Here’s how to manage if anxiety in work meetings is wearing you down.
For people who experience anxiety, meetings at work can be challenging. You may feel anxious about speaking in front of your colleagues, self-conscious about asking questions, or even worried about sounding unprepared.
Meetings that don’t take place in person can also be anxiety inducing. Talking on Zoom for long periods of time can be draining and may make you uncomfortable. Researchers have called this “Zoom fatigue,” and it’s not uncommon.
Having coping skills to deal with your anxiety around meetings can help you reduce feelings of dread and, ultimately, feel more confident when you meet with your co-workers.
If you experience social anxiety, meetings can impact you in a number of ways. Meetings can exacerbate physical anxiety symptoms like:
- excessive sweating
- rapid heart rate
- shaking or trembling
- blushing or feeling flushed
- lightheadedness and dizziness
Anxiety caused by meetings can also bring up many uncomfortable emotions and thoughts. You might experience:
- worry about being judged
- fear about speaking during the meeting
- anticipatory anxiety and dread before your work meeting
- embarrassment about physical anxiety symptoms (like sweating or hyperventilating)
- worry about how you look during video meetings
To relieve your anxiety, you might avoid work meetings altogether, even if attendance is necessary.
Avoiding any work situation that makes you anxious might make you feel better in the short term. But avoiding meetings will likely increase or worsen your anxiety in the long term, especially if missing the meeting makes it harder to do your job.
While managing anxiety in meetings can take practice, adopting some of these skills can help make work meetings feel much more manageable.
Work meetings can feel overwhelming because so much is out of your control. If you live with anxiety, it might feel like you’re constantly trying to track all the different variables in the meeting and the many directions it could go — and that can get tiring quickly.
You can’t control how much your colleagues talk or how they respond to your contributions. But it’s important to identify things you can do in the meeting that could help you feel more confident and in control.
For one thing, you can control how much you speak in a meeting. You can also take steps to feel well-rested and have a snack or water waiting nearby. Making sure you have a quiet place ready with a good internet connection is another way you can feel more secure and in control.
Even if you don’t speak up often in meetings, you can make sure others know you’re present. Turning on your camera or being active in the video meeting’s chat room are just a couple ways to remind everyone you’re part of the team.
Taking steps to feel as secure as possible can set you up for success.
If you find work meetings stressful because of social anxiety, preparing for the meeting ahead of time can help. Some ways to do this include:
- thinking about what you want to say ahead of time
- making notes of any points you’d like to bring up to the group
- practicing any presentations ahead of time by yourself or in front of someone you trust
- checking on any metrics you might want to report to the group
- making a list of questions you know you might be asked and thinking of how you’d like to answer
- getting yourself a coffee, tea, or glass of water
If you spend a lot of time dreading the meeting before it happens — and this tends to make it harder to get work done in the meantime — consider setting a timer. Knowing you’ll have even 10 minutes to get in the mental space for your meeting could help you avoid dreading it for hours.
Practicing self-care during your meeting can be a great way to manage anxiety. Self-care during a meeting could include:
- remembering that it’s OK to take breaks if you need to
- eating a snack or meal before or during your meeting
- turning off your camera if you need to
- cultivating self-compassion by practicing self-talk, such as “I am a valuable member of my team” or “I deserve to be heard”
Taking care of yourself while you attend work meetings can help keep your anxiety in check.
Grounding exercises allow you to stay present, and this is likely to prove helpful for work meetings. Grounding techniques can be especially helpful if you find yourself getting overwhelmed or “checking out.”
If you start to feel faint or dizzy in work meetings due to anxiety, grounding could also help.
Grounding yourself in a meeting could look like taking a break to splash cold water on your face or going for a walk. You can also use other techniques that don’t require you to step away from your meeting.
Common grounding techniques you can do during a meeting include:
The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise
After a few slow, deep breaths to calm yourself, think about:
- five things you can see
- four things you can touch
- three things you can hear
- two things you can smell
- one thing you can taste
If doing the whole exercise is too long, focusing on one of your senses is a great way to stay present. Smelling your favorite candle or drinking a comforting, hot drink can be some ways to calm yourself.
Progressive muscle relaxation
With progressive muscle relaxation, you tense a group of muscles as you breathe in and release those muscles as you breathe out. You gradually move through different muscle groups until you’ve relaxed your whole body.
Muscle groups that you can clench and unclench include your:
Deep breathing is another way to release anxiety during meetings.
You can practice a variety of deep breathing exercises. A simple one to practice is “belly breathing.” Here’s how to start:
- Sit in a quiet, comfortable place.
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach, below your ribcage.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, pushing out your stomach but not your chest.
- Breathe out through your mouth until your stomach is deflated.
- Repeat the exercise, taking note of how you feel.
When meetings increase your anxiety, it can be frustrating. You might feel like meetings impact your productivity because of how much time you spend worrying about them or wishing there was a way to stop having them altogether.
It’s possible to reduce the anxiety you experience in meetings with coping techniques that work for you. It’ll probably take a bit of experimenting, and you’ll likely still feel like some days are better than others. While it’s not uncommon to feel anxious during meetings, you don’t have to resign yourself to always feeling that dread.