In life, the only certainties are death, taxes, and anxiety. We all experience being anxious before doing something big or when we are fixated on a particular outcome. Sometimes, we are simply anxious in general without a concrete reason. Our anxiety seeks out something to attach itself to. Anxiety can be paralyzing and incredibly stressful.
So, what can we do about it? There are myriad pieces of self-help advice to help us manage anxiety when it is especially acute. Breathing is one common and extremely useful technique. Forcing our bodies to return to the comfortable pattern of normal, predictable breathing has a powerfully calming effect. Aside from that, focusing on breathing prevents focusing on the object of our anxiety.
One of the most anxiety-inducing activities is public speaking. Feeling like we might be embarrassed in the eyes of others is universally feared. Conversely, great public speakers are seen as confident, exceptional, and competent. Great athletes are similarly lauded for their exceptional abilities. While anyone might aspire to be a more confident public speaker, few have any hope of reaching elite athletic levels. These examples are not exciting because they are role models per se. In the profound speeches and exceptional athletics, we are witnessing powerful self-expression. Every time we take a breath, speak a word or take a step, we are expressing ourselves. The one time it is impossible to feel anxious is while we are fully engaged in expressing ourselves.
The journey of Tumfo Tu involves regularly doing things that scare you. On the training floor there are plenty of things to feel anxious about if you let your attention fixate on your anxiety. In weapons training, there will be a club swung at you. Floor practice can be relentless. None of this is an accident: it is all designed to express yourself in ways you didn’t know you could – especially when you are anxious. This requires you to put your full attention on what you are doing rather than on what you are feeling. Where you put your attention is mostly a matter of habit. We all experience a full range of feelings and emotions as an intelligent response to our environment. The key to overcoming our anxiety is to put that energy into expressing ourselves. Like turning on a light in a dark room, our anxiety simply disappears.