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How to Access More Courage In the Face of Anxiety

windsurfer having courage

When was the last time your work required courage?

Maybe it was the courage to have that really difficult conversation. Maybe say what no one wanted to hear. Maybe share your truth with the risk of it being received very badly.

Maybe you stood on stage and spoke publicly, which is a massive fear of many. Maybe it was to leave a situation you hated with no clear next steps. Good for you.

My guess is, with hindsight, sitting here right now thinking about those moments, you feel pretty good about them.

At the time, you were anxious, nervous, even afraid, but you did it anyway. No matter what “result” happened, you grew as a person, you saw your fear and let yourself move through it.

I bet that feels good. Growth feels good.

When you were anxious, nervous, right before those moments, did you know it would feel good on the other side? Did you pause and think about the fear would be nothing very soon, because the event will be over? Did you think about how you will actually feel good?

For most of us, the answer is no. When we are in anxiety we are in tunnel vision.

Completely focused on the thing we think is making us anxious and us being okay. This is a natural result of our fear-based survival wiring being activated.

Survival wiring gets activated at work all the time. In it’s one of it’s more low grade forms, it’s called stress.

The implication of this is that we are in tunnel vision at work almost all of the time. It’s one of the biggest reasons leader’s fail to see opportunities, listen carefully enough, make people feel valued, and communicate effectively.

So then leaders try to stop their anxiety, stress, and fear. This backfires.

Because this is suppression of a natural part of us that is trying to help. This only leads to more internal tension and fear as the survival part will scream louder next time and try to take even more control. Tunnel vision contracts even further. It’s even harder to access our courage.

Instead, we can save ourselves from tunnel vision and access our courage in the moment by playing games with our Being State. It’s a version of Improv.

The game we will discuss today for more courage: Play with time.

Playing With The Present for Courage:

Dr. David Hawkins, who was an expert on consciousness and emotions, was often asked how to deal with fear. He said (I’m paraphrasing), ignore all the thoughts, and even the “emotions” and focus on the physical body sensations. You can handle the body sensations.

Have you ever tried this?

The next time you feel anxiety right before some difficult moment, or even just thinking about a difficult moment, I invite you to drop into your body and focus on what is happening in your body physically.

You will have thoughts, yes. Let them happen, and ignore them just for the moment. The question is: What are the sensations you are feeling in the body?

What's happening with your breath? Your stomach? Your shoulders? Your muscles? Etc.

That’s the quickest way to drop into the moment, and this will help you. Because you will see that you can handle it.

First, your nervous system will start to calm because if you were actually in danger you wouldn’t close your eyes and put your awareness in your body. This is a signal of safety.

Second, you will feel all kinds of stuff in the body and realize that you can handle it. It’s not doing anything to you. Even in some difficult cases.

There was an entrepreneur that came to me with panic attacks where he had trouble breathing, feeling like he would suffocate, and pain in the chest, and lots of fear about this.

The doctors found nothing "physically" wrong with his lungs or heart. Yet he was having these attacks almost weekly in strong or mild versions.

We used a guided variation of this process to help him handle what was going on in his body and let the fear release itself.

In a month he wasn’t having the attacks anymore. The anxiety was a much lower grade.

And when he could feel it coming on he knew what to do to return to calm. Because he knew he could handle it. Because he went through the process of feeling this physical seeing that he could handle it.

We continued with this process over time, taking the anxiety to a very mild level. With the renewed energy and courage, he launched several new collaborations and doubled his revenue over the next 6 months.

Play With The Past for Courage:

Whatever is making you nervous or giving you anxiety, you’ve likely already been through worse, and come out fine. You’ve likely already been in incredibly nerve-wracking situations and came out totally fine. Maybe even great.

So leverage that. Connect to that.

When your survival system gives you tunnel vision, put a hand on your heart and call into your Being all those times you already faced worse and came out on top.

Maybe there is one particular memory where you absolutely nailed it. It was like the perfect moment. Let that energy be here now. It will help you.

This pulls you back out wide in your perspective and re-activates those capacities in you for the present moment.

There’s a story about how Tony Robbins helped Andre Agassi get back to the #1 tennis player in the world after an injury and difficult time saw him drop to #25. Robbins helped Agassi find the moment from his past where he made the perfect shot. The pressure was on, but everything was in flow, his body, mind, and energy all moving in unison to hit a perfect shot leading to a triumphant victory. Robbins had Agassi return to this over and over again to lock those feelings back into his system, and it completely changed what he was able to do.

Let yourself relive your triumphant moment with your whole body. Get up and move and re-enact it with yourself.

This is the improv part that makes it so much more real for your nervous system so you get the benefits quicker.

Play with the Future for Courage:

This is one of my favorites. This is what I alluded to at the beginning of this post.

Whatever you are going through right now, there is a version of you that has already totally sailed through it and came out the other side “bigger, better, faster, stronger.”

You know this is possible for your future, because you’ve experienced it before. So call it in. Now.

You can access this version of you right now.

Again, leverage the power of improv. Act it out.

You might need to close your eyes first. Put a hand on your heart to settle yourself and connect with your depth that is beyond time. Then call in the version of you that has absolutely already won the situation you are in.

Act it out. How does that version of you stand? Walk? Talk? Feel? Express? Act? Do it. In the room.

This is going to immediately help your nervous system calm down.

It’s going to give you ideas for how to actually be that person in the current scenario.

And shit, it’s just going to feel silly, and fun, and playful and that’s going to completely change your energy in your favor.

Embodiment is the Key

Maybe you can see what we are doing here. We are responding to uncomfortable bodily reactions of our nervous system with counter moves that also use the body.

This is a missing piece of so much anxiety and courage advice, which is almost all entirely mental advice about trying to think differently.

Emotions, stress, anxiety, fear - they happen in the body. Body-based practices are the most direct, effective, and efficient ways to shift these states.

This is why we love improv and embodiment at The Change Tribe. All our retreats and workshops include it in some form.

Applied Improvisation is not just for making your success more fun, it’s for accessing the most powerful version of you. The version of you that you want to be.

The versions of you that you will need if you want to grow and do the amazing thing that your mind is afraid you cannot.


David of the Change Tribe

PS - Want some corporate and leadership healing so you can build your greatest business that brings good to the world? Let's chat.


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