Podcast: How to Mentally Prepare for Anything



What’s the worst that could happen? And who will you still be regardless of the outcome? In today’s podcast, Gabe talks with author Shira Gura about her newest method CLEAR, a tool we can all use to prepare for an upcoming event or situation that is causing anxiety. 

Worried about an upcoming exam, a date, or a party where you won’t know anyone? Join us to learn a great method to help CLEAR your head before you go.



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Guest information for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ Podcast Episode

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Shira Gura is an emotional well-being coach. Her background as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor, and mindfulness teacher led her to create two powerful self-help tools:  The unSTUCK Method® and The CLEAR Way®. She is the author two books: Getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being (which was awarded winner of the 2017 International Book Award in self-help), and most recently The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Through her coaching, courses, and community, she guides people to live more deliberately. She lives in Israel with her husband and four children. 

About The Psych Central Podcast Host

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Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Shira Gura- Mentally Prepare’ Episode

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: You’re listening to the Psych Central Podcast, where guest experts in the field of psychology and mental health share thought-provoking information using plain, everyday language. Here’s your host, Gabe Howard.

Gabe Howard: Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s episode of The Psych Central Podcast, I’m your host Gabe Howard and calling into the show today, we have Shira Gura. Shira’s background is as an occupational therapist, yoga instructor and mindfulness teacher. And it led her to write the book The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything. She’s also the host of the Living Deliberately Together podcast. She makes her home in Israel with her husband and four children, Shira, welcome to the show.

Shira Gura: Thank you so much. It is so great to be back. 

Gabe Howard: Well, I am very glad to have you back again now, given all that is going on in the world with COVID-19 being mentally prepared for anything seems more important now than perhaps at any other point, at least in my lifetime. How does your book fit in with everything that’s happening in the world?

Shira Gura: Yeah, I actually think obviously when I was writing the book starting last year, this is before COVID hit and I had no idea that the publication of the book was going to come out at the same time during the hit of this pandemic. And it is a wonderful tool for the time period that we’re in right now, because as we’ll get into in the podcast, it’s a tool that helps prepare you before you go into any future moment. It really helps ground you and helps you be ready. 

Gabe Howard: It sounds like a great, happy accident, and I’m one of these people that I try to stay away from the extremes, you know, black and white thinking has gotten me personally in trouble. It’s interesting to me, because if I would have read the title of your book a year ago, Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything, I would’ve been like anything? Really, anything? But as we did the pre work for the show, I was like, look, if it works in a global pandemic, we might be as far along the path to anything as we can possibly get. So I’m so glad that you wrote the book. 

Shira Gura: I am, too.

Gabe Howard: All right, as we mentioned at the top of the show, you’re a returning guest, so I want to spend just a couple of moments on your previous book and your previous episode where we talked about getting unSTUCK: Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being. Just real quick, sort of baseline it for long time listeners to the show that have heard both episodes. What’s the difference between the unSTUCK method and the CLEAR Way method?

Shira Gura: Both tools are really used for emotional well-being, but the unSTUCK method you would really use for something that happened in the past and the past could be a minute ago and it could be 10 years ago. I got stuck on anger. I got stuck on frustration or I was stuck on guilt, are things that already happened. And I’m stuck on them because I have an emotion attached to a story that already happened. I use the unSTUCK method in order to get myself out of the hole, out of that stuck spot. But the CLEAR way is a tool that you use for the future. If you are going into a presentation, if you are anticipating a difficult conversation with someone, if you are about to go to work, if you’re about to work with a client even and you want to just get clear for yourself before you start work, this is where the CLEAR way would be used. They are both powerful self-help tools that are step by step because they’re both based on acronyms, but they are really used for two different purposes.

Gabe Howard: Can you give us some examples of where you would want to get clear in your life?

Shira Gura: If you can think about any situation where you have a feeling of worry or concern or anxiety or fear going into that moment, this would be the tool that you would use. For example, I got clear before we started this interview.

Gabe Howard: Nice.

Shira Gura: I got clear. Yeah. And it’s not that I was having so much anxiety. I do interviews a lot. But again, it’s a future moment that I’m not sure what to expect. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if the Internet is going to work. I don’t know if I’m going to stumble on my words. So I need to get clear. 

