Character Chats

Calming Down To Do Brave Things

How do we calm down so that we can do brave things?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and we have developed this curriculum to best meet the needs of our youngest student who is three to our oldest student who is 85.

What Does Fear Look Like?

This month we’re talking about having courage, the ability to face our fears, the ability to do difficult things, the ability to face challenges with determination, all of which is part of our courage. When we get to the point of really being nervous, really being anxious, really being in a fearful state, what does that feel like?

For different people, it’s different. Some of us might feel really, really warm, almost feverish. Our face is flushed, it might get sweaty. We might feel really hot. It might just feel like we have started to have a temperature. Another one, it might be sweaty palms. Maybe our hands get super sweaty along the way. For somebody else, it could be that we’re suddenly shaky and everything in us is moving. I’ve noticed that a lot with my one child, their leg will literally bounce when they’re super nervous and worried and that kind of thing. Other people lose their train of thought and they can’t find the words, and they get frozen and they get stuck, and they can’t move because they don’t have the words to describe what it is that is causing them fear. And so they can’t even move past that place because of it.

Helping Others Calm Down

Each one of those things requires us to make sure that we’re using our own calm empathy within ourselves to help our students, to help our friends, to help our colleagues through these kinds of moments. I am reminded of a student here at the studio who was part of the completely shut down moment where they weren’t talking, they were just sitting there. They weren’t answering any questions. I was asking them easy questions, yes and no questions, like, “Do you want to do this? Yes or no?” They weren’t even able to say yes or no.

At which point, my go-to strategy is to say, “Hey, what’s the color of my eyes?” It’s entirely off the script that is going through their head. It gives them a moment to almost reset. It gives them a moment to connect with someone. And just by asking them the color of my eyes, they were able to stop looking at their feet, which is what they were looking at, and looked up at me, saw that I was looking at them, and they told me the color of my eyes. And then I asked them what color my hair was, and they told me the color of my hair. And then I asked them to tell me what color was the belt of the person next to them. And then they looked next to them and said it was orange. And then they came back.

That’s how we got the conversation going. And then we were able to talk through where their fear was, where their nervousness was, what to expect within the class, and answered all of their questions, and they wound up having a very successful day. When you’re faced with someone whose fear is in shutdown mode, asking you questions that is entirely different like, “What’s your favorite video game?” or “What did you have for dinner last night?” something entirely different than the place they are gives them an opportunity to almost reset their own thinking. And then they can have the opportunity to ask questions. They can have the opportunity to observe and feel comfortable in what they’re doing. And then they get to show their courage, and then they get to show what they’re doing.

Helping Ourselves Calm Down

That kind of strategy takes someone to help them out. What’s a strategy when it’s just you, when it’s just you sitting in the moment of fear? Well, there’s a couple options out there. One, you could walk away from whatever’s causing you fear at that moment in time. Not permanently, but you can walk away and give yourself a moment to relax. Maybe go clean up your bedroom. Maybe go read a book. Maybe go listen to music, and then come back to it when you’re calmer. That’s kind of changing the script like you would for a friend if you ask some questions like I just described.

Another thing could be two different breathing techniques. One is the inhale, where you are inhaling like you’re trying to smell flowers. Like when you stick your nose in flowers and you really want to get the scent, you take a big long inhale, you could do that. The other breathing technique is to blow out your air as though you’re blowing out birthday candles. So instead of the long inhale, you’ve got the long exhale. That could be another thing that you could do for yourself to help calm yourself down before you face your fears and do those awesomely wonderful challenging things with determination.

There’s lots of strategies. Some people need to do a little exercise, take a little walk. I once had a student that I would have do jumping jacks if he was feeling nervous or anxious. I would ask him if he needed to jump, and he would jump a little bit, and then he’d sit back down and get back to whatever was making him anxious or nervous. But he had a clearer, calmer mind and an ability to talk through it because he expended some of that energy that he was feeling. So when it comes to facing our fears, when it comes to showing our courage, we need to understand that there’s lots of different ways to calm ourselves down so that we can face the challenges in front of us. It’s just a matter of finding the thing that works best for you.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here