Many people have been feeling a bit destabilised in these changing times - more exposed, vulnerable and fragile. Less in control. Especially those who tend towards chronic anxiety and burnout.
Today we look at the perfect storm that got us here, and I share some practical exercises for you to self-right when you feel this way.
Coaching is a process of restoring confidence, balance and energy, but you can start now. Don't wait for things to become unbearable.
Fear vs Power
Ep#10 Maximise the virtue cycle of love and minimise the negative cycle of fear
Ep#13 Other people's opinions
Ep#36 Championing Yourself
Ep#70 How to stop other people hurting your feelings
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Dex (00:00:09) - Hi everyone. My name is Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends, this is Dex, and I am so glad you're here for this week's episode on working skillfully with what we fear most. Feeling anxious, exposed, vulnerable and fragile, where we seek everyday survival from a sense of kind of blind and helpless insecurity or inadequacy. Does that sound like fun to talk about that today? So I'm going to give you some practical ways to reduce your alarm and restore calm, so you can help yourself in times of fear. Very useful techniques for whatever is happening out there in the world and in your head. So,to start off with, soes it make sense to you, this explosive rise of anxiety in this time? I mean, I could assume that it did, but you know that it's not your fault, right? If you feel anxious. So let's I want to just dig into that briefly so we can get clearer on it.
Dex (00:01:25) - If you want to skip this part, go to the exercise chapter marker if you like. So I find myself talking a lot, particularly lately, about anxiety and fear on the podcast. And here's why. Number one, because we collectively have surging, hidden undercurrents of fear, prevailing nameless dread in an enduring and life affecting way, in a behavior affecting way. Simply look at the increase in divorce, addiction, mental illness, bullying, violence and abuse of every kind, suicide. Because the human organism is essentially always health oriented. It's seeking homeostasis, right? Seeking health. But our culture is not. Number two, because I feel fear is the strongest prevailing factor in burnout. It's the unseen scourge that underlies really every struggle in burnout. And when you reduce your fear, it turns down the heat on every other flavor of distress. And number three because as a society, we're really not communicating enough about our fear in healthy ways that support our wellbeing. And this can be because we feel guilt and shame about that fear, and then we feel the need to hide our fear, to bolster our public front, our image and our self esteem, and to hide our vulnerability.
Dex (00:03:01) - Of course, it's not your fault if you've got fear or if you're hiding your fear, then we'll just look at ways to manage it just the same. But, being open about it in the right context can help a great deal, because hidden fear blows up and it does a lot more damage than openly discussed fear, it diffuses the sting. When we hide our fear, we basically have less agency over it. We're in a way denying it. And also if we hide our fear, it means that we discourage others from talking about their fear. And with our own tough shell on, we're going to be much less able to support them, even if they do share their fear with us. And number four, because my sense is that fear is where most people need help. Certainly for people in burnout, reversing our fear has a profound effect on thriving, re-engaging with life in a positive way. Number five because I have some tips for taming your fear in everyday life that actually work well, and I would really love you to equip yourself with more of them.
Dex (00:04:19) - And for myself, thinking about my own fear, which has been really pretty loud this week. I'm an empath. I'm a very energetic being, and I'm very strongly affected by. the global consciousness, and occasionally that can be overwhelming. For example, at the moment with the Gaza conflict. And when I receive high levels of this sort of internationally circulating fear, it filters in with my own internal fears, and I feel deeply moved and also quite off kilter in a way that's hard for me to shake off. And that's what I've been experiencing in the last week or so, really. And I have identified that Gaza and the public response to Gaza as really quite a big part of that scenario for me. Not that I have any direct connection to Gaza personally, you understand, but I'm just absorbing the group nervous energy around it. And I think it's quite helpful for me, and I think it's generally quite helpful, to recognise what influences our fear.
Dex (00:05:33) - To acknowledge the fear, but to see that it's not weak. It's not willful either, and it's not shameful. It just is part of the human experience. And this morning, to do a little bit of research for this podcast, I turned on the TV news and. I'm smiling, but it's more of a grimace because the first thing I heard was that 30% of teenagers report experience of intimate partner violence. And here in Australia, there's a coronial inquest running into four Aboriginal adult women killed in domestic violence incidents. This week also a 21 year old sports teacher was killed at her school by her ex, who then took his own life. And today, here where I live, we have a YAWE. Yet Another Weather Event, wild, windy, enormously overheated conditions overnight with bushfires breaking out in many areas of Australia where I live and half the country on high fire danger alert. In the US, I see reports of the upcoming elections and the low levels of trust of candidates.
