Well Balanced

How to view anxiety as a messenger

January 31, 2022 Balance Season 1 Episode 13
Well Balanced
How to view anxiety as a messenger
Show Notes Transcript

Ofosu and Leah get to the bottom of what sometimes causes their anxiety. Then performance psychologist Faheem Mujahid joins to share some tips for working through anxious moments.

To stay up to date with "Well Balanced," follow us on your favorite podcast app. Share your feedback with us at wellbalanced@balanceapp.com. And learn more about Faheem’s work at faheemmujahid.com.

[Effect — Singing bowl]

OFOSU: Hey, what's up. I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey, 

LEAH: And I'm Leah Santa Cruz, we’re the meditation coaches on Balance. And this is our weekly show. Well-Balanced.

OFOSU: All right, so, Hey Leah, how are you?

LEAH: I'm doing really well today, feeling happy. 

OFOSU: That's awesome. Yeah, I'm feeling pretty good too. So I'm actually pretty excited today because we are bringing back a friend of the show performance psychology coach Faheem Mujahid.

Yeah, we love him. I invited him because I thought he might be able to help me out with this thing that I experienced. So for you listeners, you may or may not know that in addition to being a meditation coach and guide, I'm also a recording artist. And I had a show recently And so I recorded what was sort of going on in my head at the time and I'll play that for you and then we can chat it out and bring Faheem on.

LEAH:  I love it. It's like true behind the scenes. Yeah.

[Transition Sound]

OFOSU: So I have a performance later this evening. It's actually not really a big crowd. It's a relatively intimate space, but yeah, for some reason I'm feeling kind of nervous about it. I'm noticing where I'm feeling this anxiousness in my stomach chest area. And, uh, I'm not really sure what I'm nervous about.

Probably going to sit and meditate and do some breathing and just let myself relax.

It's not like bad anxiety. It's just like, oh, butterflies. Yeah. So I wonder what that's all about.

[Transition Sound]

LEAH: Hm. This makes me curious, like now that you've reflected on it a little bit more, have you given any thought to what was different about that experience? 

OFOSU: So as I reflect on it more, a big part of it for me is just this deep desire to do a good job.

It wasn't an audience that I was a hundred percent familiar with, et cetera. So in my mind, I'm just like, what do I need to do to make this a good experience for everybody? And I was thinking about that all the way up to the very last moment. And right before I went onstage, I changed my performance plan completely.

I talked to the sound person and I was like, I don't know if I want to do the set that I came here with. And he said to me, like, if you're right here about to go on stage and you want to change your set, then you should. And I was like, oh, okay, well here's different music. And he said, go with that. And so, and I did, and I felt way more comfortable and it was a really amazing performance.

So I think I was trying to find in myself, like what's the most authentic way that I can express myself in this moment. And I don't think that I was connected to that feeling of authenticity in the lead up to the event. And it kept bothering me until I just answered that nagging voice. Like this is older material stuff that I don't really connect with anymore.

What I'm really connected to is what I have recently created. And even though they kind of asked me for older stuff, I'm not going to do that old stuff. I'm going to do what feels true to me right now.

LEAH: I love it. You kind of can look back and go, oh, instead of saying I have an anxiety problem, that's just something wrong with me.

You're going, no, that was a messenger to tell me that I'm not in alignment with my authentic self right now. And that there's a little change that needs to take place so that I can feel at ease and in my skin. Cool. I totally relate to that. That reminds me of a time when I used to work at Microsoft and I was the shyest person in my office, like I was scared to death of speaking in front of more than a group of three people.

You would not recognize me from then till now, but anyhow, we had these trainers come into the office to help us all with our presentation skills. And I remembered this so clearly because it really had a big impact on me. I stood in this room and this woman sat in front of me with a video camera, which instantly triggered my anxiety to be videotaped.

