Controlling My Anxiety

To understand my anxiety, I need to establish what the main trigger or triggers for anxiety are for me in my life.

Whilst I have different triggers for different scenarios, there are two main triggers of anxiety for me prior to attending one of my talks, “time” & “disorientation”.

The next thing I need to understand is what I can control and what I can’t. The things I can control I will work hard at and the things I can’t control would be the things that I just relax and go with the flow.

How does “time” & “disorientation” affect me and how do I “control” them?

When I am booked by a client directly or through an agency to provide one of my lived experience talks, there is quite a lot of planning and preparation.

Whilst pre-talk preparations for many would consist of a simple planning process to ensure the talks go ahead on-time and run smoothly, there are many additional preparations that are a must for me.

Given that I experience short term memory loss, mild aphasia and a hypersensitive nervous system associated (to name a few) with my ABI, one would think that my anxiety would be centered around speaking in front of an audience, right?

Well surprisingly no!

I am very comfortable, calm and at ease when I am providing a talk in front of audiences, whether they be large or small. This is because of the preparations done prior to arriving at the venue which prevent any irrational thoughts that may cause myself to feel rushed and unsettled which can lead to an anxiety attack.

So, what do general pre-talk preparations look like for me?

    1. It’s important for me to know detail or the big picture. I do a considerable amount of research on the client that I am providing the talk to which ensures they are going to receive the best ROI.
    2. I research the venue, the location, the route needed to be taken and the time needed to arrive early.

Recently, I was on a Safety Roadshow with James Wood (owner / founder / lived experience speaker of CNBSafe Safety Speakers) for a week in late October / early November 2018. CNBSafe provided an opportunity for me to share my lived experience talks to one of their clients Sydney Water which included various locations across NSW.

This Safety Roadshow was something that was going to require more thought into the planning for my personal health and wellbeing than other speaking engagements that I have done in the past. Now whilst the planning already completed by Sydney Water and CNBSafe Safety Speakers is quite extensive and detailed, I still have to have my own planning process that will ensure I am looking after my own mental health and wellbeing.

In addition to my normal pre-talk preparations, what did my preparation and “controls” consist of for this Safety Roadshow?

  1. Leaving home early to arrive at the Perth Airport…2 hours early! It may appear ridiculously early to be at an airport for a domestic flight however leaving home early eases my thoughts around all the what-if’s. What if the traffic is heavy, what if there is an accident or roadworks along the way, will this make me late. I would rather be in a position where I arrive really early for I can just sit, gather my thoughts and relax in a cafe.
  2. Navigating my way through an Airport can be difficult for me and no more so than Sydney Airport. I get disorientated about where I am heading so it is important that I have my wife Donna with me to assist. I am at ease knowing that Donna is with me to help get me from A to B.
  3. Navigating my way from the Sydney Airport to our accommodation and to all the Sydney Water locations. It was important to have my wife Donna to convey the navigation instructions she receives from Siri.
  4. Meditate before a talk. Allow sufficient time to meditate for 10 minutes prior to entering the venue. In doing this, it clears my mind for the task ahead.

A question that people ask me quite regularly is, why doesn’t my wife Donna drive and I navigate?

You would think driving through the streets of Sydney would be more stressful to me and would raise my anxiety through the roof as a pose to simply sitting in the passenger’s seat navigating however this is not the case.

Navigating means a lot of processing and in this case, fast processing! My brain doesn’t process information quickly and the problem solving required to “interpret” Siri for getting in the correct lane in order to divert onto one of Sydney’s many off-ramps is put simply “Brain Chaos”.

Donna is able to think quickly and look past Siri’s last-minute navigation calls which allows me to calmly get us to our destination.

Whilst it wasn’t all smooth sailing, we always leave early enough to make up for any navigation mishaps and had lots of laughs along the way…I mean lots!

One thing both Donna and I have learnt about this trip is;

  1. Siri doesn’t understand how to navigate the streets and highways of NSW,
  2. Siri had a few other names that we weren’t aware of…until we created them…you get the picture ha-ha.

If you experience feelings of anxiety, are you aware of the triggers and if so what are your controls?

Donna and I love meeting people, making a difference to people’s lives and importantly enjoying the journey along the way.

Controlling my anxiety allows such journeys to be full of happiness.

Read my followup post Bringing Mindfulness Back.

Donna, mental health, michael weston, Sydney Water
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