Susan: What’s your advice to somebody who is in a place right now where they are feeling fearful? How do they go from that place to a place where they are present with their whole selves?
Amy: This may seem small, but it’s really important: realize that everyone has felt this way and half the world is feeling this way right now. You’re not alone.
Second is to affirm your core values. List five things that are really core to who you are; rank them; choose the top one and write about why it matters to you; and write about a time when you were really able to express that and how it felt. That’s called self-affirmation. It’s what you care about. Self-affirmation has been shown in hundreds of studies to reduce people’s social anxiety dramatically. When you do that stressful thing, you know that whatever the outcome you’re still you. You feel more grounded, you feel less judged, and you become better at whatever the challenge is.
And third — the body is so linked to the mind. If you start to understand how that’s working, you can have your body tell you how you’re feeling. You’re not being chased by a predator — you’re just a little stressed out. Opening up and acting as if you’re not feeling threatened — you’re feeling safe — tells the mind you’re okay.
Susan: What are one or two of the most powerful shifts we can make?
Amy: We spend more time slouched and slumped, wrapping ourselves up and hiding ourselves, than we do open and expansive and taking up space and using proud postures. Your mind is hearing from your body that you are under attack. Don’t let your body tell you that. Just sit up straight. Set up your workspace so you have to reach a little bit. Put pictures of your family and people that you love high up on your wall so you have to look up. Get up and walk. If you’re a fetal sleeper, when you wake up, stretch your arms out before you put your feet on the ground.
The other idea is that before you walk into challenging situations, expand as much as you want. If you’re alone, you’re not offending anyone. So why not be as expansive as you can possibly be? When you walk into that situation, you have optimized your brain to not see it as a threat, but to see it as an opportunity. You walk in with a sense of confidence and security, instead of that sense of fear. *
Susan: How do you stay present in moments of conflict and address issues in the moment?
Amy: Conflict is definitely a challenge — to go into it knowing you might not win. When you walk into situations that have a lot of conflict in them, maybe the first thing to do is to be present enough to allow the other person to speak first. To ask them how they’re feeling. Can they explain what’s going on from their perspective? You’re not giving power away — you’re actually allowing them to feel seen and understood.
When you respond in a moment of anger, you are not going to respond well. If you let them get through it, you’re going to get more information. Maybe then you pause and say “I need to step away from this for a minute.”