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Feeling overwhelmed, anxious, fearful

Link to the Episode

Anshu Bahanda: This is Anshu Bahanda on Wellness Curated. Thanks for joining me on this podcast. My mission is to empower you with health and wellness so that you can then go and empower others. 

We have with us today Jaidip Khurana. He’s a leadership coach working independently and with the Asian Leadership Institute in Chiang Mai. He combines his in-depth understanding of the corporate world with a holistic approach to leadership transformation. And over the last ten years, he’s coached senior executives, entrepreneurs, and teams across a whole range of countries. He was actually an NCR graduate who went into banking for 20 years, after which he set out to find his purpose. So, tell me, Jaidip, what is wellness to you?

Jaidip Khurana: For me, wellness is a state of being. It’s a holistic approach. Body, mind, and emotions. How are we nourishing our body, the food, the exercise, the sleep, our minds? What thoughts are we feeding ourselves? And are we allowing the emotions to flow through, or are we dwelling on them? 

AB: Wonderful. And you work with corporates and in corporate settings a lot. So, tell me, how does the role of a leadership coach work?

JK: Just like sports, people have coaches to stay at the top of the game or shift to their next level of excellence. Senior executives, boards, entrepreneurs, creative people, and individuals use coaches that enable them to make shifts in their behaviors and actions that help them get to their next level of excellence. It’s to gain self-mastery from a place of inspiration and purpose. I make my clients aware of their behaviors and actions. How are we leading ourselves? How are we leading our teams? How are we leading our organizations? How are we leading our families? How are we leading the communities that we live in? I work with them to help them raise their level of consciousness, to expand their perspective. And when they do that, they make much wiser decisions that go beyond their self. Coaching empowers and facilitates change. It transforms you. It enhances your efficiency, facilitates deeper connections through empathy, and brings more joy to your life. Today leaders need agility and resilience, presence and self-awareness, connection and insight.

AB: Wonderful. That was absolutely lovely. And never more than today, I think we need to go back and find our purpose and increase our consciousness. As we’ve all seen in the last one or two years, there’s been pandemonium. But tell me, why are people so overwhelmed? That’s the primary emotion.

JK: There’s uncertainty and fear with the Coronavirus pandemic and with the ensuing pandemic of fear and anxiety, people have a lot on their plates, both at work and at home. Some are okay with it; some are feeling overwhelmed. I’d like to just place very importantly, when we don’t know how to deal with our emotions, we can get overwhelmed. So, it’s when we’re not dealing with our emotions that we can feel overwhelmed. So, is it COVID that’s overwhelming? But if COVID was 3000 miles away, would we feel the same way? We may empathize, we may sympathize, we may be very concerned, but most of us would not feel overwhelmed. But as soon as it comes to our city, to our areas, to our doorstep, then suddenly we start feeling the fear, we start feeling the anxiety and we get overwhelmed. So, it’s our reaction, it’s our response that overwhelms us. We need to own it and take responsibility.

AB: So, you’re talking just COVID or are you talking in general?

JK: I’m talking in general. I’m just using COVID as an example because it’s the low-lying fruit right now.

AB: Give us some ways of dealing with being overwhelmed at work and the personal environment.

JK: So, being overwhelmed might manifest itself differently for different people, right? For some it might be an intense emotion of anxiety or anger. For some it could be a thought process of worry, of doubt or helplessness. And for some it could be a change in behavior like crying or lashing out or just a panic attack. So, let’s feel the underlying emotions that are there and that we haven’t dealt with. Because what you feel will heal, right? So, can I be okay with it? Can I embrace what I’m feeling, be with the emotional vibration rather than the projection of it? Can I feel the variations of it? Can I feel the facets of it? What’s the value of feeling the anxiety? Or what’s the value of feeling the fear? What’s the value of feeling the helplessness? There is some value. And what we do as human beings is we color our feelings with our patterns. And this happens subconsciously. We’re not conscious about it. So typically, there are three programmed ways of how we deal with what we call unpleasant emotions. Sometimes we ignore or numb them. Sometimes we escalate and feed them. When I mean escalate and feed, we take it up to head and we build a story around it, right? And sometimes we judge and resist. So, my question to you is what is your pattern? Do we recognize that and do we acknowledge that for ourselves?

AB: What you feel will heal. I love that line. I’m going to go back with it. It’s stuck in my brain. Okay, so you’re saying that there are four ways we could potentially be dealing with feeling overwhelmed? Four categories?