Gabe Howard: Thank you so much. And when you pitched being on the show, you said, hey, would Gabe be willing to be a guinea pig and give his own problem and be walked through the CLEAR way? And I thought, hey, why not

Shira Gura: We did it on the first episode, and it worked well with getting unSTUCK.

Gabe Howard: We did, and it was a lot of fun and I learned some stuff about myself, and I really think that the listeners understood the example, so we’re going to try it again. So can you walk me through the CLEAR way?

Shira Gura: I would love to do that, the first thing that we need to know is what do you need to get clear about? So you can think of anything. But we need to pinpoint one example in your life where you have feelings of anticipation, of worry, of concern, of fear going into a future moment.

Gabe Howard: I think that’s perfect. I have my first live speech since March coming up in a week. Obviously, I’ve done virtual stuff and continued hosting the podcast, but Gabe Howard in a room with an actual audience whom could throw tomatoes at me, first time in many, many months in a week.

Shira Gura: That’s fantastic, that’s a great example. Let’s do that. OK.

Gabe Howard: Excellent. All right, what’s step one?

Shira Gura: So this is an acronym, five steps, C L E A R, so the first step is C is for calm. It very much relates to the unSTUCK method with the first step, S, was stop. It’s basically the same thing. This is a step where you take a moment to redirect your attention away from the story, away from the future, away from all of the emotions that you’re feeling. And we’re going to bring it to the present moment so that you can allow your mind to rest for a moment. So we’re going to eventually deal with the emotions and kind of go to rational thinking. In order to do that, we really need to get ourselves in a place of calm. And this doesn’t need to be long. It doesn’t need to be a 30-minute meditation. It could be just one deep breath or a few deep breaths, but something even symbolic to say, OK, I’m getting clear. I’m going to start. And the first thing that I’m going to do is get calm. 

Gabe Howard: Yeah, I’m going to take a real big, deep breath. I don’t know if it will come through on the podcast, but I want to assure the listeners that that I’m doing it.

Shira Gura: Ok, and while you’re doing it, if you want, you can close your eyes and you can imagine yourself in the place where you’re going to give the speech, you’re about, let’s say, to walk up the steps to the stage and you’re going to give your speech. And in that moment, you say, I’m getting clear. I’m going to first, I’m going to get calm.

Gabe Howard: All right.

Shira Gura: All right, the next step is L and that’s for Lighten. When you are going into a future moment, when you have all of these emotions, you probably have emotions that are feeling heavy, right? Emotions of fear and worry and anticipation. Those are heavy feelings and they affect us physiologically. So the next step L for Lighten is we uncover what are the thoughts that we have about the situation as we’re going into it? And then we see if we can lighten our thoughts by slightly changing our language. We’ll do this together. See if you can uncover a thought that you have that says something like, I know something is going to happen, some sort of negative thing is going to happen.

Gabe Howard: I know that I’m going to be out of practice, I know that I’m going to stumble over words. I know that the delivery is not going to be as pristine. I mean, it’s been months. There’s just no way that it could be.

Shira Gura: Yeah, great. Perfect, and that’s so important for you to uncover what those thoughts are, because they’re there. They’re there in your mind

Gabe Howard: Yeah, they are.

Shira Gura: And oftentimes we don’t even know or just it’s unconscious. So we’re uncovering them. Now, you’re saying I know I’m going to be out of practice. I know I’m going to stumble. I know my delivery isn’t going to be perfect. And the question is, do we really know that? Do we know what’s going to happen in the future? The truth is, we don’t know. We have no idea what’s going to happen. Right? And so we change our language to it might happen. It’s a possibility that might happen. But we take away like the I know, which is a really heavy thought. And it really kind of creates that reality, like I know it’s going to happen. So that’s what’s going to happen as opposed to I have a feeling that might happen. But you can even hear in my voice, it lightens. It lightens your thought and it affects you again physiologically. Can you try one or two of those changing the language?

Gabe Howard: I’m pretty pessimistic by nature, but I can say that you’re right, saying I know is arrogant, right? I can’t see the future, so I can certainly see for Gabe Howard changing it from I know this is going to happen to I think that it might happen or even I’m concerned that it could happen, which I can hear the difference. I’m worried that something will happen. Is a far cry from I know it’s going to happen. I worry about a lot of things that don’t come true.