And she said, I want you to sell me a pitch on this advertisement for this X, Y client. I want you to pitch it to me. And so I went through this whole pitch and I was at blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And she videotaped me and how my body language was and my voice and my confidence. And then she stopped and she says, okay, now I want you to talk about your favorite music and then go, oh, and then I just started talking about my favorite music and it was a little bit more authentic to, you know, who I am and what I actually believe in and care about.

And then she paused and she had me watch that tape and the level of confidence that ease that I portrayed just being my authentic self was, it was night and day. Wow. And it reminded me that, you know, if you're, especially, I was in a sales role at the time, but to really always stay true to your authentic self, to do what you believe in and you won't have that anxiety pop-up because I was super nervous before.

OFOSU: Yeah, you're right about that feeling, being a messenger. Sometimes we talk about discomfort or pain or unpleasant emotions being a signal of something that needs our attention. Something that we need to look deeper into. And in this moment, it really was my authentic self saying that, Hey, you're not making room for me here.

LEAH: And that might show up in other ways, too. Like you're having anxiety in your household with your family and you're not sure why. Well, maybe it's because you haven't spoken your voice and said your true needs to people and have been yourself that way, or, you know, shows up at work. Maybe you're not aligned in the proper role that suits your personality.

And if we can speak up and say, hey, this is what I'm good at - we'd be surprised to find that other people usually want to meet us there. I mean, there's cases that it's not true, but I think more often than not, people want us to feel our authentic versions of ourselves because we all know we do better in that way.

OFOSU: Yeah. And honestly, if they don't, then that's not where you need to be. So this voice note, this reflection is a good reminder to me that sometimes anxiety or those anxious feelings are really your heart's way of saying that this situation isn’t allowing you to be completely true to yourself right here. 

LEAH: There’s a course correction that needs to take place. 

OFOSU: Yeah. Yeah. You don't have to escape the situation. You don't have to throw the situation away, but just like -

LEAH: Might be a good situation.

OFOSU: For me, this was a fantastic situation. I just needed to adjust how I approached it, you know, and I needed to come from the heart with it. 

[Transition Sound]

OFOSU: So now that we've gotten to the bottom of my particular butterflies slash nerves before that performance, I think that it's a great time to bring back a friend of the show Faheem. he's a great person to help us expand this discussion about. How to handle anxious feelings. So if you're meeting Faheem for the first time, Faheem is a renowned performance psychology coach.

He works with college and professional level athletes, like the women's soccer team at university of Miami and enter Miami CF the major league soccer team. So I know that helping players through anxiety before big events is a huge part of his. And I'm excited to see what we can learn from Faheem on this particular topic.

So Faheem, so good to have you back. 

FAHEEM: Thank you. Thank you for creating space for me to be a part of the conversation. [Ofosu and Leah: Absolutely. Yeah.] And what do I mean, I mean, does that, does an intro get any better than. I just love the way you say my name, to be honest, 

OFOSU: I'm happy to like, do like a pre-recording that you can just like press before you walk into any room.

Yeah. So can you tell us one particular player maybe that you've worked with that has struggled with anxiety? And what it was like, when you started working with them and how did you help them work through it? 

FAHEEM: That's a great question. So I had a player who was highly coveted and he was supposed to be at the time, our top producer, he was the one that was without question being paid the most. He had the weight of the franchise on his shoulders and he was going through a rough patch in his season. And you can tell the coaches was starting to lose faith in him.

He felt as if the players on his team was starting to lose faith in them. And I had a conversation before the game. So I got a little bit of insight that the coach may call on him after him not playing for a couple of games. And I remember walking towards them in a locker room before the game live, music is going on.

Guys are getting dressed, you know, some are being silly, some are focused. And I find him in front of his locker room with his head down and I walk up to him and I'm like, hey man, what's going on? And he says, you know, I don't know if I want to be here anymore. I can tell they don't believe in me whenever they put me in.

They don't really want to put me in there, just put me in because they feel obligated to put me in. No matter what I do, I'm always the first person to get called out. I'm always the first one to take blame. I don't know if this is for me. And in that moment I told him, I said, okay, let's arrive in the time that we're in right now.

