The anxiety starts at 12:50 pm on the first Monday of the month. That’s the date and time of my group supervision. The first wave of social anxiety comes when I have to log into the meeting via Zoom. “Where the hell did I put the link” crosses my mind at 12:51 pm.
Ok got it. I am the second participant with the first being my supervisor. As the other therapists log on, we all exchange pleasantries. I am very thankful for my supervisor. She is very complementary and sincere which puts me at ease and less anxious. I’m taking a deep breath as I wait for the others to join.
Truth is, many of us feel some level of social anxiety anticipating a work meeting and don’t know how to overcome it. The pressure to speak up in meetings, meet new people, and validate yourself in front of a group can easily cause anxiety and get particularly overwhelming for some. Learning the right techniques that help alleviate nervousness and anxious feelings in work meetings has helped many of my clients with their “flight or fight” mentality.
As each new therapist joins, the second wave of anxiety hits. I can’t help but think how young everyone looks. I am, without a doubt, the oldest person on the call. Ok I remind myself to breathe. Managing social anxiety is harder than most people think! Still, the thoughts flicker by. Some of them might be younger than my own kids.
We are asked to introduce ourselves and say what our specialties are for therapy. I listen carefully to my colleagues. They are so knowledgeable about their techniques and use of best practices. I ask myself how I can compare to these younger therapists.
Okay, I need to get out of my own head. I focus and my mind clicks back to the call. The discussion has moved to staying on top of our caseload.
But, I wonder what they think when they look at me. The third wave of anxiety just hit. I equate their youth with intelligence. Do they equate my older age with good things? Maybe wisdom or a strong foundation of experience? I mean, either way, none of us can get out of keeping up with our CEU’s, right? I’m trying to make myself feel more confident.
I lost focus again. Once I quiet my brain, I notice the hour is up. The time seemed to pass so fast. I log off and try to breathe again. Now I am sitting in silence but my mind is all over the place. I remind myself that focusing on the “ weird” moments of the call does not help. I should not beat myself up and ruminate about negative things I felt happened on the call. I need to change my thought process. Ok. I have to think about my underlying negative thoughts and reframe and challenge these. I am worried people on the call will see me as less intelligent due to my age. I have no proof the others will see me as less intelligent. I advise my clients to reframe negative thoughts and turn them into positive thoughts. I should do the same myself. Reframing is not my first response so I need to work on this more.
I keep thinking about my clients. They often talk about their anxiety while on Zoom meetings. I should know how to deal with this because it is my job. As therapists, it may be easy to forget what it feels like on the other side of the screen when we’re in virtual sessions. My monthly team meeting is a big reminder for me. Getting over social anxiety is something that we need to constantly work on. It isn’t a button that can be turned on and off whenever we need to. Being mindful of your feelings and thoughts in social situations can help you manage your stress and stay present.
I take a minute to assess what is going on. I remind myself to be more prepared for the next meeting and increase my positive thoughts before the meeting. Instead of feeling the meeting will go badly, I should think of it as a support group. We are here to support each other and this is our comfort zone. It is ok to be anxious and anxiety is not a bad feeling. I need to remind myself to use mindfulness techniques including staying present. What colors and textures did I see on the screens? I need to focus on others instead of myself. I need to remember to engage in the conversation and what the others are saying rather than listen to my negative thoughts. I need to stay present and mindful. I need to find support with my coworkers and trust they, too, would like to engage with me.
I start to feel better as I gradually return to the present moment. Now I’m ready to start my day.
Author: Judy Bitzer