Meeting anxiety

10am. So that huge project I was working on last week is on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

I woke up with the usual Monday meeting knot in my stomach. This is a different type of fear. Although maybe its all related. This one is the familiar meeting anxiety which, before I try to push away with work and distractions, I will dissect to see what it’s actually made of. There is the general social anxiety of a meeting full of people, but tangled up in it is the following:

  • worry that I’ve done something wrong
  • worry that I’ll be shouted at in a meeting (this has happened before and actually isn’t as bad as the fear of it)
  • worry that a bad decision will be made based on my report not being accurate, clear or correct enough.
  • worry that it will be my fault if something goes wrong.
  • worry of conflict and unpleasantness
  • but really worry that it is my fault if there is

And because I have taken the time to examine it, we have actual tears now. Tears as my silly head fills with this cowering little fear of being a bad person. Being told off. Being deemed unworthy of love or acceptance. Being frowned at by a meeting full of grown ups. At which point we know the little scared girl is running this show, not the competent capable professional who put together a very detailed comprehensive report and is simply showing up to do a job with other professionals.

These meetings are such a source of anxiety for me, where they should be a source of pride, community involvement and love. I worked damn hard on my report, all over the weekend, many more hours than required. I should be proud of it, but I’m scared.

The reason I’m writing this is because I think it’s related to my other recurring anxiety and I will observe this day, how the fear manifests, and how I cope with it. A Monday with an evening meeting is generally a whole day of worry, inability to get any actual work done, intermittent rushes of fear and panic, leading up to a two hour session of tense fake smiles and nods, until it is all over and I’m left relieved but exhausted with an incredible stress headache and a wonder why I let my job ruin my day. I think of my hourly wage. I have to sit there for those two hours to get my handful of pounds for the night. Which I can already allocate to buying plants and flowers for my new garden. So if I think of this meeting as earning me a whole corner full of cyclamen, lavender and narcissi that might make it worth it.

What I’d rather have though, is no fear. To look forward to this meeting as an opportunity to contribute to improving the lives of people in this lovely community. To join with other wonderful community minded people who share in the vision of enhancing and supporting voluntary groups for the wellbeing of the town. That’s what we’re here for. That’s what I need to focus on.

In the last few days I’ve had three phone calls with questions about the report, and each time the rush of fear was so great, my heart started pounding in my neck. I answered the questions easily, but was still left shaky for several minutes after each call.

This is an irrational childish response to a professional grown up scenario, and I probably need a chat with the little girl before tonight. I also need to get on with a day’s work first.

2.45pm. I’ve noticed what I do. The day of a meeting, I could be reading over the papers to prepare but just the thought of the meeting worries me so I avoid the actual tasks for the meeting but at the same time can’t focus on any other work because it’s not about the meeting so it ends up not being very productive.

So now at nearly 3pm, I will go for a serious long walk in the rain while it’s daylight – and have a chat to my little girl who likes walks along the canal – and then spend a couple of hours reading through the paperwork again. If I still have fears before the meeting I have a range of last minute options including EFT, breathwork and a quick reel off of my affirmations

6. 15pm. My walk took two hours. It was brilliant – windswept, rainy, and dark by the time I got back. My little girl trotted along beside me, enjoying the leaves, the glimmer of a sunset between grey clouds, and a bored looking heron near Semington. She decided we would go the long way, via the woods, so she could find some muddy acorns, and by the time we were walking back she was totally peaceful, not bothered by the dark, and in fact delighting in the bright street lights that had come on. So with her sorted, I did my positive affirmations – pouring more than the usual love and gratitude towards my colleagues and the collaborative connection of community cooperation that I am lucky enough to have as my job.

My sister just called and we discussed that this particular anxiety has a bit more of the excited butterflies about it, rather than the sinking dread of before. I realised that instead of wishing for a way out of this meeting, I am keen to be there to do my job, to answer questions and explain the documents if needed. I don’t actually want to miss this.

So, here we are, I’ve made some effort with my hair, I’ve got my cheerful blue zoom cardigan on, got two laptops set up in a cosy corner, with one or two strategically placed hearts in my background, and I’m actually looking forward to this.

10.05pm. Oh my god it was brilliant. Such a positive happy meeting. Sensible capable people making thoughtful well-informed decisions, all to benefit the community, and all supported by me doing my job well. I was a little shaky to start, but soon settled into it, answering questions with knowledge and authority instead of dreading them with fear. It was three hours as well, so even more primroses and pansies for my garden please!

And now I remember the bliss of the post meeting buzz. I’m starving hungry of course, and giggling with love and happiness for my job and this town again. And for my love who just got home. Thank you 🙂

Next day. 7.30am. I woke up happy. God that’s nice. To be not only free of anxiety but to have a return of my sense of purpose and pride again. To remember that the price of progress is to do things that are a little scary, but with all my helpful techniques this time, instead of dread fear, it was just the stuff of pre-show nerves, and it was completely worth it.

Getting better. Thank you

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