Let's not forecast ahead of what you think this game is going to be about. And let's not live in your past previous experiences and the interpretation that you're giving it.  Let's do what we can do in this moment to make sure that when your number gets called, you really shine the best you can. And when I'm sitting here and talking to them, you could tell there was still this disbelief.

Like, Faheem, you don't get it. There's no way I'm going to play today. There's no way because I don't want to be here anymore. Coaches don't let me. I said, that's fine. So we go through this whole process. It takes us 10 minutes through the tears, through everything. And I said, okay, well, why do you play? He said, I play for the love.

Okay. So I said, is it fair to say that with love comes quality. He said yeah. So here's what I want you to do. When you get called into the game, I want you to go into the game with one thing in mind. I don't want you to think about the fans. I don't want you to think about the coach. I want you to think about the relationship or the love that you have for that game.

And I want you to play for that quality of love so that we can see the player that we need to see. Can you do that for me? Alright, alright my friend I'll do it. I don't know. I'll do it. The entire game goes by. He gets called in the last 15 minutes and he scores twice. Up until that point he hadn't scored all season. Scores the winning goal. Wow. Places going crazy.

I walk onto the field. Now, mind you, everyones on the field. And he starts crying and I walk up to him and I kind of pound him on the chest a little bit just to kind of push them back. Just kind of shake them up a little bit. And he laughs at me and as he's crying, he says with love comes quality. 

So that's why that's always been a really beautiful story for me. And. Although the context is a little different. I think it still allows you like, like you were saying, Ofosu, just really just think about how your emotions, anxieties, fears, whatever can sometimes prohibit you from really stepping in and performing to the best of your abilities.

LEAH: Yeah, because it's based on like your, what you're saying the subconscious beliefs, like all the storylines came out of like, they don't like me or this isn't going to work or just all the things that we tell ourselves underneath that fuel that fear.  Your story kind of reminds me a little bit of Jerry McGuire, where Tom Cruise tells, uh, Cuba Gooding Jr - And he's like, you just need to do it for the love of it. And then he goes out and kills it. 

FAHEEM: Shout out, Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding. I love it. I love it. Yeah. We've all been there before, when we just go around looking for confirmation bias. So that coach walking by you in a locker room, not saying anything didn't mean anything two weeks ago, but now that you're operating in that space of, he doesn't like me now, it means everything.

So now everything's being filtered through that lens. So the first thing we have to do is make you okay with what you're feeling. Then we have to say, okay, is there anything that you're filling, that's allowing you, or that has anything to do with this present moment? And what we found is that 80% had a lot to do with the past experience.

The other 20 was about what's to come. So first let's arrive in the time that we're in right now, and then let's get to under it all. What do you want your relationship to this moment to mean? And that's when he started talking about the love of the game.

LEAH: And it kind of makes it less about other people and what people think about you.

And one of my favorite quotes is “you will always find the evidence for what you choose to believe”. And I think that goes along with this story here, like whatever you're believing in telling yourself inside, like, you'll look and seek the evidence for it. See, they don't like me to see this isn't going to work. Yeah.

FAHEEM: 100%. 

OFOSU: So what do you think people who aren't athletes or performers, how can they apply what we are talking about here in their day-to-day lives?

FAHEEM: So the first thing I would say is one, you, you want to create enough space for you to feel okay with whatever it is that you're feeling without judgment. I think the first place we go is to judge, why am I stressed out about this date?

Why am I stressed out about this job? So don't go there, right? Make it okay for you to  feel the things that you’re feeling because you're alive. You're a human being, having a human experience. The second thing I would say is be very intentional with your words. Because that same moment that's causing you, anxiety could also mean you're just really excited.

So instead of saying I'm afraid, or instead of saying, um, I'm anxious. Why not just say I'm excited. On a chemical level it's the same thing. The power of words itself has such a profound way for us to change the relationship to which we're engaging in that moment. So make it okay. Be intentional with your words.