Shira Gura: Yes.

Gabe Howard: So you’re right. It does feel significantly lighter.

Shira Gura: But the language that we use in our lives is so important for our emotional and mental health. I think it’s something that people just don’t even think about. But it is really important how we use our language. Let’s go to the next step, which is E and this is for Expect. And so here we’re going to uncover what are your expectations, what are your hopes, what do you wish for? What do you want to happen?

Gabe Howard: I want, like a standing ovation and fireworks and people cheering. Reasonably, I want a good speech, a good presentation, an engaged audience, I want people to laugh at my jokes and, you know, nod at the serious parts. I want engagement, but I want the audience to behave how I expect the audience to behave.

Shira Gura: Awesome. Those are wonderful uncovering of your expectations and it’s so important to uncover your expectations because this is typically what gets us stuck when our expectations aren’t met. You want a standing ovation, you want fireworks, you want cheering. You want a really great speech. You want engagement. That sounds like the most important thing is you want the engagement. You want the nods and the laughter and the

Gabe Howard: Yes.

Shira Gura: Ok, awesome. Right now we’re going to go to the next step. You ready? This one’s kind of tricky. OK. A is for Accept. In this step, we are going to radically accept the opposite of what it is that you want so that if the expectations that you actually want aren’t met, you’re not going to get stuck because you will have accepted in advance the possibility that that was going to happen anyway. In this step we’re not wanting, right? We’re not saying, we’re not wanting the opposite of what we want to have, that’s not what we’re doing. We’re just accepting the possibility that the opposite of what we want may happen because it might. And if it does, and that’s reality, what are you going to do with it besides accept it in that moment?

Gabe Howard: So just to clarify a little bit, you know, in my case, I could accept that the crowd would boo and get up and leave, but I think that that’s too far, too extreme. I don’t really see any, I don’t, I don’t see any scenario where that would realistically happen. Realistically, the worst-case scenario is that the audience is bored. It’s probably important for somebody doing this method to not go so extreme. Like I’m going to accept that the audience throws tomatoes at me. That’s probably not a good use of the method. I’m going to accept that the audience is bored. Would that be better? Is like reigning that in smart?

Shira Gura: Yes, amazing, so I hope that I’m going to have amazing engagement, right, and I can radically accept that I might not have amazing engagement. Right?

Gabe Howard: I’m accepting that there ho-hum. They’re going to be polite. I’m not giving a speech to a hostile crowd, no matter how bad I am, they’ll give the cursory applause at the end. And yeah, I’ve never had tomatoes thrown at me and I’ve never been booed. But I’ve certainly looked out at the audience and seen a lot of people checking their phones and watches and that has happened before. If so, that’s the absolute worst-case scenario and it doesn’t happen very often, but it feels crummy when it does.

Shira Gura: The question is, can you accept that now? Can you accept that that’s a possibility that might happen?

Gabe Howard: I can, I can,

Shira Gura: Ok, great.

Gabe Howard: Yes, I can accept that, that they will think that I am ho hum. And they will politely golf clap as I leave the stage.

Shira Gura: Good, so I can accept the possibility, right?

Gabe Howard: Yes. I can accept the possibility that they may be bored.

Shira Gura: Yeah, it’s just a possibility, right, again, not what we wanted

Gabe Howard: Yes.

Shira Gura: It, but it’s a possibility,

Gabe Howard: Yes.

Shira Gura: You can’t move forward if you’re being held back behind. So it’s really important that you can be able to just accept it as a possibility, which you did. Great 

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Gabe Howard:  We’re back speaking with Shira Gura, the author of The CLEAR Way: Five Simple Steps to Be Mentally Prepared for Anything.

Shira Gura: Last step, R. This is for responsibility. This is where you take responsibility for your way of being, not your way of doing and not your way of having, but your way of being. Who is it that you want to commit to being in an adjective form? So that no matter what happens, there’s not engagement, they don’t laugh at your jokes, you stumble, no matter what happens, you still stay grounded and committed to your way or ways of being. This is where you take responsibility for yourself and you release responsibility of anything outside of you that you don’t really have control over. There’s endless ways that we can be maybe one or three words. What kind of speaker do you want to commit to being?

