How To Handle Anxiety Before Attending A Large Event (Or How I Took Care Of My Jitters!)
Note from the Author: The following article is about my recent experience attending a large conference, and how I handled it with my MS. My conclusions may apply to any event you find to be overwhelming, such as a high school reunion or a large family get-together. I hope you find my post helpful and informative.
The thought of attending a conference with 5,000 other attendees was overwhelming to me. I didn’t know how kind my MS would to me after flying to Chicago and maintaining a full daily schedule. I worried endlessly for weeks prior to the conference, and became so overwrought with worry that I began to think of excuses not to go.
I never pull the disabled card. You know what I mean. When you tell people you can’t do something because you have MS. As painful as it is for me to say, I know of people who have done that because their fears took the best of them. I think that’s simply wrong.
But I was feeling sheer panic. I felt trapped.
Could I manage my luggage by myself? What if the plane was delayed and I felt overly stressed? What if the gate was far from the baggage claim, and the baggage claim was far from the shuttle service? How well would I handle fatigue while attending important sessions? Would I be able to keep up with my colleagues? What if I didn’t feel well while away from home?
These thoughts kept nagging at me. I could feel my legs growing more numb by the hour. I allowed myself to think of all the obstacles – things that might happen – before I even boarded the plane.
Negative thoughts are energy robbers and are a waste of time. In my professional life, I preach to others that worrying is a waste of time, particularly about something that may never happen.
Now I wasn’t taking my own advice.
We all know the unpredictability of having Multiple Sclerosis. For some of us, we slowly learn how our bodies will react to certain situations, so we develop ways to better manage our time to keep our MS at bay.
An upcoming concert? Nap ahead of time. A day at the beach? Wear a hat and stay hydrated. A night out with friends? Pace yourself and sit when you can.
A three-day conference? Unmanageable.
Wrong. I learned that even a massive conference with 5,000 other attendees in two hotels that were five miles apart are completely manageable.
The rule I learned after attending this event is the importance of micromanaging your time. This rule goes a long way toward helping to take better care of yourself. Planning ahead is important. Setting smaller goals is crucial.
For example, do you need to listen to every speaker, or can you miss one or two that aren’t as important for your specific needs? Which sessions do you need to attend, and which can be missed?
Another idea is to see your plans laid out ahead of time will allow you to feel more in control of your schedule. This way, you can make better decisions for you and your MS before you even leave your front door.
I began to check, weeks in advance, what the daily schedule would be. There was an app specific to this conference that allowed me to pick and choose what I planned on attending. This allowed me to create a general outline for myself. (If there’s no available app, you can even use the ol’ pen and paper!)
After I was finished creating my schedule, I fine-tuned it, adding time for breaks and naps.
I told myself I couldn’t possibly do everything, so I prioritized what was most important to reach my specific goals. The important items I made sure I had time for. The less important ones I skipped to take time to relax.
Doing this made the conference more manageable and more enjoyable.
There’s one more thing. Don’t be shy to ask for help. There is no shame in telling someone you’re tired and you need to sit, or you’re not up to walking and you need to hail a taxi. Remember, you have value and are important, and you need to take care of yourself as best as you can.
Pre-planning, prioritizing and reaching out are ways to help you live well with MS.
How do you take good care of yourself when an upcoming event is making you feel anxious?
How do you feel before getting an MRI done?