There is nothing new about suffering from meeting anxiety, and it’s certainly not a good thing. There are many people who live day by day in fear of facing meetings, speaking in public or saying something wrong.
All these emotions and thoughts become our worst enemies, so it is our duty to work on them and not yield in these situations. Knowing how to recognize and combat meeting anxiety can be helpful in feeling more confident and less fearful.
- Meeting anxiety is a common type of social anxiety.
- There are ways to maintain control in these situations.
- You should know the right time to go for help.
What you should know about meeting anxiety
A person suffering from meeting anxiety is not always able to understand that he/she is suffering from a fairly common disorder and may confuse it with being shy. That’s why you need to know how to recognize this problem. You should be aware of and pay attention to a number of symptoms that will help you find the problem.
What is it, and how can meeting anxiety affect me?
To keep it simple, it can be said that meeting anxiety is a relatively common type of anxiety disorder. More specifically, it is social anxiety. People who suffer from it, before and during these situations, experience such an intense, persistent and excessive fear (1) that they feel it is out of their control.
The sufferer tends to worry several weeks in advance about having to participate in a meeting. This can lead to avoidance of some of them, resulting in a major disruption in their daily life (2).
How do I know if I have meeting anxiety?
Now that you have an idea of what meeting anxiety is, you are probably thinking or asking yourself, “do I have anxiety or am I just too shy? To answer this question, you need to understand the different types of symptoms that this form of anxiety brings.
Remember that while this can help you identify whether or not you have this particular disorder, it is not an official diagnosis. If you recognize several of these symptoms in yourself, please see a professional to receive a proper medical evaluation.
In the following table, each symptom is separated into two groups: physical symptoms and emotional symptoms (3).
|PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS||EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS|
●elevated heart rate
●nausea and dizziness
|●fear of speaking|
●feeling “mind blank”
●worry about feeling judged
●anticipatory panic about a meeting
●worry about how you look during meetings
●feeling embarrassed because of physical symptoms
●difficulty making eye contact
Sometimes, physical symptoms can fuel our anxiety about being seen in front of others. A clear example might be blushing, as this can make us feel more embarrassed because we think we are attracting more attention.
One of the symptoms to pay more attention to, which is not listed above, is the decision not to participate in meetings simply because you don’t want to expose yourself to the discomfort it causes you (4). This symptom can aggravate anxiety in future meetings and also decrease their work performance.
What is zoom fatigue?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a new phenomenon that we should be familiar with has emerged: Zoom fatigue. It is an extremely recent term, that refers to some symptoms related to the excessive use of communication platforms, specifically video conferencing platforms.
Some symptoms, both physical and emotional, of Zoom burnout, can be (5):
Why is it important to look for strategies to combat meeting anxiety?
The moments of discomfort caused by anxiety in meetings are really very intense. That is why, by identifying the problem, we must be able to find and plan a strategy that works for us.
Knowing how to deal with anxious moments is vital because, this way, we can feel more confident and calm in situations where we really need it. Keep in mind that everyone is different and not everyone’s anxiety works the same way.
How can I control it?
Having an anxiety attack is not something we are willing to go through. But, although it may seem impossible, we are the ones who have the power to control these undesirable situations.
There are several tips that help us to calm down and control the moments when we are suffering from an anxiety attack. The first step is to stabilize our breathing, as it tends to become agitated and leads us to hyperventilate (6). Try to breathe slowly and deeply, this will help to slow down your heart rate and not cause a feeling of dizziness and tightness in the chest.
How can you prepare before the meeting?
Planning some time to prepare yourself can help you cope with meetings better. It is because, as we have already mentioned, worrying in advance is one of the most common symptoms in such situations.
Having a plan or a strategy for dealing with these situations can be very useful to feel that we are in control and thus avoid early worry. Here are some tips that can really help with planning:
- Think about and write down the important points you want to raise with the team. This will clarify your ideas and prevent you from having a blank mind.
- Rehearse the presentation alone or with someone you trust. This will help you to speak more fluently when the time comes.