JK: No, they’re not four categories. I mean, being overwhelmed means there’s an underlying emotion that we haven’t dealt with over there. So, I’m just saying typically when we have emotions, sometimes we are very good at categorizing emotions. We like to label them, right? We like to label them as good and bad. Emotions are not good or bad. They’re very useful for us. They come to balance us out. So, my suggestion and my invitation to you is can we feel what we are feeling, right? Rather than… sometimes we have patterns and these happen subconsciously. Sometimes we ignore or numb them, right? We numb the sadness; we numb the fear. Or sometimes we feed it and we escalate it because we just keep feeding that plant and we keep feeding that plant and keep feeding it. Or sometimes we judge and resist it. So, what’s your pattern? Let’s just become aware first.

AB: Okay? So, let’s talk about fear and anxiety. So, the examples you’re giving me, can we take fear and can you tell us how should we deal with it?

JK: So, let me just say a couple of things about fear and anxiety, particularly in this environment. And let’s use Corona again because that’s the low-lying fruit. So, there’s been a tremendous fear since the beginning of the pandemic, right? As there was this unknown virus which was unleashed upon us, and it had the potential to be absolutely devastating, right? So, it impacted the way we worked. It impacted the way we lived. It impacted the way we loved. So, there was a displacement all around. So, at the moment, I feel some fear may have dissipated with the vaccines, but however, the underlying fear is still there because the moment the COVID numbers go up or somebody close to us has COVID, the fear comes back in. I find now there’s more anxiety. And what is anxiety? Anxiety is a fear of a fear. Let’s just spend a minute talking about anxiety because there’s a lot of it around. I find a lot of my clients, a lot of the people I live with, I work with, I interact with, are feeling anxious from time to time. 

Anxiety is a physiological response to threat and a symptom of inflammation. This is the time that we’re looking to reduce our inflammation. We want our immune systems to be functioning at their best when we’re inflamed. If we are feeling anxiety, we are feeling inflamed. And what happens when we are feeling inflamed in our body? This goes to the hormones that get secreted, which are the cortisol hormone, the adrenaline hormone, right? There’s a threat when we feel a threat, and the threat includes our thoughts and emotions, they fire up our immune system. So, it’s not that there’s a physical threat. And neurologically, neuroscientists have shown that the brain processes a physical threat the same way as it processes an emotional or a thought-based threat. So, I could be thinking about a tiger or a tiger could be in front of me. The brain doesn’t differentiate between the two. So, what do I need to do to bring the inflammation down here? How can I relax myself so my immune system will function better? Now, feeling safe shifts us in our body and shifts our body chemistry immediately.

AB: What you’ve said about fear and anxiety has been very interesting. What would be lovely is if we can get to know how we can deal with it? So, if you can give us a little tool or an exercise.

JK: Sure, but before I give the exercise, can I just share a little bit on emotions? So, these are energy in motion. Emotions, they come to balance us. Just like we’re sitting on the seashore, the waves come and the waves go. So, emotions come and the emotions go. There are no negative or positive emotions. There’s no good or bad. We like to label them, though. Like I mentioned briefly before, we like to only feel positive emotions. We don’t want to feel the negative ones, but it’s just an emotion. When things are rough, there’s a lot of emotion there, right? People attribute the trouble to the emotion, but emotions don’t create the problem. They come to help you deal with the problem. So, we need to embrace them. We need to deal with the discomfort. The emotion comes to deal with the discomfort. Emotions that seem to happen to you are made by you, usually without your awareness. So, your emotions are not your reaction to the world, they are your construction of the world. So, your brain’s understanding of what’s going on inside your body is in relation to what’s happening outside. Your brain creates emotions when it’s experiencing internal body sensations. And that’s their response to the sensation. It creates that emotion. So, emotions aren’t your reaction to what situations mean, they are what the situations are. So, that just gives you a little bit of background on emotions, and what helps us deal with it. I just wanted to give a quick recap of a personality because all of us have a habit of dealing with emotions. We all have our own habits, right? You and I could be watching a movie, for example. You might find it very funny. I may not find it very funny. You might get scared by a particular scene. I may not get scared by a particular scene. So, what is that programming that we have inside us? That’s called our personality. Each of us has a personality. It’s very useful, it serves us very well. And our personality is all our likes and dislikes, the goods, the bads, the shoulds, the shouldn’ts, I like this, I don’t like that. And what a personality does is it judges all the time and we all have habits. So, our personality, when we access our emotional patterns or our behavioral patterns, we access them like this, right? It happens even outside of most of how we behave, the average person, most of it is on autopilot. So, we are not even conscious. So, the first step is let’s get conscious. Because when we are conscious, we have a choice of how to respond rather than react. With that little background, like, say, for example, Anshu, what’s your favorite food?

AB: Chocolate.

