Figure Out What's Next

#4: How to Overcome the Doomsday Feeling 

with Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell
January 24, 2023 | 28 Minutes

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On "Inside-Out Career Design" this week, hosts Nicola Vetter & Peter Axtell speak about:

You always have a choice to make when your body gets flooded with fear chemicals due to scary news. Learn how to use your body as an ally. In this episode we are discussing some useful things you can do immediately to get calm and shift your fear-based thinking and feeling. Learning from the stoics can help as does having compassion for yourself and others and gratitude practice – among others. Get creative with those solutions. Only then will you be able to take any positive, productive action.

Some questions we discuss for you to reflect on:

  • How do you react to negative news?
  • Become aware of where in your body you feel the stress.
  • What will you commit to trying to calm your body?
  • What can you as an individual do today to bring yourself back to a place of joy and strength so that you can move your life and career forward?
  • How will you build up your own resilience?
  • Explore the other side of the news – there is never just one side.
  • How does what happens at the other side of the world impact you right now and here?

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About the Inside-Out Career Design Podcast

This podcast is obsessed with answering a single question: Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career?

Join Nicola Vetter and Peter Axtell, co-founders of the WhatsNext.com Career Insights platform and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment, as they follow their obsession with answering this question by sharing their insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talking career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches -- anyone and everyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of “what’s next for me?” and “what should I do with my life?”

They seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers.

Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are and what you are meant to do with the time you’ve been given.

Transcript 

Peter Axtell  00:00

The answer lies in a superpower that you have and that we all have.

 

Nicola Vetter  00:04

What is that?

 

Peter Axtell  00:05

Well, forget about that.

 

Nicola Vetter  00:06

No, no, no, come on, let me know.

 

Peter Axtell  00:09

Okay, we have a cliffhanger going on here. It's called resilience, and it's our superpower. It's our ability to recover quickly when bad things happen. It's our ability to show toughness and strength in the face of adversity. That's the definition of resilience. 

 

Peter Axtell  00:27

Welcome to Inside-Out Career Design. In this show, we're obsessed with answering a single question. Is it possible to create an authentic, meaningful, and fulfilling life you love while building a successful and rewarding career? My name is Peter Axtell, and I'm here with Nicola Vetter. We're co-founders of the WhatsNext.com CareerInsights platform, and creators of the groundbreaking MotivationFinder assessment. Join us as we seek to transform suffering into joy for millions of people stuck and confused in their lives and careers. We'll share our insights, discoveries, and life lessons and talk with career experts, leaders, spiritual guides, psychologists, data scientists, coaches, anyone who might hold a strategy or answer to the age-old questions of: "What's next for me?" and "What should I do with my life?" Get ready to be inspired, motivated, and above all, to connect deeply with who you are, and what you're meant to do with the time you've been given. 

 

Peter Axtell  01:43

Are you trying to figure out what to do with your life, to figure out what to do with the precious time you've been given on this earth? Or to figure out what only you as a remarkable and unique individual can bring into this world? If you are, please join us for one of our live and completely free online workshops, where we cover different topics to help you figure out what to do with your life and career without wasting precious time, taking wild guesses, or risking it all. To save your spot in our next live and free workshop go to WhatsNext.com/workshops. We can't wait to see you there. Again, that's WhatsNext.com/workshops.

 

Nicola Vetter  02:37

We appreciate you spending this time with us. I'm Nicola and I'm here with Peter. And in this episode, we'll talk about the feeling you might have recently had, an uneasy feeling that the world is just coming to an end. We call this a doomsday feeling. And if you find yourself feeling this way, we want you to know you're not alone. And it's not your fault.

 

Peter Axtell  03:06

I mean, come on. A quick scan of any news feed is enough to send you headed for the bunker. We've got climate change and food shortages, energy shortages, soaring prices, drought, raging wildfires, recession fears, losing democracy, FBI raids, war, civil war, nuclear meltdowns, I just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over the top of me. It really does seem like it's all too much, doesn't it?

 

Nicola Vetter  03:33

Now, the news has always been that way. It's the negativity we are trained for, if it bleeds, it leads. But the problem today, right now is that there is a real possibility for this doomsday scenario to happen. Climate change, war, inflation, these are all real problems. And they carry real existential threats. So, they hint at the possibility that society and the world are on the verge of a major change.