- Check the facts you want to report, so that you don’t worry about being judged by others.
Is practicing self-care helpful?
Prioritizing yourself is the most important thing, it is normal to feel overwhelmed before or during a meeting. That is why you need to remember that you are on the top of the list and that your emotional well-being is a priority.
Finding ways to protect yourself will help reduce your anxiety significantly. Some methods, such as taking breaks, keeping the camera off, and preparing snacks to enjoy during the meeting, can be very helpful in keeping you relieved. You can make them a habit in your “meeting self-care routine” and thus feel more confident and less anxious.
Are there exercises to combat this?
Finding what works best for you may involve a bit of trial and error, but you need to try as many methods as necessary to find the right one. It is important that you progress at your own pace, do what you are comfortable with, and do what works best for you.
You should know that there are some simple relaxation exercises that can help you control anxiety before meetings or at any time. These exercises feature progressive relaxation techniques that help you feel like you are back in control. Some of these exercises are:
- Progressive muscle relaxation helps to reduce tension or stress in the muscles.
- Controlled exhalation allows you to relieve tension caused by anxiety and gives you a sense of control.
Yoga or mindfulness has recently become a very popular method to help reduce anxiety, due to the mixture of relaxation and breathing exercises, and because it also seeks a connection between body, mind, and spirit (7,8).
How can I be my own support?
As already mentioned, it is important to understand that you are your own first source of support, and to do this it is essential not to limit yourself. Handling these situations may seem difficult, but it is not impossible. You must believe that you are capable of maintaining control and not allowing yourself to give up.
You must stay focused and fully engaged in life. Eliminate negative thoughts.
Taking care of yourself is extremely important, your mind and its excessive thoughts are the cause of your anxiety. Take breaks if you need them, don’t force yourself. Accept your emotions, and talk about them with someone you trust. Explain how you feel about the meetings, this will ease the burden, and you will understand that you are not alone.
When should I ask for help?
Whenever you feel constrained, avoid or even run away from meetings simply because you don’t want to feel uncomfortable, this is the time to ask for help. Support from colleagues and friends can be essential in such situations where anxiety is already at an advanced stage.
There are several treatments for anxiety, but in this type of situation, perhaps your best option is to go to supportive meetings with people on equal terms. There, you can feel identified with the rest and feel less afraid to share your experiences. This type of meeting can also be through online communities, you just have to choose the one that is most comfortable for you.
Remember that you always need a previous diagnosis with a specialized professional. This way, you will be able to know what kinds of treatments exist and receive the right recommendations for you.
If you suffer from meeting anxiety, you probably feel frustrated. You may even feel stuck because you don’t have the ability to make progress or simply don’t feel productive enough. Meeting anxiety without early detection can lead to a progressively severe form of it.
Remember that it is always possible to reduce fears and worries with different techniques to help you regain control. Understand that it is not a simple process. Even if you feel overwhelmed, take your time, ask for help if you need it, and don’t give up.
1. Bados, Arturo. Fobia social. Madrid: Síntesis, 2001
2. Murillo, Juan Pablo Muñoz, and David Alpízar Rodríguez. “Prevalence and comorbidity of social anxiety disorder.” Revista cúpula 30.1 (2016): 40-47.
3. MedlinePlus. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); updated 2022 April 30. social anxiety disorder.
4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health (updated 2022). NIMH Social anxiety disorder: Beyond simple shyness ( NIH No. 22-MH-8083S).
5. Ibanez, Fernanda. “Four consequences of Zoom Fatigue and how to combat it. “
6. Velasco, Carolina Baeza. “Effective treatments for social anxiety disorder.” Cuadernos de Neuropsicología/Panamerican Journal of Neuropsychology 1.2 (2007): 127-138.
7. Bourne, Edmund, and Lorna Garano. Cope with anxiety: 10 simple ways to relieve anxiety, fears, and worries. Editorial AMAT, 2006.
8. Yagüe, Laura, et al. “Reduction of anxiety symptoms and anxiety sensitivity through the application of a mindfulness meditation program.” (2016).