Anxiety Lives In The Past and Future [5/5]

Mark: All right, Rocky, I guess my last question is probably the most difficult question I’m going to ask you about the time here. So we don’t know how long this will last and I’d love you to share some of your ideas about the past, the present, and the future. Because obviously I’m thinking to myself, these strategies sound great, and I think for a couple of weeks, I can be super excited about working from home and I can really reframe that in a positive way. I can do the breathing, I can do the tapping when I feel a bit anxious. But what about if this lasts for six months? How do I handle that situation?


Rocky: Well, Mark, I’m hoping it doesn’t go six months, but in my mind I’ve said, “Okay. If this goes on for six months, how am I going to be able to do deal with it?” Okay, let’s look at time, for a start. And I want to talk to our young people and to our students right now. So I go to schools, we speak to students all the time and I know that this year I was at a school before. We have all these lockdowns about a month or so ago. And I say to them … So we’re in New South Wales, so here we have the HSC which is the final year of schooling in year 12. “How do you feel about the HSC?” And overwhelmingly, it’s negative. “It’s negative. It’s stressful. It’s this, it’s that.” And so I want to say to all the senior students, especially, all of those fears and worries that you had two months ago and three months ago, how are they going now? A lot of the things that we think about and then we worry about, often don’t ever happen.

And here’s the thing. Now, you know better than me,  about what’s the latest update with the HSC or with the final year of schooling. Is it going to go ahead, is it not going to go ahead? Even if they say it is going to go ahead, I’m sorry. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I just want to say, I don’t think you can say that with a hundred percent certainty or it might go ahead in a different way. Now, you and I, Mark, we’re really great fans of the NRL. Now, we don’t know whether the NRL season is going to kick back up again and start again. We don’t know that. We don’t know whether there’s going to be a modified competition. We don’t know any of that.

So all of those players and coaches, if they’re right now freaking out, stressing out, going, “Are we going to play this year? Is there going to be a modified competition?” It’s a waste of energy. So if you are a student or a teacher and you’re thinking, “What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen with our senior years,” or whatever. I just want to say to you, you’re not thinking right, right now. You’re not thinking straight. I’m sorry. I’m just going to say it. And when you think like that, it’s just going to make you feel bad.

And my great friend and mentor, Dr. David Lake, says, “Sometimes your is not your best friend.” We’re very rarely focused on the present moment, the now. And we’re often dragged into the past or into the future. Now with this Corona virus thing, it’s probably more the future, isn’t it? Like what’s going to happen and how things going to work out? And I know I get caught up in that, too, but as soon as you realize that, the only answer to what’s going to happen in the future is, “I don’t know.” That’s it, that’s the only answer because nobody knows with certainty, with a hundred percent certainty. We’ve got estimates and guesstimates and all that, but no one knows for sure.

So this is a really great opportunity. Because I know people like me talk about, “Be in the moment, be present, focus on …” and it can be a little bit of an eye roll sometimes. People just go, “Yeah, whatever.” Well, now I just want to say to people, you’ve got no choice. You do, but if you don’t focus on the present moment and you get focusing on the future, I’m sorry, but you’re putting your mental health, your physical health at risk. And then you’re going to be part of this contagion thing. This falls back into what’s going on in our homes, Mark. Then we’re feeling bad. And someone says something to us and we snap back and conflict arises much more quickly because we’re not managing our state. Right? And we’re getting triggered really easily.

And so this is a perfect time to be able to get your mind back under control and manage it. Every time you start thinking about the future and I get it, it’s human. We all do it. I do it. I’m not saying you can stop thinking about the future. You are going to think about the future. But if you’re thinking about the future and it’s upsetting, if you’re thinking about like, “Oh, I had to cancel a holiday and I can’t wait for next year when I can go,” well, okay. That’s cool if you’re imagining a pleasant holiday next year. Your mind is serving you. But when your mind is not serving you and you’re in the future and you’re freaking out about what’s going to happen and no one knows what’s going to happen, your only choice you’ve got is to be here, now.

And I don’t want to be too vague about this. I’m just going to be really crystal clear. Focus on what’s required now. So Mark, I want to just share with you a little process that I went through when I had my own wobbly a couple of weeks ago. I’m taking the dog for a walk and I’m thinking stuff and I’m talking to myself because we’ve always got this mental conversation going on. Right? We’ve got all these thoughts. We’re talking to ourselves all the time. Right? And I was feeling really tightness in my chest. I haven’t felt like this in years. And I was like, “Whoa.” And then I was aware of what I was thinking. And so it was like, “Oh, we’re going to go broke. We’re not going to have this. We’re not going to … The impact is go …” And then I just went, “Is that true?” And I went, “No, that’s not true.” And what I realized was that’s an exaggeration.

So if you’re catching yourself with exaggerating thoughts or catastrophizing thoughts – or here’s another one that David Lake talks about, black and white thinking. Black and white thinking is going to cripple you in a crisis, especially in a crisis. Because it’s never black and white. It’s always both end. So it could be, “I’m really worried about this. There’s a part of me that’s really worried about this.” But it’s also true that there could be a part of you that’s not so worried about this or is less worried about this. So when you’re caught in exaggerated thinking, catastrophizing thinking, black and white thinking, either or thinking, you’ve got this fixed, rigid thinking that’s going to trap you and keep you stuck.

