A few years ago when my anxiety was at its worst, one of the things I dreaded the most was the humble meeting. I was also worried about any social events - from birthdays, to Christmas parties to brunch dates with friends. I had anxiety about people noticing I had anxiety. In my mind, if they saw my reddening face or sweaty palms then they’d also know I wasn’t good enough, that I was a fraud and regret ever working with me or being my friend or even being in my presence! Yep - my inner mean girl was a biatch!
I would spend weeks, sometimes months agonising over these events wondering how I could get out of them. I’d force myself to go, but would feel so uncomfortable and anxious, it was difficult to concentrate - let alone hold a conversation.
Maybe you can relate?
Over the years I’ve learnt some techniques to calm my nerves before meetings and social events and I still use them to this day. Here are some of my favourite tips:
Create a playlist of songs that make you feel like the powerful, confident badass Queen you are! I’ll put on my playlist first thing in the morning while I’m getting ready for my day, or pop in my headphones at work.
Ever noticed how nervous energy feels the same as excitement? (The racing heart and the churning stomach). Sometimes I tell myself I’m feeling excited! And to get even more in the zone - I dance. I’ll put on a high-energy, feel good song and jump around the room!
Before the meeting or event I’ll spend a few minutes sending big, deep breaths into my belly. This activates the parasympathetic system (which is responsible for our rest, relax and digest response), which in doing so calms the fight or flight response. You can read more about this here.
I’ll dab some lavender oil on my wrists in the morning. Lavender instantly calms and centres me. Experiment with different scents that work for you. Anything that is calming & relaxing is perfect! I also like to use peppermint when I need to focus.
Strike a power pose… What’s a power pose? You need to watch this Ted Talk! It’s all about how standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident -- can boost feelings of confidence, and also have an impact on our chances for success! I’ve totally done this in the work bathroom - and yes you feel like a bit of a weirdo, but it works!
6. Instead of putting the focus on yourself - let the people around you be the centre of your attention.Concentrate and focus on what they’re saying. Really listen to each word. So often when I was feeling anxious in meetings or events it was because I was too focussed on myself and how I was coming across. This is an awesome Ted Talk too!
7. Be prepared. In other words, avoid unnecessary anxiety. The night before, work out what you’re wearing, find the best places to park, work on an outline of the most important points you want to discuss etc.
8. Flip the negative self talk. I believe this is THE most powerful thing we can do; retraining our brain to think new positive thoughts! Write or type a list of ALL the negative, mean thoughts you’re replaying in your mind. Empty your brain - write down EVERY negative thought that comes your way. Then, one by one, draw a line through each negative thought and (from a place of love AKA be your own best friend) flip it into a positive. These my friends, are now your new mantras! Read these whenever self doubt creeps in or when you need a little pep talk. You can also record these on your phone and listen to them right before your meetings.
I’ll be real, I still feel nervous before social events and meetings. The difference is - I’m not spending hours, days or weeks worrying, stressing or future tripping like I used to! Now I can better manage my anxiety and do the things I’ve got to do!
If you’re having a really hard time right now - I want to remind you of two things:
The first is, you don’t have to do this alone. Here in Aus we’ve got access to the Mental Health Plan which subsidies up to 10 sessions with accredited professionals each year. Speak to your GP to find out more. Talk to your loved ones, speak to your friends - you do not have to do this alone.
Secondly, please know life will get better. It will. Especially if it doesn’t feel like it right now. I know what it feels like to leave meetings and social events feeling embarrassed, ashamed and so frustrated because things just didn’t go to plan. I know what it’s like to want the ground to swallow you up and to wish you never had to see those people again! I get it. Instead of seeing it as another sign that you’re failure - can you show yourself compassion, just like you would a dear friend? Can you nurture and nourish yourself? Can you use that experience as fuel to create change and try something new? Can you use it as inspiration to get outside your comfort zone and invest in yourself by buying a new self development book, or working with a healer or coach or joining your local Toastmasters club?
We can’t change the past, but we can change how we think about it.
If you loved this blog post, please let me know. Is there anything you’re most looking forward to implementing? If there’s anything you’d like me to write about, be sure to post it in the comments.