JK: Chocolate? Wonderful. So, let’s say we are all eating the same chocolate. Now, each of us on this program could have a different experience of chocolate.

AB: Absolutely.

JK: Yeah. But the chocolate is chocolate. So, each of us may go to, if we are witnessing, say, an accident, each of us has a different feeling about the accident, and each of us has a different description of how we may describe it. But when we describe it, we think we know the truth. It’s not the truth. It’s just our perspective. We should just acknowledge that. Now, let me go to the emotions first and say how they’re very useful. For example, they come up to help us, like I mentioned, they help us deal with the discomfort. So, let’s take fear as an example, right? What does fear tell us? Fear tells us, it warns us of our danger. It helps to bring us to the present moment. It helps access our instinct and our intuition. So, what does anxiety do for us? Anxiety helps the person get things done. It helps us organize ourselves, prepare ourselves for the future, right? I’m anxious about the future. We’re never anxious about the past. Correct. It’s something. So, it helps to prepare ourselves. So, it gives us a message. What does sadness do for us? It comes for us to let go of things that are not working for us anymore. And anger, I think I mentioned these three or four because I think all of us can relate to it. Anger helps us set boundaries. So, having said that, let’s go to the exercise. Now, how do we deal with fear or anxiety or another emotion that is very charged up for you?

AB: Okay, so any emotion that’s coming up.

JK: Any emotionYeah, because I don’t want to just mention one emotion because somebody on this program, or you may say, I’m not feeling it, so how do I feel it? So, let’s first take a couple of deep breaths to bring us to the present moment. Would you like to do that? 

So, let’s take a couple of deep breaths to come to the present moment. I want you to feel the feeling. Whatever feeling that is intense within you, I want you to feel it. Recognize it. Be okay with it. Embrace it with empathy. Be non-judgmental. And what does it feel like? Where is it physically in your body? How does it feel on your shoulders? In your face? In your chest? In your stomach? Is there any change that you’re feeling? Is there any breathing change that you’re feeling? Is there any tension? Don’t change it. Just write the emotion. Investigate for yourself. An emotion typically takes 90 seconds to play itself out. Like sitting on a beach. The wave comes, the wave goes. The wave comes, the wave goes. But what we do is we interfere with it. So, ask it, what does it need? Is there a message for me? If a thought comes out, bring yourself back to the present. Bring yourself back to the feeling. What emotion did you choose Anshu?

AB: So, I have this massive to-do list, so I was feeling quite… Well, I was feeling a little bit overwhelmed with— I have to do this; I have to do that. It was going on in my head, and I felt it first in my stomach, then in my throat, and then it actually went away.

JK: It goes away. But what we do is mentioned those three patterns, right? We don’t feel it sometimes. We sometimes feed it, and we escalate it. Like, you could tell yourself, oh, God, I have so much to do. I have so much to do. And you’re going on with feeding that feeling, right? And it’s becoming bigger and bigger. Or you might just numb it, and say, oh, God, I’ve got so much to do, but let’s just ignore it. I don’t want to feel it, but that feeling is there. You haven’t dealt with it. Or we judge it and say, oh, God, here I go again, and let’s not go there. So, let’s resist it. So, let me ask you a question, and the people who are on this program, the question: what do you have growing in your emotional garden? Do we want to plant any new plants in our emotional gardens? And the new plants could be joy. They could be gratitude. They could be forgiveness. It could absolutely be love. So, if you want to let go of something, as I said, the more attention you give to it, the stronger it gets. You have to divert your attention. So, I’m not suggesting you divert your attention to the feeling. You feel the feeling, and once you’ve felt it, you move away. You don’t give any more energy to it. What do you want to plant? Do you want to plant joy? Let’s do a joyful activity. You want to love? Do an act of love. Call somebody you love. Give somebody a hug. Visit somebody. Send somebody something, have a laugh, whatever it is. Whatever it is you want to plant.

AB: Interesting, but work at it. What you’re saying is work at it. Work at your emotional garden.

JK: It’s absolutely a practice, right? What are the behaviors that I want to practice? Any player. Like, if you take the best tennis players in the world, what do they do? They don’t just get up in the morning and go to a match. They practice. They practice. They practice. So, let’s practice how we want to live, because the more we practice, it gets to be our second nature. That’s our default. So, let’s talk about anxiety, because there’s a lot of anxiety around it.

AB: And one thing that was interesting, you said it’s the fear of a fear.

