begin to see if there are facts that could help us, facts about the situation that could help us to get out of it. Or we can see whether it's just a story that our mind is making up because it could just be creating all these scenarios, none of which are helpful. Link to that. We can also try some mindfulness activities. We can ground ourselves and come back into our bodies. As you know, when we are in fear, we are really trapped in an amygdala reaction, and so one of the quickest ways out of it is to get grounded. One of my favorite ways of doing this is fourfold breathing, sometimes called box breathing. You can try it now. You breathe in for a count of four. Gently hold for count of four. Breathe out for a count of four and gently hold for account of four. And then you just repeat that in a cycle until you notice probably I, what I notice is that my breathing slows down and I can count for longer. When you are doing this, don't hold your breath like you would when you are underwater. Just gently stop it. It's like a pause moment In that space. You can choose your own number. It doesn't have to be four, but it's just about that kind of rhythmic breathing and allowing those spaces between in and out. Uh, I will put a link in the show notes to a beautiful example of a guided meditation that can help you with this breath. Another way of grounding is to do a body scan to notice where you are in the chair or with, if you're standing your feet on the ground, become aware of all the places that your feet, your arms, or your body touch things, clothes, or a chair or a floor. Look around you, see what you can see. Name five different things. Sky leaves, computer glass, microphone. See how you can use that to come back to the present? Because when we do that and we come back into ourselves, we are back into that creative spirit. We're back in. To be able to look for solutions that come out of optimism into hope. Here's another strategy. You can do the best case and worst case scenario. This can work both for things that were afraid of happening to us, but also for things that we're afraid of doing. So it's pretty straightforward. You simply write down all the possible worst case scenarios and go all the way. Don't hold yourself back. Then stop and write all the best case scenarios down. Now, this can often be harder because our. Brain is so programmed to look for worst case. We have to really work at one of the best case scenarios. It's about imagination and creativity and visualization, and really going into what is possible. Dream big, see the possible things. See what that does to your level of fear. We can use courage to move ourselves out. So if your fear is related to something you want to do, but you've got to perhaps dig in for a bit of courage, you can do this by small steps. So for example, if you're afraid to speak in public, start by speaking at meetings or volunteer in places where you'll speak. Make sure you speak at dinner parties. Find little opportunities to speak. Do things where the stakes are low. So you build your courage, build, build it slowly in all the small steps we build towards something that can happen. Another thing we can do is we can make room for fear and we can just allow it to be. Sometimes when we're afraid and things aren't going well or we are feeling low, we can feel this idea that we have to be positive, we have to think positively, and then in some ways, that's what I'm sharing here, but sometimes that can really be about. This idea of toxic positivity we're, we are looking for positives when there aren't many. In, in the situation we are in with climate change, it's actually really hard to move towards positivity. Climate change is real. We are seeing it more and more. It's affecting millions and millions of people's lives, and I'm not sure that forcing positivity is going to wish that away. However, dwelling in fear will also stop us looking for creative solutions. So that is also a problem, but it's actually important that we give ourselves permission to acknowledge the fear, to see it, to name it, to see it for what it is. But just for a fixed period, I, uh, have a client who wrote all the negative things down for every morning, just for five minutes. And it was just get, get them out, look at them, and then let them go. So this is really about noticing and naming what's going on so that we are not hiding it in the background. We're not pushing it down because when we hide it and push it down, it's more prone to affect us and we are more prone to rumination. You can do another thing with feelings, which is to notice how you feel in two different outcomes in a situation. So you could take the best case, worst case scenario, exercise from earlier, and choose two possible scenarios that you're predicting. One is a optimistic and good outcome, and the other is a pessimistic and not so good. And then, Choose one of them to start with. Maybe. Maybe start with a pessimistic outcome and see what it feels like. Really kind of lean into, if this happened, what would it be like? What would I be feeling? What emotions would be going on? What would I be thinking? How would I be acting? Then when you're finished with that, lean into the other side of it and\try on the optimistic outcome. What's, uh, a vision of an outcome happening. That's really good. And how does that feel? Notice how you feel in that situation. What are you thinking? How are you behaving? And look at the possible differences between the two scenarios. And then think about how you could hold on more to the positive and creative emotion. If you are a leader or a coach, this is something that you could do with your teams. If you notice fear going on around, you could take some time to explore it, talk to people, get people talking about what they're frightened of. There's quite a bit of fear around the economy at the moment, for example. And then play out the two different scenarios with the team and get them to see how they're feeling about each and what's possible. Another thing that we can do is to practice self-compassion and see that this fear is part of our common humanity. We're all in this. It's often said that successful people aren't exempt from fear. It's that they find courage or calm in the midst of fear. In fact, as Plato said, courage is knowing what not to fear. So we can see that this is part of us as part of our human condition, that we're in this with everyone. And in acknowledging this, we can accept that fear is part of the human nature. It's part of us keeping ourselves. Safe and we can still resisting it. We can lean into how to move from resistance to acknowledgement and acceptance. Naming the fear, seeing it for what it is, and then hopefully by doing that it will hold less power and we will move back towards creativity and action. I'd like to finish with the idea that it's often said that the opposite of fear is love. When we're afraid it can help us if we move towards gratitude and kindness, compassion and love, and in doing so, release ourselves from fair. You can do this by thinking of people you love in your life, something small that you're grateful for. I am recording this after spending the sunrise with a really close and dear friend, and what a beautiful way to release myself from any fear I. So I really invite you to believe that we can choose to let go of fear, that we can live in gratitude and kindness, to feel our own power to live well in the world. Whatever is happening around us.