 

Peter Axtell  04:15

Like everything's gonna everything's gonna collapse.

 

Nicola Vetter  04:17

Correct. Yeah.

 

Peter Axtell  04:21

Well, then the question becomes is how do you react to this news? What do we do to fight back? Because, I mean, sometimes I think why bother? I just feel paralyzed and not feel like doing anything at all. It just feels too big. What can little me do? And so, when you try to doom scroll, you're going through the thing because you know why? Because we're doing something to try and get some kind of an answer. If I see the next news thing maybe I'll get some kind of answer and I can relax maybe a little bit, maybe it's going to be helpful. So, you keep refreshing the news feed and the media companies just loves that. Yeah. So, you might feel like you should hunker down, hold on tight to what you have, your job, your stuff, your money, and not take any risks to improve yourself. You might even feel guilty that other people are suffering more than you are. A friend of mine, I was talking to the other day, she actually feels guilty that she is more fortunate than many other people say in Ukraine.

 

Nicola Vetter  05:26

That's very compassionate, though.

 

Peter Axtell  05:28

It is. But the truth is, she feels bad. The bottom line is she personally feels bad. And so, she can't be of any help to anybody. If you feel bad, that's what we're going to try and address in this podcast, that paralyzing fear that keeps you from doing anything because you feel like you can't or you shouldn't.

 

Nicola Vetter  05:50

So, what can you as an individual do today to bring yourself back to a place of joy and strength so that you can move your life and career forward?

 

Peter Axtell  06:05

I mean, given the magnitude of everything. Yeah. Well, we've got some ideas about this. The answer lies in a superpower that you have, and that we all have.

 

Nicola Vetter  06:16

What is that?

 

Peter Axtell  06:17

Well, but forget about that.

 

Nicola Vetter  06:18

No, no, no, come on. Let me know.

 

Peter Axtell  06:20

Okay, we have a cliffhanger going on here. It's called resilience. And it's our superpower. It's our ability to recover quickly when bad things happen. It's our ability to show toughness and strength in the face of adversity. That's the definition of resilience.

 

Nicola Vetter  06:38

So, let's talk about some ideas you can use to recenter yourself, and act from a place of resilience the next time you find yourself caught in doomsday thinking and feeling. And the first thing that comes to mind here for me, is something you carry around the whole time. It's your body.

 

Peter Axtell  07:03

Oh, I thought it was your purse?

 

Nicola Vetter  07:06

No, no, I'm not the queen. So, you need to learn to calm your body.

 

Peter Axtell  07:14

Well, that sounds great. But the question is, how do you calm your body? First thing I want to do is I want to address the fact of why your body gets into a reaction in the first place. And it's really not your fault. What's happening when you get triggered, is that you have neuro chemicals that get released in your body. There's adrenaline, and there's cortisol, we don't have to know what those are. But those are called the so-called fear chemicals. And when something happens, and you get a lot of those fear chemicals in your body, it's called flooding. And when you get flooded, that's why you have that feeling of overwhelm, and you can't stop it. So, what most people do is that well, I'm just going to use my mind to try and stop this flooded feeling.  Yeah, you can't because your body is just flooded. So, the only thing you can do is allow those flooded feelings and those chemicals to start to dissipate a little bit over time and not try and think your way out of getting to calm yourself down, just doesn't work. That brings up the next question. Well, what would you do specifically? So, there are a couple of really useful things you can do, you can focus on your breathing, you can take a walk, you can listen to music, you can do anything that helps calm down as your body releases a fear of chemicals. Sometimes people use music, they play one of their favorite songs, I'm a musician, I can play a favorite song. And that will take me out of my mind, out of that flooded feeling and help to start calm me down.

 

Nicola Vetter  08:03

Good luck with that. Oh, here's the thing that I'm doing. I just love to dance. So, I put on my favorite music and then I just, it's involuntarily, I just dance. And either that or I jump on the trampoline. It's wonderful to just shift your fear-based thinking and feeling.