Dex (00:06:49) - And as I write, of course the conflict in Gaza continues to escalate and the international community alarm and distress rise with it. And I was thinking back to earlier in my life, back in the day. News was really a once a day job on TV or radio or in the newspaper. But today it's an avalanche spewing from every inanimate object we pass. By the time you hear this, it's probably encoded in your toilet seat. So when we're out there in the world, bombarded with all these stimuli, it creates this state of collective nervous system distress. And of course, we need to pick up these stimuli. We need to know what people are doing because herd safety is critical for us as animals. We can't ignore it. Herd is safe. We are safe. Herd runs. We run. Fear is subconsciously activated and transmitted to us by the herd. It's a survival thing. What can we do? But I think new shows now are really capitalizing on that.
Dex (00:08:06) - They're presented here in Australia as magazine programs, informal chats with a lot of laughs, music, banter, advertising for other shows, mucking about. You know, somehow every TV show is now run by comedians. How did we get here? And this morning, I literally saw a story on the news about a kitten stuck inside a car dashboard. I mean, with this high contrast trauma and comedy jammed together like that, filling every screen every day. How do we expect to feel? What emotional rollercoaster are they driving us on? Are we really that malleable? Well, yes, of course we are, because the effects of that are subconscious. We can't control them. This week, I watched a revered TV journalist give a national address in which she drew attention to the fact that many people have stopped watching the news. Me too, generally. Anyhow, let's take a look together at fear and our experience of fear and how to transcend it. And I'm going to talk to you directly about your fear and how to work skillfully with it.
Dex (00:09:22) - And taking three more things into account, and a couple of these I quote from an article in Psychology Today, which you can find if you want, in the show notes. Point one - Fear is a prime motivator because it's rooted in our childhood experiences and it moves us subconsciously. Point two - The more fearful a person is, the more control over their environment they believe they need to feel safe. To which I will have my own point three. Of course, politicians and leaders have the same fear and control experience. They too feel exposed, vulnerable and fragile on the inside. So their actions have the inverse effect on us to our own desires. We want more sense of control. They want us to have less sense of control. And speaking personally, I do have a lifelong intimate relationship with pervasive fear, and I manage this quite consciously, but it does frequently see me waking with a sense of nameless dread and alarm. Happily, I've put myself in the position to work with my senses and emotions quite directly and intentionally, because I've been studying meditation and mindfulness for about 25 years.
Dex (00:10:54) - I'm an empath, as I've said, and I'm also trained in quite a few energy healing modalities, so I'm quite in touch with that side of me. The thing that worries me is that statistically I'm in a growing cohort of people who experience anxiety and fear at a level that affects their daily life. For me, it culminated in burnout and it prompted a great deal more study, I must say. But I think many people are not as equipped as they would like to be in dealing with fear and anxiety. And that's why I'm doing this episode today. So here we are then, exposed to this barrage of nervous stressors and being reactive, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, to that. Think about this. How many of the people around you, who might be doing the old combover and pretending, are nonetheless showing signs of anxiety, fear, and this telltale need for control? Many, probably. So, even while we're experiencing this together now, can we just breathe and have compassion right now for ourselves and for all of the people in this state? And we breathe and just send a bit of peace to ourselves, to one another.
Dex (00:12:17) - And know this by the way, when you practice the exercises I'm going to talk about. When you start working successfully with your own fear and anxiety, you become a natural resource to others who suffer and being that resource becomes much less taxing for you. I often stress this to leaders because anxious leadership is pretty hard right? When you recover from anxiety and burnout, your leadership success will really take off. It will start to flow more. And maybe you recall, I mentioned it a few times in the podcast that our autonomic nervous system broadcasts its state below the level of consciousness. So we're not conscious of broadcasting it. And we're not conscious of receiving other people's broadcasted information either. That means that we naturally know when the human's nervous system is in fight or flight, or rest and repair. Another survival issue, right? So if all of that is true, let's take some of that as read. You may or may not agree with all of it, but...
Dex (00:13:30) - Let's assume, shall we, that our anxiety and fear is very prominent at times. So right then, what can we do about that? I'm going to give you some strategies here, but also I'm including some really excellent podcast episodes that deal with this in the show notes. So listen to them. They've got very specific solutions to various types of stress, fear, and anxiety that you can use topically, as it were. Or just browse through the podcast and find the episodes that speak to you. I always give antidotes to fear and anxiety in each episode that you can practice yourself to find relief. All right, that's the preamble. I don't know why I need to do that. You all know what anxiety is, don't you? But you've patiently delivered yourself to this point. So let's go with the exercises. Number one headliner: Meditation. Why? It puts you in the present moment! I guess anxiety is just fear for the future. Once you're in the present moment, it will recede. And meditation is a skill, so I recommend if you have that skill, use it. If you don't, learn it, because you should see the brain scans of monks meditating - calm as you like.