Gabe Howard: I want to commit to being a confident, professional, unflappable speaker. I really feel that the best speakers are ones that don’t attack their audience or their clients or. The best speakers also understand that let’s say that there’s 100 people in the audience and it only takes about 40 or 50 percent of an audience to make the audience seem like they’re uninterested. It’s certainly possible that you got through to 20, 30, 40, 50 percent of the audience. I like what you said about taking responsibility because so often I see speakers get angry at their audience. And I think that’s, that’s not the way this works. They don’t owe you anything. You’re there for them. They’re not there for you. So I like the take responsibility. I like that. I want to be a professional, unflappable speaker.

Shira Gura: Good. Awesome. Now, wait a sec.

Gabe Howard: Who projects confidence.

Shira Gura: Awesome, awesome. I want you to know what you just said again. I really believe language is one of the keys to mental health. I want to be a professional, confident, unflappable speaker. That’s the last thing you just said. Right? I want

Gabe Howard: Yes.

Shira Gura: To be and listen to how different it is from I want to be that kind of speaker to I am committed to being that kind of speaker. You hear the difference?

Gabe Howard: I do, I do. I want to be a good husband versus I’m committed to being a good husband. Like, who do you want to be or who do you want to marry? Somebody who wants to do it or somebody who’s committed to doing it?

Shira Gura: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: I think of my own relationships and yeah. Yeah, I don’t want somebody that wants to be in a happy marriage. I want to be with somebody who’s committed to being in a happy marriage.

Shira Gura: Exactly.

Gabe Howard: I think we all understand that in relationships. We’re spreading that out. Right to everything else. I know I’m asking a lot of like questions in between, but yeah, I, you’re right. If my wife came to me and said I want to be happy in our marriage, I think, oh, that doesn’t sound good. But if she said I’m committed to being happy in our marriage, I’d be like, all right, all right, let’s do this. Arm in arm. Let’s go. Nice. I like it.

Shira Gura: It’s a different story, right?

Gabe Howard: It is, it is.

Shira Gura: And it’s like one word, it’s one word, but it changes the world, it really changes the world. So your ways of being are like an anchor to a ship. OK, that is how you are grounding yourself. They are in your ways of being. That’s who you are. So no matter what comes your way, if you’re on a ship and there’s going to be waves and there are going to be waves, right. Things are going to happen. It’s not going to be a smooth run in your marriage or in the talk or in this interview or whatever. Nothing is ever 100 percent smooth. So no matter what happens, your ways of being are your anchor. And so it’s exactly what you’re saying. It’s like I’m committed to doing this. It’s not that I want to be these ways, because if I just want to be these ways, the anchor is going to get unleashed. You know, you’re going to float away. But if you are committed to being these ways, that anchor is going to stay in the ground. So it’s perfect, it’s exactly what you said. And so that’s the last step. And of course, if you want to go more into this work in that last step, what you could do is you could visualize your future self. So what does a confident speaker look like? What does a confident speaker say or act or how does he behave? The next level would be creating your future self ahead of time, seeing yourself ahead of time, being that person and then manifesting it.

Gabe Howard: I like it and I can see how it fits together now. Now, just to recap, CLEAR stands for?

Shira Gura: Calm, Lighten, Expect, Accept, Responsibility.

Gabe Howard: And again, it’s for stuff that’s coming up in the future, so this is what I’d use for my first day of work or my wedding day or even something as simple as my parents coming to visit or my spouse coming home from work. It’s broad appeal.

Shira Gura: It could be anything. I worked with my kid last night, he started a new school and he’s 12. The kids in his school have been together since the age of three. And he’s the new kid on the block. And he tends to be shy and he wants to make friends. And no one is really approaching him. And he wanted to approach kids to ask them if they want to play baseball, because here in Israel, nobody plays baseball. They don’t even know what baseball is. But my kids have baseball mitts and they have a baseball. And he wanted to say, does anyone want to have a catch with me, but he was stuck. Right? He was stuck on fear of rejection. And so I sat with him last night before he went to sleep. I said, let’s get clear. Let’s get clear on who you’re going to be no matter what happens, no matter if they reject you and they say no or they say, yeah, let’s have I’d be happy to have a catch with you. 