 

Peter Axtell  09:17

I also want to point out again, that the news is designed to elicit this reaction. And there's another thing that's going on I also have to point out is that when the news elicits this reaction, it also at times can release another chemical and that chemical is called dopamine. And dopamine is called the pleasure chemical. So as counterintuitive as this is and as crazy as this is you get a little shot of dopamine when you see something on the news and that dopamine causes you to focus, kind of makes you wake up, it kind of makes you feel engaged. It's counterintuitive, why would I do that? But that is exactly what dopamine does. That's why it's very similar to addictions where you get that dopamine rush, and you feel that pleasure. But you can feel it from negative news. And you can feel it from positive stuff. And the news people know that you're getting that. So don't blame yourself, you're getting that trigger hit of dopamine. That's why sometimes I just can't stop but wanting to see the news the next day, and I'm going, why can't I stop? It's because of that chemical being released in your body. It's worth knowing that.

 

Nicola Vetter  10:39

Yeah, absolutely. Another way how you can use your body is, when you feel really stressed, just stop for a moment, and think about or feel into where the stress is located in your body. Often, it is either in your head, in your belly, in your neck, or, in my case, it is in my lower back.

 

Peter Axtell  11:10

Mine's in my stomach. I get it there.

 

Nicola Vetter  11:12

Yeah. And once you've located that, you can take a breath. Breathe into this part of your body and tell your body to let go.

 

Peter Axtell  11:26

That's an interesting. So, what you're saying is that there's this energy in your body and in fact, it's trapped. It's trying to let go, but it's trapped in this particular part of your body. And that's why it's so useful to know that you can use your body as an ally, almost like an alarm clock. And you say, wait a minute, I'm feeling this stress. What is it? Where do I feel it? Okay, I feel it my stomach, something's going on with me. And I may not know what it is, but something just doesn't feel right. So, I now can say I've got trapped energy in my tummy or in your lower back. I'm going to breathe into it with the understanding that if I can do that, that energy will start to break up, kind of like Drano and a drain and starts to dissipate, and the water will start to flow. And as that energy starts to flow, then you'll start to feel better. And those negative chemicals will start to release. It's very useful to know.

 

Nicola Vetter  12:22

And another idea is to just shift your attitude because a negative doomsday attitude keeps you from taking any positive productive action at all.

 

Peter Axtell  12:37

But I don't want to have a negative doomsday attitude.

 

Nicola Vetter  12:41

Exactly.

 

Peter Axtell  12:44

Actually, one of the reasons that this happens is that you can get into a negative spiral of just focusing on the doomsday thing, because don't forget, you get that dopamine hit and it kind of gets you addicted to that doomsday thing. And it starts a negative cycle. And you don't want that. So, we can learn from this.

 

Nicola Vetter  13:07

It's a little bit like being in a hamster wheel, isn't it? You go on and on and on and on. Yes.

 

Peter Axtell  13:13

So, we can learn from the stoics. Everybody thinks the stoics were stoic and kind of negative. They were not. They were optimistic about life. And they did that by reflecting, this would be crazy, on how much worse things could be. And that the fact that we are all destined to die. That is really a stoic philosophy to remember that you are all destined to die. And so therefore, you can be thankful for the disasters you escape from.

 

Nicola Vetter  13:49

That's crazy.

 

Peter Axtell  13:49

Do I have permission to quote from Winston Churchill? I read this the other day that Winston Churchill remarked that he felt a deep sense of relief that came from being shot at and missed. He really did say that because he used to go to the frontlines. He wanted to be there. And he was shot out many times and he was so grateful that they missed him. I found that hilarious.

 

Nicola Vetter  14:20

Another idea is to challenge and reframe the situation, because it's very likely that you are getting just one side of the story, most likely the most negative side. But what is on the other side? Is there anything that you can take that has some positive aspects to the story or the problem you're thinking about?

 

Peter Axtell  14:49

Well, what would be an example of that?

 

Nicola Vetter  14:53

You can ask yourself what are some positive aspects of the story that might not be very clear while you read it. But when you think about it, they might come up in your consciousness. And it's also possible that something has just been overly exaggerated.

 

Peter Axtell  15:16

Oh, no the news never exaggerates to get us all upset. No.

 

Nicola Vetter  15:22

I've had a conversation the other day with my sister-in-law, Renate in Hamburg, Germany. And I told her, you know, I went to get gas. And the prices have actually doubled within the last three years, they are now at about $4 a gallon.