I find that a lot of times when we're going into the spaces that would bring up a lot of those emotions is because in some ways we feel like we have to prove our self worth to the outcome of what's expected. So the third thing I would say is know that you're enough. Just land in the fact that you're enough and everything that's meant for you and everything that falls into the alignment of you becoming just a dope human being that you are, is already laid out in front of you just step into it.

But if you don't allow yourself to become inline with what you're experiencing and make room for it and be intentional with your word - then you'll spend your entire life never really choosing your life, but instead of just reacting to what presents itself. 

OFOSU: Wow that's beautiful. Thank you. 

LEAH: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much Faheem.  We really enjoyed you'd left us speechless there. So yeah, such great, uh, food for thought to let it just soak in. And I think it applies to our lives in so many different areas. So thank you for being here. 

FAHEEM: No, I, again, I feel honored. I love taking time.  I love connecting with you guys and thank you for creating space and let me be a part of the conversation.

[Transition Sound]

LEAH: One of the most beautiful things I think he just shared with us is finding the meaning and what we're doing, finding the love of what we're doing. To me, I always think of that as the why, why am I in this? Not the how, because it's so easy. And I've just recently found this for myself, getting stuck in the, how am I going to get this done?  And where is this going to happen? And all the little logistics. And I feel like that's getting pulled into the weeds instead of seeing the bigger picture about why I'm doing something in the how, it can feel really overbearing. When we have a really clear picture of the why we're doing something and tap into the love that first inspired it, then the how becomes very clear, much easier.

And that anxiety tends to dissipate. And we can let go of worry.

OFOSU: All this stuff is so profound because even just listening to you right now and just reflecting on our conversation with him. Coming back to the why is such a stress reducer. I love that it was for that particular player in that anecdote, it was like, I'm doing this for the love of the game.

And then the idea like, okay, well with love comes quality and all of the hows, like whatever maneuvers techniques that's like, where your training and preparation and the work that you've done, that's where all that shows up. But the love is what is really going to get you to the goal. No pun intended.

We got some pretty major athletic events happening domestically and in the world, super bowls on deck, um, Olympics. And I can imagine that, um, there are many athletes and coaches and family members who are in similar spaces. 

LEAH: Well, hopefully you're listening for real you athletes and you can, uh, take that to heart.

Remember the, the love of what you're doing. And also I loved it. He said about, I am enough and that's, I know that's yours. That's your slogan there. 

OFOSU: I find that reflection, that affirmation, that mantra that you are enough or I am enough to be so powerful and it's a bit of a riddle every time it comes up, because it's like, what does it mean to be enough in this moment?

What does that mean? I am enough. And to continue to come to that reflection again and again, I think reveals how in each moment we are enough. I'm definitely connecting to why I was on stage in the first place. What's the whole point of me being up there is that I actually want to share that very message that you are enough and I want to express love and awareness through art. 

LEAH: Yeah. That embodiment place like you, if you're bringing that sense of, I am enough to the table, that message comes through even, without having to say it.

OFOSU: Absolutely. Well, all right, Leah, this was a nice one. 

LEAH: Yeah, I agree. 

OFOSU: Well, good luck to all the athletes who are going to be performing at the highest levels in the Olympics this weekend and in the Super Bowl in the next two weeks. And to you, the listener. Whatever might be on deck for you in front of you or currently that you're working on is just a gentle reminder to connect to the reason why you're doing anything that you're doing in the first place.

And to remember that you are enough.

[Effect — Singing bowl]

OFOSU: All right. Y'all face for listening and big thanks to Faheem Mujahid for joining us. You can see more of what he's up to at faheemmujahid.com. And there is a link in the episode description. 

LEAH: And as if you'd like what we're doing here, tell your friends and. Follow or subscribe to our podcasts so you can get notified when a new episode is added. 

OFOSU: All right, y'all, we'll be back with another conversation next week until then remember to be kind to yourself and see you later. 

LEAH: Peace.