So… I wrote a post last week on LinkedIn about how amazing it was to be back speaking face-to-face again (which it really is :-)) but then I thought about what I had written and wanted to be more honest about the reality behind what that ‘actually’ really means for me.
As a speaker, I always want to be my best for my clients. And for someone that struggles with anxiety, I know that means I need to put in extra work, and extra things in place, to make sure I can show up when they need me to – to be full of energy, to inspire, to be my best self for their people – and I’m talking about wellbeing, so I need to be leading by example, right?
But I have learnt over time that not every day can be a great day; you can’t always switch it on. So how do you make sure so you can give yourself the best fighting chance that it can go as well as it possibly can?
So instead of only telling you how amazing it was, I also wanted to share with you what goes on in the background to enable me to be my best self, to be able to get up there on stage and do what some speakers would find easy. Like many people, I get nervous… really nervous, but unlike most people, speaking is my job. The anxiety can be crippling, debilitating, soul destroying – if you suffer from it yourself, you will understand.
You might be thinking that it’s crazy that someone with anxiety ‘chooses’ to put themselves on stage and in front of a big audience, but we all do something every day that scares us. You will do something today that, to you, feels like climbing a mountain, but to others it feels like no challenge at all. And perhaps vice versa. But it doesn’t matter what our mountains are, it’s how we learn to climb them and overcome them that counts.
For me, my morning routine is key to how I feel for the rest of the day, and a non-negotiable part of my pre-speaking ritual. Let me share it with you:
My Morning Routine…
- …Starts with a good nights sleep. This had been such a game changer for me over the years – as a complete insomniac in my 20s I never thought I would ever be able to sleep through the night – but I’ve worked really hard to wind down in the evenings, close my laptop by 8pm, sit and relax, read before bed, and calm my mind.
- Wake up: as soon as my alarm goes off (I used to press snooze but I try not to do this anymore as this only made me more anxious) I use Mel Robbins’ 5-4-3-2-1 rule; count down from 5 and after ‘1’ get out of bed – this can be applied to any form of procrastination, not just the snooze button.
- Yoga sun salutations: I do this for just 5 minutes every morning – not just for strength and flexibility, but because I know it helps keep my mind calm and focused for the day.
- Breathing exercises for 30 mins: these help me feel grounded and allow me to work through some things going on in my head as I let them come in and then let them go. I prefer to do these in silence, but I understand with busy households that’s not always an option!
- Exercise for 30 mins: for me, I love a bit of Davina and follow her Own Your Goals programme.
- Shower: I recommend a bit of a sing song. You don’t have to be Mariah, but research shows that singing reduces anxiety because of its positive physical effect on the vagus nerve.
- Drink: a warm glass of water with squeeze of 1/2 lemon
- Make up: whether you wear make-up or not, it’s about carving out a bit of ‘me’ time. Personally, I watch Frasier because it always makes me laugh (which is a much more positive start than the news)
- Eat: treat yourself to a nourishing breakfast. For me, I’m team porridge. How about you?
- Prepare snacks: to make sure I manage my blood sugar levels during the day
- Pack my bag: I like to make sure I have a rescue remedy spray, should I need it, and then for speaking gigs, I make sure I have ALL the right leads, power cables and usb sticks I might need. The worst case scenario is that i’d be over-prepared, but where’s the harm in that?
- Check… and recheck! There’s no harm in a bit of extra prep to make sure I have the right address and know where I am going.
- Leave early: our days are rarely dictated by us alone, so to make sure I plan for other eventualities, I leave early enough to get to the client on time, or if the event allows, I may stay the night before.
- Arrive: I get my bearings and make sure I’ve clocked the toilets as soon as I get there.
- Find the room: it’s a simple step, but making sure I’ve scoped out the room and given my bag of cables another check will really help abate any stress.
- 5 minutes before I’m on: I’ll excuse myself for a last minute wee, and to do some power poses and running on the spot while I’m there.
- 1 minute before: enough time for some simple breathwork again.
- On stage – tada!
- Afterwards: I find myself some quiet space to be on my own, to refuel and recharge. As an introvert, speaking and networking can really take it out of me.
I hope this shows you that even if you consider yourself an introvert, even if you have potentially uncomfortable tasks or dates in your diary, even if you think these obstacles can’t be overcome, through simple steps and some routine, these feelings can be managed.
I’ve learnt that my anxiety might be a lifelong partner of mine, but for all of us, there is a stronger and more courageous version of ourselves. It’s just about knowing how to access it.