Gabe Howard: I like that example a lot, so how can our listeners learn these tools, are they difficult to learn? My question is, is it difficult to learn? My listeners’ question is, is how can they learn?

Shira Gura: Yeah, the tools are not difficult. They are simple, right? That’s one of the reasons I created these tools. I created them actually for myself. And then I of course, I teach them to other people, but they are simple to learn. And it’s not so much are they easy to learn or difficult to learn. It’s more of how can I get practice in using them? It’s one thing to acquire a tool. It’s another thing entirely to say I practiced in it. I know how to get unSTUCK from anything. I know how to get CLEAR from anything. And that doesn’t happen overnight. That happens over time in community with people, working with people. That’s really how this happens. So in terms of where you can learn about it, I have two books.

Gabe Howard: Yeah, where do they find them?

Shira Gura: You can find them on Amazon and you can find them on my website, ShiraGura.com. But what you can also find on my Web site is a course called The Living Deliberately Blueprint. And inside of this course are videos of me walking people through both tools step by step. There are worksheets. There are guided meditations. And in addition to lots of other goodies that are inside of that course, anyone who enrolls is invited into my private Facebook group and free monthly gatherings. So it’s a community, and then it’s, again, the practice.

Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for everything. Thank you for helping me with my speech. Next week, I’ll drop you an email and let you know how it goes.

Shira Gura: I would love to hear and I would encourage you to get clear minutes before or half an hour before whatever. It’s not enough that we did it here. I would encourage you to do it again, like really have it fresh in your mind and really see yourself on that stage before you go up there. And good luck with it.

Gabe Howard: You know, I really like that, and I like that it also becomes something to occupy your mind. As somebody who suffers from anxiety, my mind often ultra focuses on the worst-case scenario. It sounds like by going through the CLEAR method, I can keep my mind occupied on that. Now, again, if you don’t have anxiety or, you know, your mileage may vary, but for me, it gives me something proactive to do to concentrate on. Do you find that in your work? Is that accurate or am I just making stuff up?

Shira Gura: No, absolutely, absolutely. In fact, I’m leading a challenge right now inside of my private Facebook group and every person in the challenge is practicing to being one thing. This is broad range. So one person is practicing to be a non-overeater, one person is practicing to be a nondrinker and one person is practicing to be friendly. I mean, it’s really broad. And what I recommend them to do is every single day wake up and affirm out loud who are you being? Because if we’re practicing to be somebody that we’re not typically being, then we’re going to forget. We’re just going to be our default selves. As you wake up every day, and you said, I’m committing to being a loving wife. I am committing to being a nondrinker. You really set the stage for the day by affirming who you are being every single day when you wake up. It sets you up for the day. And like you said, it gives the mind something to rest on in a positive way so that your mind doesn’t slip back into that default place of negativity, which happens for everyone, because that’s just how the human mind works.

Gabe Howard: Anything that prevents people from slipping into negativity, I think is its own success. Once you start to think poorly about something, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. At least that’s been my experience. And certainly, being able to distract your mind with something proactive and positive, I have to imagine, creates a powerful end result.

Shira Gura: It totally does, and I’m doing the challenge, by the way, I’m participating and I am committing to being a loving wife. It’s not that I’m like a mean wife or something like that, but I’m probably not like the most loving wife I could be. And I said, you know what? This is what I’m going to work on for 30 days. And I’m constantly finding myself saying this throughout the day. You are committing to being a loving wife, right? Because sometimes it’s not easy. And I just keep saying to myself, in the morning I say it, when my husband comes home from work, I say it, and I just and it’s great. It’s so helpful to have those words in my mind as a reminder, who is it that I want to be?

Gabe Howard: Shira, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate having you.

Shira Gura: Thank you so much for the interview. It was really great to see you again.

Gabe Howard: You’re very, very welcome. Hey, everybody, my name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of Mental Illness Is an Asshole, which is available on Amazon, or you can get a signed copy with all kinds of cool swag, including stickers from The Psych Central Podcast for less money just by heading over to gabehoward.com. Let me tell you about our super-secret Facebook page you should absolutely check out, just go to PsychCentral.com/FBShow. And remember, you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private online counseling any time anywhere simply by visiting BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral. We will see everybody next week.

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