Dex (00:14:52) - Very healthful for your HRV. Heart Rate Variability watchers, excellent coherence in monks and coherence describes the flow state that is very gentle on your organs, like your heart and your brain, and promotes healing and flow. And even as a beginner meditator, you can have a taste of that. Personally, I think that mindfulness meditation I've personally learned (Vipassana) works great because it brings you to attention on the breath, the in-breath, and the outbreath, which takes you into direct connection with your body experience in the now, in the present moment. And it can also be very helpful in releasing rumination, tension and pain. But some people, of course, do prefer to create calm and presence with guided meditations, and that's fine too. If you're in the present moment, depression, which is being stuck in the past and anxiety, fretting about the future, will recede. And I'll share more exercises directly on anxiety in a minute. As we meditate, as we follow our breath into our body, feeling our body sensations, it's actually quite rare in that moment that anything's really going wrong in that actual present moment.
Dex (00:16:17) - And we can simply notice that with gratitude as we're passing and experience the flow of well-being as our body basically just goes about its business quietly keeping us alive. Even a few minutes of meditation helps to refresh our energy and release tension. Even something as simple as taking 2 or 3 mindful, slow, deep breaths at your desk can reduce anxiety. It can break the loop of anxiety. Of course, if you are a beginner and you start meditating, you will immediately notice your thoughts, which will probably continue to race and will probably continue to give you thoughts you don't love. So apart from being very, very gentle with yourself about this and not making it a problem for you, it is worth receiving some expert instruction on how to slow your mind down and gently redirect your attention back to the breath each time thoughts arise. It's a skill. It's a learning you get over time, but some instruction is useful. And I know there's a very popular Calm app that may be helpful to you here, or any other app or method that you prefer.
Dex (00:17:37) - Just meditate. Start a tiny little new habit every day. Start small. Don't make it too hard on yourself, so you give up. But try to go for streaks and keep going. I have a client recently who built a 30 day streak of six minutes meditation per day. This meditation really is a gift to self. Anxiety is perpetuated by the stress response that it triggers. So once you've got all that adrenaline flowing, more anxious thoughts come and so on and so on. And I think your mind needs a circuit breaker and meditation can be very helpful for that. So that's one: Meditation. Two, let's look at fear of judgment. And for the full juice on this topic, please listen to episode 13 of the podcast on Other People's Opinions. It's going to tell you exactly how to disband your fear of what other people think about you. And I'll just give you a few tips here as well. We'll just go through it, because fear of judgment is really a projection of how you think about yourself.
Dex (00:18:45) - When you attend to your self-criticism rather than what's happening externally and stop sledging yourself so hard, you will experience a shift. Turning down your self-criticism starts with listening, tuning in to that inner critic, that voice in your head. And if you hear that voice offer a negative thought about you, a negative judgment about you, simply let it know that you don't believe it, and that you don't permit it to speak to you that way anymore. You can outlaw it. I think it's helpful to acknowledge that the voice is essentially trying to protect you from harm. Everything your inner critic says is has a protective intent, and you can offer with the voice to work together on that. And you can teach it new, empowering thoughts that you prefer it to offer you, for better results. You can teach it a new dialogue I was going to say, it's more of a monologue, really. You can teach it what to say to you, and what that really does is it invites the inner voice to protect you by being on the same side as you, by playing to your strengths and abilities, rather than relentlessly showcasing the gaffs you've made.
Dex (00:20:04) - And when you get off your own back, you simultaneously turn down your fear of judgment from others. And when you turn down that specific fear, you might see that there really isn't that much else to worry about right now. Fear the acronym - False Evidence Appearing Real. But let's say you did underperform in some way, and that's the cause of your distress. I think it's worth saying that anxiety-provoked performance failures will naturally diminish once you get out of fear. Stands to reason right? Confidence, a steady hand and mind, will return, probably producing a superior result anyway. You're going to perform better when you're not under so much stress. It's just the face of it. I actually believe you are extremely competent once you get out of your own way. Notice also that reducing fear of judgment allows you to collaborate better, bringing people back onside and further improving your ability to smooth out problems with them. So that's two dealing with fear of judgment and your inner critic. Number three emotional self-protection.
Dex (00:21:20) - So important. This one is covered in episode 70 of the podcast How to Stop Other People Hurting Your Feelings. All of these are in the show notes. I recommend this episode strongly. I think it's one of my really good ones. I recommend it as a way to learn how to let the world go by and remain calm and unruffled, instead of thinking a stream of anxious thoughts to stimulate your stress response and that anxiety cycle. Cause if you think about it, anxiety arises from our minds. It's us thinking a bunch of thoughts about what could go wrong in the future, and the dire consequences of that, based on a lack of belief in ourselves, created by persistent self criticism and self abandonment. Yet no-one can hurt your feelings without your permission to feel hurt. You have to, on some level, agree with their criticism and find yourself at fault or deficient. And when you do that, you basically take up their refrain. Like ripping off your own arm and beating yourself with the soggy end.
