I was recently invited to a hen do by a very good friend which was a small gathering for afternoon tea.
Now, afternoon tea is right up my street and I have been friends with the bride to be for many years, so I was surprised to find myself feeling nervous as I got ready to set off.
I could feel the churning sensation in my stomach and a rising sensation in my chest as I got into the car and waved to my partner and my kids.
The first explanation I had for the nervousness was that the hen do was somewhere I was unfamiliar with and I wasn’t too sure how to get there but I had my sat-nav on and this didn’t feel like a good explanation for why I was feeling this way.
Nonetheless, I took a few deliberate deep breaths into my diaphragm as I was driving.
As soon as I did this I realised that I was actually thinking about not knowing many people there and imagining myself making awkward small talk.
I don’t think of myself as someone who is anxious in social situations.
As a rule, I really enjoy being sociable and I am quite happy to talk to people I don’t know but we can all fall along many different spectrums of anxiety and on this occasion, I was feeling nervous.
Why it helps to remind yourself of coping
Generally speaking, we feel nervous or anxious when the perceived threat is bigger than our perceived coping.
Threat vs. Coping
I was focusing on the potential to:
- say something stupid…
- feel awkward myself…
- or cause the other people to feel awkward.
This was the perceived threat.
What I did to help was to balance this out by remembering my ability to cope.
Once your perceived coping outweighs the threat, there is no longer a reason for your body to respond with anxiety.
If you are wondering, this is what I reminded myself of:
Years ago, I was invited to a hen do for a friend of my partner at the time.
I didn’t know her well and I had met a couple of other people who were going maybe a handful of times.
I was going out with them in a city I had never been out in before and not one, but two of my partner’s ex-girlfriends were also in attendance!
I had massively mis-judged what to wear, felt far too hot all night and feared that I looked like a beetroot on all of the pictures of the evening!
And clearly needed to drink a lot of water to cool down…!
I made some awkward conversation with one of the aforementioned ex-girlfriends.
But everything was fine!
Nothing terrible happened, I coped with the situation and had fun!
As soon as I remembered this, the nervous feeling in my stomach dissipated completely.
My perceived ability to cope outweighed the perceived threat and I enjoyed a picturesque drive, met some lovely people and had a lovely time!
How to do it
Next time you are focusing on thoughts of things going wrong, why not try it:
Step 1: Breathe
Step 2: Notice what the perceived threat is about
Step 3: Think of a time you coped with something similar or something even more challenging than this situation.
Step 4: Remember what happened? What skills did you use? What qualities did you have that helped you to cope?
Struggling to Think of Something?
Look for times you have used similar skills or qualities.
Have done something of faced a challenge that makes you think ‘if I can do that, I can do anything’?
Most of us have experienced challenges in daily life:
- Delivered presentations at work
- Given birth
- Survived a really difficult job interview
- Got through a challenging university course
- Passed your driving test…
The key thing is to remember that you have coped before and that you can cope again.
If you remember your ability to cope, the task in hand will start to seem more easy!
Lemon Squeezy makes wellbeing easy!
Image Credit: Pixabay (apart from the one of me!)
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