 

Peter Axtell  15:47

And this is in the US, somebody might be listening to this from somewhere else.

 

Nicola Vetter  15:50

In Denver, I guess, in New York City, it's probably far more than that. And Renate said, lucky you because here in Germany, a gallon is $8. So, I asked her, how do you deal with that problem? And she said, life goes on. And we can take the bus, take the train, take the bike, walk, which is healthier anyhow. And it's better for the climate. So, life goes on. So, this call was very helpful for me. Because it also brings us to the next point, realize that you're not alone. If you realize that others share the same concern as you that is really helpful. Because you know, you're not alone in this crazy ride.

 

Peter Axtell  16:48

So, you can seek comfort from others and speak about your worries and reach out to a friend. Now this is a lot of times, not very much of a guy thing. And, for example, my best friend, we talk about every three months. And every time I get on the phone, I realize how much I miss him and how much I feel expanded, how much I feel better, that I just picked up the phone and called John.

 

Nicola Vetter  17:13

I always have to nudge you to do that.

 

Peter Axtell  17:16

And we do not have a conversation by texting, we don't text each other trying to go back and forth. That's...ok, I won't rant too much about texting. But suffice to say that there is something about the energy of another person that takes you out of yourself and expand yourself. And that you realize that everybody is struggling just like you are, no matter how much money they have, or how little money they have. Everybody just woke up this morning, hoping that today I'll be a little bit happier. So, the lesson is reach out to someone, even if you're a guy.

 

Nicola Vetter  17:50

Yes. And then another tip is practice gratitude.

 

Peter Axtell  17:58

This was one of my favorites. The other day I was going to the dentist, I was going down I 25 and four lanes or six lanes of traffic or whatever it is, and I was going to be late to the dentist. And I was getting all agitated about there's all this traffic and I'm going to be late to the dentist and Nicola said something very profound to me. She said, you know, Peter, there's probably a billion or more people who would gladly change places with you.

 

Nicola Vetter  18:31

6 billion, I bet. Worldwide.

 

Peter Axtell  18:35

Who would gladly trade places with you being in a car that runs, being stuck in traffic, being able to go to a dentist. And when she said that all of a sudden, I just shut up. It's a very powerful practice to realize that there are probably billions of people who would gladly trade places with you. And that really brings on gratitude. There's another great stoic practice. And that practice is, this could be the last time. One of the best lessons my mom ever taught me was never go to bed angry. Because you never know that that might be the last time that you see that person again. We practice that. Yes. So, the idea this could be the last time you're getting all wound up and you're doing something and you're in a bad mood and you say to yourself, this could be the last time I ever typed this email. This could be the last time I ever got to have a sandwich with Nicola. It could be anything. You do that and it will go like woosh, it'll bring you right down to this in fact could be the last time. Last thing my mom used to say, let gratitude be your attitude. Yeah. So, when I was little, I thought this was the corniest thing in the world. Turns out all those things that our moms said, they all kind of turn out to be true. Well, probably not at all. So, one of the first things I do in the morning is very simple. I write down five to ten things that just spontaneously come to my mind that I'm grateful for in my life today. But the important thing is, to really feel that gratitude about what you can be grateful for. It can literally be, I am glad that I have a pen that works, I'm glad I am sitting in a chair, I have a roof over my head, I have food in my refrigerator, I have a great relationship, I have a wonderful wife, anything, you just do five or ten of those, and you write them down. You do that every morning. And it has been proven scientifically that a gratitude practice, even a little one done regularly actually changes your immune system and it changes your optimism. It's been proven in psychology.

 

Nicola Vetter  21:02

And the key word here is regularly.

 

Peter Axtell  21:06

Yeah, even if it's five things. Takes me one minute. Okay. What's next?

 

Nicola Vetter  21:15

Put things into perspective. One of the major problems with the news is perspective. Therefore, just put things back into perspective. They make everything seem like it's happening right outside, in front of your door, when in fact, things might be at the other side of the world. So, ask yourself, how does this impact me right now and here? A fact is that you are only seeing one tiny slice of reality at any given time. You are in a tiny speck on a spinning globe in the galaxy.

