An unexpected lesson in mindfulness
This time last week I was frantically prepping for my workshop on chronic stress and mindfulness. I had been procrastinating like the Queen of Procrastination that I am. Oh I do my BEST work when I’m under pressure, I told myself (as I always do). Cue a very late night and a restless sleep. The day of the workshop I was tired and definitely not rocking my best self. I felt pretty good all day though. Adrenaline (combined with caffeine) can be a great thing. I met with my co-presenter, Charlie, and we had a really successful run-through of the material; great flow, lots of easy back and forth. It felt good. Charlie is awesome, really knows her stuff and is very supportive so I felt really quite relaxed about the whole deal. We are going to NAIL this, I thought. Nothing to worry about. We totally rock.
That evening, we welcomed our lovely guests. I knew most of them. Some were friends. Some were acquaintances. All women I admire and respect. Women I wanted to connect meaningfully with. Women to whom I wanted to communicate my passion for wellness and stress management. Women who I wanted to inspire to start a conversation, to talk about things that don’t get spoken about enough. I KNEW what I wanted to say. I KNEW how I wanted to say it. I sat and watched Charlie talk about imposter syndrome and confidence. Fascinating stuff. Soon I was on.
And then it happened. I started to feel strangely disconnected. My heart started racing. My mouth went dry. My hands were clammy. I felt sweaty yet my hands and feet felt stone cold. My mind went blank. Super, I thought. I’m now having a classic “fight or flight” stress response just as I am supposed to talk about all the ways that mindfulness can help with stress. The irony was not lost on me, even as I struggled to remember my own name and take a deep breath. Rising panic. And then something else happened. In the few seconds before I was due to speak, it occurred to me suddenly that I didn’t have to struggle through the talk pretending nothing was wrong. I could actually fess up and use the situation to help me. I have nothing to lose here I thought. Lean into the vulnerability a friend had told me earlier in the evening. Could I? It could go horribly wrong but at least I would be authentic. I mentally rearranged my talk a little and decided to start the talk with a practical grounding exercise that I had been going to leave until the end. I had everyone sit with their eyes closed, feet flat on the floor and we took some deep breaths together. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. My mind cleared a little, my breath evened out. I no longer felt disconnected. I was fully connected. With my breath and with my body. It was what I needed to go on with my talk. And I told the audience the truth of how I was feeling. Because I know for sure that I am not the only person who experiences anxiety like this, and I wanted to acknowledge that. But I don’t think it’s said enough. Frankly, I surprised even myself. It was a bit of an epiphany for me. I could show some vulnerability, something less than perfect, and feel good about it. I could let myself show a chink in my armour without the world caving in. I could let myself be seen without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. I could feel empowered and supported by the very women that I wanted to empower and support. Who knew?
Do you experience situational anxiety like this? I would love to hear how you manage situations like these. PM me!