Updated: Nov 22
It seems March is going to go out like a lion, and not in the sense of weather! Given what was going on around the world, it really didn’t come in like a lamb but for many of us in North America, we maintained a false sense of being insulated from this new virus taking hold of the world. However, after mid-month lockdowns I wonder if we might consider that other lion quality popularized by The Wizard of Oz, courage.
Courage does not remove anxiety but rather repositions it. Instead of ignoring what unsettles you or stuffing it away out of sight, you can use your resources, both internal and external, to shore up your courage to resist the physiological responses to fight, flee or freeze.
Here are 3 tips for igniting your courage to transform your worry and anxiety:
1. Name Your Fear
Many people underestimate the power of merely naming the source of your anxiety and how it makes you feel. Say it out loud, jot it down. This labelling creates parameters that place your fear in a box. It contains your fear rather than having it spilling out in all directions. Containing your fear allows you to direct your courage in specific ways to diffuse the gravity of it.
This also allows you to discern fear from danger. Amidst our heightened awareness to all kinds of risks, some that are real, some that are imagined, we have lost touch with the distinction between fear and danger.
Fear is created in your mind. It may or may not be reflective of true threat in your environment. You see, danger is based on facts; fear is fueled by emotion. In the face of real danger, worry and fear are your allies. However, most of the time you are not in objective “real” danger. Differentiate between danger and discomfort.
This is not to minimize the threat of a virus we are only starting to understand. However, let’s consider what we know and keep asking questions, keep reframing what we know as new information emerges. This is good scientific process. We will know more in a month than we know today. We will know more is 6 months than we know in a month.
2. Cultivate Compassion
Compassion is wise action that bridges the gap between suffering and wellbeing. Fear and anxiety, in the ways that they paralyze you or keep you from being where you desire to be is an expression of suffering. Compassion, specifically compassion you offer yourself, is a way to bridge that gap.
Think about how you would respond to a friend who was feeling the same worry or anxiety. What would you say and do? Offer the same to yourself. Treat yourself like a good friend. Recognize that all people lead imperfect lives; you are not alone in your experiences of discomfort and challenge.
This seems to go against our societal conditioning, which often takes a detached “get over it” approach. However, more and more empirical research shows that kindness and compassion are far more motivating than harsher approaches. Compassion doesn’t make you soft; it restores and sustains you instead.
3. Embrace Growth
Courage contains the seed of hope that things can be different. This reflects a growth mindset. You are not a static being but can change and grow. To engage in growth, you need to move beyond your comfort zone. In this space, you are stretching and strengthening your body, mind and spirit. You are experimenting and adjusting as your experiences become more familiar and even easier.
Focus your zone of growth by visualizing your courageous self. Who do you need to become? What small courageous action can you take today to get you one step closer to this future self? Do that one action! When you take action and experience success, the sense of reward you feel motivates future action. This is how you build your courage. By leaning into your discomfort and taking one courageous action at a time, your courage “muscles” or habits become stronger. And remember, the key to a growth mindset is the word “yet.” In those moments when perhaps your courage fails you, you can always say, “I’m not comfortable (insert your fear), yet.” And try again.