The first thing was, “I’m having these thoughts. Is that true? No, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Hmm. Okay.” Well, what if it was true, by the way? Your parent might’ve lost a job or there’s financial pressure at home. Right?

There’s things that are true, you know? And so what if it is true? Regardless, whether it’s true or not, here’s the next thing. What’s that like? Whether it’s true or not, what’s that like? Well, if it’s not true and you’re thinking about something bad, it feels bad. And if it is true, you feel bad. So the feeling is same whether you were imagining it or whether it’s real.

So I’m feeling bad about this. And that’s where we come back to what we talked about earlier, Marc, the breathing and the tapping. Now I know how people think about this. They just go, “You know, Rocky, thank you. But how is breathing and tapping going to help with my financial situation?” And here’s what I’m going to say to that, when you’re worked up and stressed and you’re not thinking straight, how’s that helping you with your financial situation? So my argument is, if we can manage our upsetting emotions, if we can reduce the intensity of that, it’s going to help us think a little bit differently. It’s going to help us think more creatively. It’s going to help us maybe come up with ideas that we haven’t thought about before. And so that’s why it’s critical to get your emotional and mental state under control.

So it was like, “Is that true? What’s that like?” And I was like, “It’s terrible.” And then I did some tapping. I felt better. And then I asked myself, “Is there something that I can do about this now?” And it was like, “No, now I’m actually walking the dog.” And in a way that is doing something about it, if you know what I mean? So do something that brings good energy into your system. if you can walk the dog around the house or around the block or something, if that’s possible, do it. So what can I do right now? And then another question was, “Can I do anything about the situation, like the job loss or the financial stress? Or can I do anything about this now?” If it’s a no, well then another concept that David Lake shared with me was, let it go. He calls it, allowing.

It’s like, “I can’t do anything about it now, so external circumstances remain the same, but what am I going to do? I’m actually going to focus on something that’s going to make me feel better.” And that could be sitting down and watching a great movie on Netflix. It could be taking the dog for a walk. It could be listening to some music. It could be picking up the phone and ringing someone that you’re great friends with. Whatever it is, that’s going to actually make you feel better because right now I can’t do anything about these external circumstances.

So this is critical too. A lot of the times we’re focusing on stuff that we can’t control. And this is another classic case where we can’t control a lot of what’s going on in the world right now. And so the only alternative we have is to control what we can control, to manage what we can manage, and that’s what’s going on with us and what’s going on right now. And if we don’t do that, then we start losing our minds, thinking, “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to think that. But I can’t do anything about it now.” But then my mind keeps ruminating about something that I can’t do anything about right now. So you see the futility of that and how it drains our energy. So, “I just can’t do anything about this now, not yet, but there’s things that I can do when I get home. I can do this and I can do that. Okay, cool. So I can’t do it now. I’m just going to walk the dog right now.” So I was walking the dog and feeling really bad and then I started walking the dog feeling much better and much more at peace.


Mark: And it gets back to presence and being present in that moment. And I gathered, too, when you talked about setting up a schedule, if you’ve got a schedule and you’re doing something like watching Netflix, then you’re watching Netflix and that’s all you’re doing. Because I know, personally, sometimes I do something that I quite enjoy, but in the back of my mind, I really have those and that’s not really helpful. Like you said, it’s not allowing me to enjoy actually watching the show that I want to watch. So some really good advice there because you’re right. Some of these situations are not going to solve themselves, but the person in control of their mind, I think we’ve seen some amazing examples of people being really creative in terms of ways to change their business really quickly and under pressure.

And I know, obviously, from an educational point of view, I’ve seen teachers this week switch from face to face teaching to online teaching in a matter of moments. We have technology that is offering us something else. I know even for yourself, Rocky, you’re really adjusting your business to this online presence. And it shows people, in the right frame of mind, that’s when they’re at their best. And that’s when they’ve got the opportunity to find the solution that they’re looking for.


Rocky: I’ll probably leave you with this last thought, Mark, and it’s this. I’m a really big believer in this, as you know, and I’m really passionate about it. I’ll just say, I’m sorry, all bets are off if you’re not managing your state. Your mental state, your emotional state. Everything starts from there.

If your mental state and emotional state is completely deteriorating and you’re just surrounding yourself with negativity and fears and upset, like I said, it’s okay to be feeling that way. Step one. Step two is, “How long do I want to feel that way?” That’s the other thing. And if we don’t do anything about that, if we don’t do anything about feeling better, doing anything we can to feel better and manage our state, well, then we can’t do anything about any of the other challenges that we might be facing right now. So it has to start with that. It’s like building a building. It’s going to start with the foundation, and I really believe that’s the foundation. If we haven’t got that straightened out, well, then we can’t straighten anything else out.


Mark:  Rocky, it’s been great to talk to you. And I’ll probably impress upon people that there’s probably a Rocky for everyone somewhere. You’re a great person for me to talk to and I love the things that you share, but we really need to connect with those people that have got really specific strategies. Because we’re going to experience those moments and we need to find our way back out. And some of the strategies you’ve shared today will allow us to find that way. Thanks so much, Rocky, for always illuminating some ideas that I think can make a real difference.


Rocky: No, I appreciate that, Mark. They were helpful to me and I’m hoping they’re helpful for other people. So thanks for doing this with me.


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