JK: Because there’s a fear that something bad will happen, right? So, I get anxious about it. I’m concerned. I need to plan. So, how do we reduce anxiety? And it works differently for different people because what might reduce your anxiety may not work for the other person. There are various things that could come about, and these are just some ideas. Sometimes creative writing helps. Listening to music. Sleeping, right? Practicing forgiveness. Just breathing, conscious breathing, humming, that yogic exercise called Bhamri where you hum like a bee or something just as very simple as drinking cold water. Because what that does is, what anxiety takes us to… There’s inflammation, so it takes us to our sympathetic nervous system. And drinking cold water, what it does is it helps shift the nervous system to our parasympathetic nervous system, which is the rest and digest.

AB: Okay, that was interesting. Now tell me, during your career as a leadership coach, where have you seen maximum impact? What have you seen that’s made maximum impact?

JK: I think people are changing their behaviors, right? And being able to connect once they raise their consciousness, right? And they make wiser decisions that go beyond their self and their ability to connect. Because once you are able to understand your emotion, you can read the emotion of the people that you live with and work with and interact with in society, People become more empathetic. What that leads to is a deeper connection with yourself and with others. You feel energized. There’s more creativity, and you’re in the flow more. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, I’m in the flow. When you’re in the flow, you’re not stuck. What we like to do as human beings, we sometimes have a habit of perching ourselves on a particular point. My invitation is, can I be like the river that just flows? And while it’s flowing, a lot happens along the way. It sometimes meanders, it sometimes turns. It sometimes slows. It’s sometimes dirty. It’s sometimes clean.

AB: What advice do you have for our listeners?

JK: So, there are four things I would suggest. One is to bring yourself to the present moment. Allow yourself to feel the feeling without judgment, because what you feel will heal. Second, take responsibility. It’s your feeling, not caused by someone or a situation. That may have just stimulated your feeling, but the feeling is yours, so own it. Because when you own it, you can decide what you want to do with it. Three, let’s not label emotions as good or bad. They’re all useful. Be aware of your habit. Do you feel it escalate? Do you ignore or numb it, or do you resist and judge? Just be aware of that. I’d like to ask a quick question where we ask ourselves right now, just something very simple. Am I expanded or contracted right now? And what I mean is: expanded is— are you open, receptive, and radiant? Are you feeling that? That’s expanded, or am I feeling tense, tight, and constricted? So, when I’m contracted, I cannot connect with the other person. I’m too caught up in my own drama. But I can shift that contraction. And we have energy in motion, right? So, during the day, we are expanded and contracted at many times of the day. But how do I shift the contraction? First, be conscious. It’s there. Take a few deep breaths for some, have some water for some, shake it off for some, call a friend. For some, have a laugh, have a snack, listen to music, hug somebody. Different ways of shifting the contraction. But it’s very simple. Am I expanded? Am I open and receptive? Or am I tight and constricted? What are you feeling right now Anshu?

AB: Oh, I feel really expanded. Wonderful. How do you react to another person’s unreasonable reaction or unreasonable behavior?

JK: Okay, first you have to know that the person is just being themselves. Let’s not take it personally. They have got up in the morning, and when they get up in the morning, they’re just being themselves. So, we have to recognize that. And maybe they’re having a bad day at that time, right? So, when I say you have to first recognize that you have to come. Maybe they’re in pain. I’m not suggesting that you have to accept their behavior, but you have to recognize that they are also human. Maybe they’re having a bad day. We all have a bad day. So, we come from a place then, of openness and empathy rather than of judgment, and say, oh, God, here they go again.

AB: So, you know when you were talking about Corona and the external environment, how do you feel safe? Because that’s leading to a lot of fear in people’s lives. They’re feeling unsafe.

JK: What we can’t control, what I don’t have an impact on, is the external environment. Well, I have a limited impact because there’s only me who can radiate energy out to the external environment. What I can have an impact on is my internal environment here. What is it that I’m letting in to feel safe? What is it that I need to do? What are the behaviors that I need to do? What are the actions that I need to take? And once I’ve done that, that’s all I can do. Now I have a choice then, once I’ve done those actions. For example, to feel safe, sometimes you may want to wear a mask or may not want to go into crowded places, be vaccinated, not take risks. Each of us has our own level of risks that we may or may not want to take. But having done that, does it help me to worry? Is worrying helping you? Is being anxious helping you? If it is, continue to do it. But if it isn’t, cut it. Like a director shooting a movie, once the scene is over or the scene is not working. He says cut. Let’s move on. Come back to the present moment. Am I feeling safe right now? At this moment, all we have is this present moment.

AB: That was magnificent. Thank you for this magnificent chat. I’m going to go back with lots of things in my head, so thank you for that. Thanks for joining us. Hope you enjoyed the Wellness Curated podcast. Please subscribe and tell your friends and family about it. And here’s to you leading your best life.