The Best Way to Respond to an Emergency: Improv

Today I experienced my first ever (and hopefully last, but probably not) improv-related injury. Certainly, the injury was not what I expected in my day, which made it a true opportunity for improvising in the “real world.”

This morning I led an Improv for Team Building session for MoneyThink, as their team has grown quite a bit and they wanted a fun way to start off their organization’s team retreat this week. They’re smart people, so of course, they chose improv to kick off the week!

Before I even got to the workshop, my day started with waking up and not feeling so great. My stomach was really bothering me, and I felt fairly ill. I wanted to just stay home and sleep and recover. But alas, I felt called to share the great principles of improv with this team. I had already said “yes” and I was going to fulfill that commitment, rain, shine, or a stomach on the decline.

The improv session was a blast! We were able to improvise outside, in sunny weather, overlooking the water, and on a nice patio with a (fake) grass patch, perfectly sized to guide our circle for all the improv exercises requiring us to be in a circle.

It’s all fun & games until someone passes out

Just when we thought we were done improvising, the real improvising began.

After the improv session, as I was leaving, I stepped toward my bag to grab it before heading out. On the way to grabbing my bag, I stepped on a rusty nail head and gashed my foot. All was painful and bloody, and not fun. For those who know me well, and really well, you know that sometimes I pass out…certain things, like extreme pain, dehydration, blood, trigger me to pass out (I have vaso vagal). Let’s just say I passed out…and then passed out again. And I was in a lot of pain. The most pain I’ve been in since my appendicitis. To make a long story short, I ended up in the emergency room with an amazing care team there to fix me up, shoot me with tetanus, clean and bandage up my foot, check my vitals, get me drunk on IV fluid, double my heart rate (from the 30s to 60s), confirm I wasn’t pregnant (because apparently, this is law?), and then let me out of there.

The point of me sharing this story is to point out the usefulness of the improv philosophy in dealing with this very unexpected, painful and gross experience today.

First, “Yes, and”

As I’ve previously shared, “Yes, and” is a pillar of improvisation and extends even beyond the improv stage. Today, I was so impressed by this group that had just spent only an hour doing improv games and exercises and already embodied the spirit of improv in their real lives. They all accepted the reality of the situation (my foot was bleeding, in pain, and I was not feeling well about it, and I passed out twice) and they rolled with it, creating something together to solve the problem as best they could. They cleaned my foot, got me water, distracted me from the pain, and called the paramedics to take care of me at the next level. I couldn’t have asked for a better reaction and I am so grateful to have been with a group of people able to take their improv skills into the real world, so quickly, with such grace and such empathy. “Yes, and” was all the reaction needed to turn what could’ve been an awful situation into a more tolerable experience.

Then, “there are no mistakes, only gifts and opportunities”

I also shared the secret to turning mistakes into gifts and opportunities, a super power of improv and a super power in life.

Today, me stepping on a rusty nail, passing out and spending the day in the hospital was a gift. It was a gift because I learned the power of improv in the real world. I also got a tetanus shot that I needed anyways. And let me tell you, it’s a lot easier to get a shot, with the pain level 3 on a scale of 1–10, after dealing with a pain level 8 injury.

The other gifts of today were reminders that I needed to be reminded about. First today reminded me to follow my intuition. I was sick this morning and was going to bail on the improv workshop, but I pushed through it. This injury is a reminder to listen to my body and not be a hero if I’m not fit to save people. Related, today also reminded me to slow down and take care of myself. And times of injury, distress, or trouble, are times when we learn that we have great friends and we learn who those great friends are in our lives. I can always use those reminders, so what a gift that today I got those reminders.

Another gift I got…these stylish socks!

Want to handle emergencies like a pro? Study improv.

When you’re considering taking an improv class remember….improv is a philosophy. It helps us be better humans. Because life is an improvisation. We never know when something is going to happen that we cannot expect. We never know when someone is going to toss a football in a park that accidentally hits us in the head and knocks us out. We never know when someone is going to run into us on a bicycle. We never know when someone is going to be teaching an improv class and then start bleeding and pass out.

With improv, we learn to be present and handle situations as they come to us. We learn to accept the reality of whatever our situation and react to that reality in the best way we know how.

Here’s to saying “yes, and” to whatever life brings us.

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Improv4 takes improv outside the theater, applying improv exercises and techniques to helping people improve their businesses and lives. Learn more and book a training for your group at www.improv4.com

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