Dex (00:22:33) - You might publicly refute their criticism, but inside you're judging yourself harshly about it. And because that's happening inside of you, it never stops. Long after the person has left the room, you're still painfully self-judging. One anxious thought causing a vicious cycle of anxious thinking that keeps the stress activated. This is rumination. This is the kind of anxiety that doesn't let you sleep. And emotional protection is simply finding yourself worthy of your own emotional support and giving it. It's essentially not that hard, but it will be a new practice for a lot of us. It certainly was for me. So approach it like this, just as you would so readily do with a young child who felt similarly wounded and upset. Let your impulse for caring come out. So imagine you are that child hurting. What do you need as that child? A listening ear? Approval? Care? Affection? Hugs? How can you give yourself that? What can you do to self-soothe? The adult to the child.
Dex (00:23:56) - Because emotional self-protection is, by definition, something only you can give to yourself. So try it! If it comes a bit hard at the beginning. Keep going. Keep experimenting with it until you start to open up more freely to it, because it might feel a little bit weird at the beginning. Look for evidence that it's working and keep going. And number four. Champion Yourself. Always my dead favorite option. This is really an extension of the last exercise. Just to be super, super good, kind and gentle to yourself. So listen to episode 36 on Championing Yourself for the whole process, but just be the champion of you. Learn how to do that. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Always assume you're permanently worthy, wholesome, valuable, lovable. It might be a new concept for you. Good. Start now. Be the champion of yourself. Have your own back. As if you were a small and defenseless child in a war zone. Because you are. Your childhood will have endowed you with fear and anxiety, and didn't cultivate enough self belief and confidence in you to face the fears and anxiety and life's challenges with resilience.
Dex (00:25:24) - And the only person who can fix this now you're an adult is you the adult. Championing yourself is when you choose to unconditionally love and support yourself as you are now. And as you were as a child, and every moment in between. And no matter what wounded you early in life or right now, it's no use playing the blame game. Blaming life or people for your challenges. It's not worth wasting your energy because blame is unproductive and siphons your energy into the past. Blame can't fix how you feel now because the past can't heal you. Only the present. By all means, of course. Acknowledge and feel any present emotions hurt, blame, anger, resentment, whatever it is, allow those to come up and feel them all the way through because it helps you to discharge that stuck energy of those emotions in your body. And also, it's about being true and authentic within yourself. It's okay for you to have those emotions and to allow them to come to the surface and release, but don't get stuck too long in that phase.
Dex (00:26:44) - Feel the energy of blame passing through, for example. But don't indulge in blame. Don't kindle the flame of blame. Don't get stuck there. It won't serve you. Taking ownership of your mind is where the real juice is for you. Putting yourself at the helm. Sailing off for sunnier waters, essentially. So really choose. Once you've felt the negative emotions and released some of the charge of those. How you have your back is really you choose to take your own part and to believe in yourself. You acknowledge your good heart and desire to be a good person. And you gently acknowledge if your speech and actions have actually let you down this time, but without self blame, just notice. Decide you're still a good person, and if you need to make amends for whatever it is you did that wasn't to your liking, right there every time you're in a painful squeeze. Suffering. Irritation. Anger. Guilt, shame, remorse, blame, self judgment, even hatred whatever the emotional disturbance is. Think of that
Dex (00:27:59) - younger you feeling this way. Suffering. Alone. Unconsoled. What does that little one need? Will you be the champion they need and give it to them? Because it's on you to do that. No one else can if you don't. Because when we champion ourself, we're the emotional protector we always wanted. The person who believes in us no matter what. Choosing is we stop beating ourselves up and offer kind support like perhaps a grandparent might. Try it. Try with yourself and then ask yourself. What percentage of the pressure is released that way? Can you notice a difference in pressure or anxiety or fear? So that's the exercises I have for you today. I believe in you. Every person I work with is an amazing human in strife. So what we're doing here really is knocking off the strife part. Thank you so much for listening. And if you're in frequent stress, anxiety, fear or vulnerability, try the exercises today and listen to the other episodes I mentioned to learn even more about how to help yourself reduce stress.
Dex (00:29:16) - It is possible you do have the power to change. And if you're in burnout, please come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably and get back to your best performance, leadership, and success. And most of all, enjoyment inside working out. You can book an appointment at Dexrandall.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please help me reach more people in burnout by rating and reviewing the podcast. I truly appreciate your support in this. And if you know anybody else who's heading towards or in burnout, please send them the podcast link. It's packed, as you know, with practical tips for burnout recovery, and I recommend that new people listen to the first five episodes to get started. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me about burnout, or just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.