 

Peter Axtell  22:04

Very often, we have a bunch of friends in Europe. And we will read the news. And we'll go, oh my god, all of Europe is burning, all of Europe is melting down. And I can't tell you how many times we've called one of our friends and said, well, what's happening? Are you all running out of gas or lying around this? Are you freezing to death at night? Is food running out on the shelfs? Virtually every time everybody says, no, life is going on. Yes, things are hard in some ways. But the calamity that we think is going on, because we're so happed up when we talk to people in another place. What they actually say is, it isn't anywhere near as much of a calamity. But I should say that horrible things like what's going on in Ukraine is no joke. I'm not minimizing that one bit, that is a calamity. And it is terrible.

 

Nicola Vetter  23:00

For example, if you're worried about energy prices, just lower your thermostat and dress in layers. Or if you're worried about losing democracy, go out and vote. And if you're worried about water shortages, don't let the water run while brushing your teeth.

 

Peter Axtell  23:23

I get slapped if I let the water run when I'm brushing my teeth. So, it's amazing, isn't it just a few little, small things, it doesn't have to be a gigantic thing, just a few small things can make you feel like you have done something in the face of this sense of overwhelm that is happening right now in the world. The other thing is trying to reduce your negative thoughts. One of the things that's really important about negative and negative thoughts, think about it as planting trees. The more negative thoughts that you plant, the more negative thoughts you are going to see in the future, it can become a habitual pattern, and you just are naturally thinking negative thoughts, negative thoughts. And the result of that is that your world starts to look more and more negative all the time, even though the world may not be negative all the time.

 

Nicola Vetter  24:16

But don't try to fall into the opposite and just think positive. Because there's actually a book in German, that positive thinking can make you sick. Okay, we don't go there because we like it better if you think positive. But it's not a recipe to bring your negative or fearful thoughts to an end.

 

Peter Axtell  24:44

One very useful thing. Another thing has been now proven in science and psychology is to learn mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness now, I don't know about in Europe, but in the United States is a big thing. It's been used in corporations. It's everywhere. And there's a really great app by Sam Harris, and it's called the Waking Up app.

 

Nicola Vetter  25:04

And we'll have that in our show notes.

 

Peter Axtell  25:08

If you've never done meditation, or you think it's weird, Sam Harris makes it accessible and understandable. Another thing is, get enough sleep.

 

Nicola Vetter  25:21

Or go to the movies, comedy is great.

 

Peter Axtell  25:25

Another thing we can do is, remember when we talked about those fear chemicals and that you can't stop them? There are only two things that you can really do. If you are really susceptible to this, and you just can't stop and you feel terrible all the time, you can think about going on a news fast, maybe just a short one. And see if you start to feel better. You know, go out and taking a walk in the morning instead of watching the news, and see whether you're getting less triggered whether those fear chemicals are not coming on as strong. One of the most basic things that you can do is work on your inputs. Can I say that again? I will say that, again, work on your inputs.

 

Nicola Vetter  26:09

And what exactly does that mean?

 

Peter Axtell  26:11

That means that whatever it is what you're putting in your thoughts and your body, if you work on your inputs, you just have to get better outputs. If you put lousy gasoline in the car, and the engine is gonna knock, it's just the way it is. So, it's no different than our body and our mind. So, working on your inputs. And if the news is really bad for you, then you might consider, I want to go on a hiatus for a little bit or forever, but probably not forever. So, the next time that you find yourself feeling anxious or uneasy and telling yourself, I just want to hide under a rock or go to bed and pull the covers over because of doomsday thinking. We hope that you'll try some of these ideas that we have and believe in your ability to stay strong and figure things out. So, your goal is simply move your state of being from fear and anxiety, one that does not serve you at all, to one of calm and peace, where you are in more control of how you choose to act and react about the things that happen in your daily life. I hope that's helpful. For show notes, head to WhatsNext.com/4, where we share links and more. Again, that's WhatsNext.com/4.

 

Nicola Vetter  27:44

And if you like what you've heard, share it with someone you care about. And subscribe, rate, and review our Inside-Out Career Design podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts, so you'll never miss an episode. Thanks so much for joining us here today. We'll see you next week for another episode. Same time, same place.