In today’s episode, I’ll be sharing “how fear controls us” through a story about swimming with whales. Tune in for your one tip that you can apply to your life and to your work straight away about how to be able to better control fears and emotions that pop up for you.
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[00:00:19] In about a week, it is my husband’s birthday. And as per this time every year, I go through this thought process of what would be a good gift for his birthday. And it made me think of a gift that I had got him a few years ago, which inspired the topic of today’s podcast episode.
[00:00:40] Now where I live on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, around this time of year in September, whales are migrating south with their new baby calves. A few years ago, I had got Paul an experience with whales.
[00:00:53] And instead of choosing the experience where you can see the whales off a boat. I thought it would be a great idea to be able to swim with the whales.
[00:01:03] So you go out and boat and you get about a hundred meters away from the whales, thinking about where they might be moving to next, you then get in the water in a wetsuit and you get to swim with the whales as they go past you. This seemed like a great idea.
[00:01:17] On the morning of the experience we got up early and started to get ready to go on the boat. And I noticed something. I was starting to get snappy. I was really irritable and short with my answers and I was just not like me. So I tried to think what is going on? Why am I feeling an acting this way?
[00:01:38] And as we arrived to the dock, ready to get on the boat. I realized what was happening.
[00:01:44] It was fear. I hadn’t really thought through that if we were swimming with the whales, we would be dropped off a boat in the middle of the ocean, on what turned out to be not a very calm day, with very low visibility. And the emotions that I was feeling was fear. I was feeling fearful of being dumped in the ocean, with a whole lot of wild animals, and swimming with whales, which are actually very massive.
[00:02:16] Now, some people would say, didn’t you think of this prior? It just didn’t occur to me that this would be something that might trigger a fear reflex.
[00:02:25] When I named the fear when I told Paul, “Hey, I realize I’m actually feeling a bit anxious about swimming with whales.”
[00:02:32] I noticed that fear, it started to get quieter. Fear for me and anxiety feels like a knot in my stomach. Everybody feels it a little bit differently. Some people feel the sweat on the palms of their hands, or they get a dry mouth or they feel it in their stomach or somewhere else.
[00:02:51] For me I know when I feel anxious or uncomfortable or fearful, it’s definitely a feeling in my gut. But what I noticed is when I shared my fear, it started to get smaller.
[00:03:03] It seems so simple, but why is this so?
[00:03:09] Dr. Dan Siegel, coined a phrase, “name it to tame it”.
[00:03:13] Psychologist David Rock states “when you experienced significant internal tension and anxiety, you can reduce stress by up to 50% by simply noticing and naming your state”. So the fascinating thing about this is just by noticing that you’re feeling an emotion (and for my case fear), and saying it, you actually reduce it.
[00:03:39] And as David Rock says, you can reduce stress by up to 50% by simply noticing it and naming it.
[00:03:45] It was really quite phenomenal. I still felt fear about going swimming with whales, but once I realized that’s what was going on for me, it made it a lot easier to manage and decide what I wanted to do next.
[00:03:58] There’s a great article by Mitch Abblet called “Tame Reactive Emotions by Naming Them”. And he explains a little bit further by saying, “if we can see the emotion, we do not have to be the emotion”. So I could see my emotion of fear, which means I did not have to be my emotion of fear. When we have strong emotions or this discomfort that sits within us, we want to get rid of it, we want to discharge it. And so what happens (like happened in my story), I started to unconsciously, discharge my fear by getting snappy, by trying to make us late for the boat.
[00:04:34] But there’s a more effective way to discharge that emotion, and that is by naming our emotions, because this diffuses the charge and lessens the burden that they create.
[00:04:44] So, how can you apply this learning into your life and into your work?
[00:04:49] We all have a little telltale sign of when something isn’t sitting well. And the first thing that you can do is notice what yours is. As I said, mine is I feel it in my gut. Definitely my stomach starts to churn when I feel nervous about something or anxious or fearful. Notice what yours is- could it be a dry mouth? Could it be sweaty palms? Could it be a tingling of the skin? Because this is sending a sign to you that your body is noticing that something’s not right. Your body is trying to keep you safe. It’s this amygdala hijack, but we want to be able to understand, is it keeping you safe as something that’s real or something that is created?
[00:05:31] Once, you know what your sign is, start to notice when it happens. And I say to do it without judgment, because it’s not helpful to be judging as well as being curious. Those two things don’t work well together. So be curious on when it comes up for you and then explore, see if you can notice what is happening for you.
[00:05:52] In my case I could notice that I was feeling fearful about swimming with whales For you it’ll be something different. And once you notice it. You can name it. And you can tame it. Which means you can reduce that stress by up to 50%.
[00:06:08] This is a technique you can use in both work and in your personal life. One that is really effective in making a difference to your every day. This 1% is a great 1% to get mastery on.
[00:06:24] But remember, think of it like a muscle. You don’t get fit by going to the gym once, you need to practice this over and over. And as I said, do so with curiosity. So you can name it, to tame it and reduce your stress.
[00:06:37] If this podcast has been helpful for you, I would love it if you could share it with just one person, because the more of us that can do a 1% change in our life and in our workplace, the better the world is around us. Thanks for listening.
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