You have this important meeting. Only you don’t like meetings or new people.
But this meeting is important to you. The mixture of excitement and fear is driving you forwards.
So the last thing you need is for your body to betray you and showcase your childish discomfort or anxiety.
We’ve all been there. And the memories of those meetings or events stay with us for a long time.
But it does not need to be this way. You can prepare and help your body not to show signs of anxiety during an important event.
1. Think positive thoughts
Here you go, you might say. I have opened this post to read some advice on how to deal with uninvited anxiety, but we are straight into positivity mumbo-jumbo.
Hear me out.
Negative thoughts are like gremlins. The more negatively you think, the more rubbish you feel. Literally. Negativity is a magnet for negativity.
If you are already conscious about the importance of the event and already feel slightly uncomfortable, the chances are your thoughts will not be rosy either.
To eliminate those potential gremlins of negativity, try to think of something uplifting:
Watch funny cat videos.
Look at photos of your children.
Listen to a cheerful song or a podcast.
Watch a stand-up comedy.
Anything to lift your mood and ensure there is no gap for negative and worrying thoughts to squeeze through.
2. Relax your body
The body is the container of your unspoken thoughts. It holds everything together. But then it’s the first thing that will start falling apart if you don’t release pent-up tension and emotions.
The easiest activity to do is to unclench your jaws. Try it now. You don’t need to hide to do this exercise, and you don’t require special equipment.
Open your mouth ever so slightly.
Move your lower jaw from side to side.
Now open your mouth a bit wider as if you are about to yawn.
There is another quick exercise that I love. It has helped me on so many occasions. Whenever I felt panic or discomfort rising deep within my body I'd do this:
Lift shoulders up and tense them for a count of 5 and relax them.
Relax shoulders for a count of 10.
Repeat several times.
And the last one that is so easy that we forget it might help to refocus our attention:
Tilt your head gently to one side, and hold for up to 20 seconds.
Now do the other side.
You could also slowly bend your neck backward and forward a few times.
There are many other that you could try and find the one that works for you.
3. Breath freely
When we are uncomfortable, we practice laboured breathing. We hold our breath or make our inhale or exhale too deep. This creates a feeling of breathlessness and even disorientation. This is because we are depriving our brains of oxygen. We are hyperventilating.
Hence, it’s super important to remember to breathe as usual. Normal inhale and normal exhale.
If you are slightly out of sync, purse your lips, breath in on the count of 4 and breathe out on the count of 7. Repeat a few times and then go back to normal breathing.
For anything more serious, please consult medical professionals.
4. Prepare for the worst case scenario
Life is full of surprises. You cannot control everything. So it’s good practice to prepare yourself for something that might go wrong. It’s inevitable.
The weather might change, and it will slow the traffic.
The technology might have a moment.
You might forget something important.
By simply accepting that things happen, you will avoid a heartbreak that might cause further discomfort.
If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway.
Thinking about things that might go wrong and coming up with potential solutions will help you to appear more confident.
5. Forgive yourself in advance
Following on from point 4, if the blunder happens because of you - you need to forgive yourself in advance.
Because again, things happen. Humans are not robots.
There are myriads of complex processes happening inside our bodies. A lot of them are out of our control. Stress chemicals can affect our memory and our ability to perform as expected.
Simply practising humility and forgiveness can help you overcome it quicker and keep anxiety at bay.
I could recommend the following exercise that should help with forgiving yourself:
Write an angry letter from your future self to your past self that has made a mistake you fear the most. Mention everything that went wrong. Tell yourself off. Demand answers. Take turns and describe what happened and why. Try to find explanations or excuses. Now take turns to explain how this mistake made you feel? Is your future self or past self more angry? Who is more apologetic? The answers might surprise you.
6. Stay hydrated
Again, it’s so simple and obvious. Is it even worth mentioning?
Be honest now. How often you felt awful and then remembered that you had not had a drink in a while? You were in a terrible mood for no apparent reason and only after having some H2O you realised it was thirst all along?
Several studies showed that dehydration increases anger and tension. It’s because more than half of our brain tissue consists of water. So if there is not enough water in our body, the functions of our brain will slow down. And this in turn might cause bad mood, anxiety and general tiredness. It's that simple.
So drink up before you feel thirsty. Have a glass of water if you suddenly feel tired and anxious.
Last but not least.
When we smile, others perceive us as friendly, open, and approachable.
If we feel uncomfortable simply putting a smile on will help us give a positive impression.
Now imagine this scenario:
A person walks into a room. His shoulders are tense. His jaws and fists are clenched. His face expression is serious.
Would you think to yourself: oh, he seems like a nice guy, I’ll go and chat to him. Or would you rather run towards someone who is smiling and looks like he is happy to be where he is.
Who would you be subconsciously drawn to?
You would not even notice that the second person’s shoulders might be equally tense. But the smile. It’s like a magnet.
Smile creates a positive first impression which helps to build a rapport with another person or a group of people. It’s only the first tiny step. But it’s an important one. Seeing people smiling back at you will boost your confidence. And that's exactly what we need.
“Smiling is more effective in stimulating the reward mechanism of the brain than chocolate is, meaning that smiling makes people feel happy.” - Dental Associates of Florida
Smiling also releases feel-good hormones because you cannot be unhappy when you smile. Even for a few seconds, you will feel content. This might be enough to take control of the situation and banish the discomfort.
When you feel discomfort before an important meeting, remember that your body is storing your emotions and it will show what's on your mind even if you say nothing out loud.
To help you hide your actual feelings and remain calm and in control, follow these simple steps:
Think positive thoughts
Relax your body
Accept negative eventualities
Forgive yourself in advance
Drink plenty of water
Remember to smile
You’ve got this!