We had a staff meeting at work today and I had to practice some of my anxiety self help skills to melt the fear and make it through.
There has always been something-anxiety provoking to me about sitting in a room where everyone is quiet- in my life that has been church, classrooms and lecture halls when I was younger, and now workshops and staff meetings as an adult working person.
It is the same fear that becomes activated– I feel closed in, uncomfortable, agitated, and feel the urge to leave. Now when I was a teen and young person this happened daily whenever I had to sit in classes and lecture halls.
Back then of course I used all the wrong coping techniques. I took pills and distracted myself to the best of my ability. I drank seltzer water and chewed gum to calm my tummy. But it never made the anxiety go away. Sometimes when the fear would come and it would make make me have a panic attack. I bolted from many, many situations like this over the years.
How wonderful is the gift of learning to face fear and not resist! I first learned about facing anxiety and not resisting it years and years ago (in Peace From Nervous Suffering by Dr. Claire Weekes.).
Let me show you how I got through this meeting and how it was different than before my anxiety recovery.
Because I know it is one thing to read about it facing fear and understand it, and quite another to put it into practice in your daily life. 🙂
It is MUCH easier to take a pill and hope the meeting or class will pass without a panic attack. The anxiety response doesn’t want you to face your fear, because that is how it stays alive to scare you the next time! But we all know that reaching for a pill is not an effective way to deal with anxiety long term.
Now as I have been facing what scares me for years now, it is such a blessing that when irrational anxiety does come – it is much more manageable.
They say that freedom lies on the other side of fear- and I have found this to be absolutely, 100% true in my life.
So as I said there was a staff meeting and it was held in a large room. The chairs were put in a big circle. And this is exactly the formation that freaks me out and can cause panic and intense anxiety.
What was way different from years before: I didn’t dread it or try to think up an excuse to avoid it. No, I knew I would likely have some anxiety. And… I knew I could handle it!
I did something really cool too: I chose the seat that was the furthest away from the exit. I sat in my chair and just tuned in to the OR Director (who was leading the staff meeting).
What I used to do: Always choose the seat closes to the exit. If no seat was available- stand next to the exit.
The door to the meeting room was closed and of course I noticed that right away. Ok I noticed it and felt a Gulp! sensation.
Then all at once I had an anxiety reaction– I noticed I wanted to leave. The urge to leave felt like it came out of nowhere. I had the thought that I didn’t know when the meeting would end and I felt scared.
What I did: I recognized this as an old pattern. I knew it would happen, and I didn’t get too freaked out. Instead, I focused on my breathing. I took slow, purposeful, mindful breaths. I connected to my breathing.
Just by doing this for about 30 seconds, the urge to leave dissipated. Then I looked around the room. I wanted to show myself that no one was focused on me. And guess what, they certainly weren’t.
What I used to do: I would get the urge to leave and give into it. I would go to the bathroom and later make up some excuse like I was getting an important phone call or something like that.
What I didn’t do: Engage the thought and add more to it.
On some level I recognized that this was a tired old anxiety reactive pattern. There was no way I was in danger sitting in that room. I knew there was enough air. I knew from doing this a zillion times, that I could sit there and be scared. And that would be the worst that fear could possibly do to me.
I started to relax.
Next it was round-table time- when the OR Director goes around the room one by one and we all have a chance to speak up individually.
What I used to do: This would be a very high anxiety time for me in the past. Especially when the person sitting next to me was speaking. I remember a time when this used to make me have a panic attack 100% of the time without fail.
What happened today: Nothing more than a little fear…. The person next to me was someone who always makes a comment about everything so of course she had comments and questions.
But I didn’t feel appreciably more anxious when she was talking. I did keep up with taking my slow, mindful breaths.
The anxiety was entirely manageable. Because I felt the fear and didn’t resist it. Except for a few urges to leave, there was nothing horrendous about this meeting.
At one point, about at the middle of the meeting, when my anxiety level was at its highest, I called up my nature scene, flooded myself with relaxation and well-being, and then congratulated myself heartily (this is the Triple A Technique that I learned from my favorite anxiety busing program The 60 Second Panic Solution, and it works every time without fail! Thank you Anna Gibson Steele for inventing it! )
And another thing I didn’t do (very important): I didn’t judge or berate or mentally scold myself for having some anxiety. I let myself experience the fear, I faced it, it passed, and I am here now telling you all about it.
And just so you know, I am not feeling excellent lately. I have been feeling weirded out and stressed. But the principles of facing fear work, whether you feel wonderful or not so much.
Can you see how being nonresistant to the best of my ability, and using effective anxiety coping skills, made this into a successful meeting for me? I stayed, I participated, and I didn’t freak out.
How are things going for you? Leave a comment and let me know.
I wish you peace,
PS. If you’re not at the point where you can face your fears yet, The 60 Second Panic Solution will help you get there for sure. I’ve used this program since 2014 and have had excellent results. It works like a charm! 🙂 Read my review of it here.