Here’s a Short Story about anxiety from my own life from this week, actually from last night. More importantly, here’s how it works for me in my head and what I do about it. Hopefully some of this might resonate and will work for you too
So, here I am, I’m spending some time in Indonesia. The classic, almost trite and generic coach thing to do. I’m here because after 2 months of trying to grow an online presence and feeling the pain of it I decided that a massive holiday was clearly the answer. Prudent or not, it’s my life and my choice. As yours is yours.
Trying to meet people is as hard in Indonesia when you’re 36 as it is anywhere else. Last night I went to a nice big local bar (Old Man’s in Canggu if you know it). So many people from all walks of life, I must be able to meet someone here right!?
I arrive at the awesome open-air venue, grab a beer (for about 50p) and take a seat. The place is heaving! Gap year students who are like, 12 years old, playing beer pong, lots of locals mixing it up with the tourists and, somewhat relieving for me, plenty of people who look my age (or have just had a very rough life so far!).
As I sit there sipping my beer I start to feel more and more anxious.
“What the hell am I doing here!? These people are all here with their friends! They’re all too young or too cool. They’re not going to be interested in talking to me! I’m too old/fat/bald/weird for people to want to talk to me! They’re all looking at me like I’m a loser Billy no-mates! What was I thinking!!?”
My stomach starts to complain, I start to get nervous sweats (which is quite something in this heat!) and in my head all I can hear is “get back to the hotel! Hide under the covers! Leave this place and never return!”
My chest feels tight and I feel that awful sensation that everyone is watching me! …..damn!
Now. It’s impossible to coach yourself and anyone who tells you different is, in my opinion, probably just trying to get you to buy their ‘Self Coaching’ product or something. You can’t challenge yourself properly, call yourself out when you’re talking bulls*it and you can’t hold yourself accountable because there is no consequence/investment.
All that said, you can with time, learn how to sooth your anxiety by using some coaching techniques (ahhh, the subtle nuance that makes my contradicting myself ok!).
So I sat there and just breathed. I breathed the way you do if you practice mindfulness (which is a very effective and everyone could do with in their lives). I breathed until my heart started to cool it a bit.
Then I asked myself “Man, what do you really think these people are thinking about you? Be honest?”
Looking around the bar, 99% of the people around were paying me no attention. “They’re really not fussed! They’re certainly not out to get me… Probably not thinking much, if anything, about me. Plus who cares? What’s in their head is none of my business….hmmm.”
In the end I stayed put and managed to, awkwardly at first, struck up a couple of casual conversations. One was with a local who told me so many helpful things about staying here in Bali and others were somewhat stilted, but still fun, conversations with some non-native English speakers keen to practice their language skills. Why they thought speaking to a Scotsman would help their English is another story.
Truth is, the majority of people will be friendly and open and with more practice comes more confidence.
Breath. Breath. Breath.
It’s a Short Step towards calming yourself down. So be sympathetic to yourself and care for yourself like you would a close loved one.