Getting Rid of Anxiety in Two Sessions

Leadership and performance coaching

 

Project Details

Client: Personal Client
Service: Personal Coaching
Duration: 2 Coaching Sessions

Objectives
– Feel more relaxed
– Feel more comfortable in social situations
– Feel more comfortable when giving presentations

Consultants

Cillín Hearns

Session 1

The Issue

“I sought coaching because my anxiety was having a serious impact on my growth in the work place and my sense of self which was impacting greatly on my personal life. In fact it got to the point where I felt I had lost my sparkle, laughed/smiled a lot less and being a naturally creative person I hadn’t felt inspired to pick up a needle and thread and make something in a long time.”

Emily is a banking professional and leads a team of about 17 people. Active and confident in many aspects of her life, in her spare time Emily is also studying part-time. Running team meetings and doing presentations was becoming particularly difficult for Emily and her anxiety was beginning to affect her performance and sense of self. As part of her work and her studies she is expected to deliver presentations which increased her sense of dread.

The Solution

Emily’s goal was to feel more relaxed and comfortable when talking to groups of people and when giving presentations. We agreed to meet for one coaching session. During the coaching session we explored how Emily ‘did’ anxiety (it’s important to recognise that in most cases anxiety is something that is generated within us…we have a mental strategy that we run at certain times that leads us to feel this way.) When giving presentations Emily explained that she would imagine the faces of the people she was presenting to and start to think about how they were looking at her and judging her. She felt a rising sense of discomfort and worried that she would forget what she had to say leading to her audience judging her even more harshly. This is would lead to a destructive spiralling of her thoughts which caused a debilitating feeling of anxiety.

As mentioned earlier anxiety is often caused by running a mental strategy that leads us to feel a certain way. I explained this to Emily and she could see how she was causing her anxiety but couldn’t see a way out of it. Armed with the information that Emily wanted to feel more confident we explored how she ran her ‘strategy’ for this. I knew that Emily could easily access this strategy because people who suffer from anxiety associate into their feelings very easily. This is a double-edge sword which can lead us to feeling, in Emily’s case, confidence or anxiety depending on how we interpret events and situations. Understanding how Emily ‘does’ confidence and how she ‘does’ anxiety we ran both of these strategies at the same time which caused her sense of anxiety to collapse in on itself…it in effect, it disappeared.

The next step was to set Emily up to succeed in the future and to be able to trigger her confidence strategy as and when she wanted. Having this ability is particularly useful for anyone at times when they step outside of their comfort zone! Once installed Emily now found that when she thought of events in the past that would have previously brought up a whole backlog of emotions, she was perfectly calm and could see herself performing easily and effortlessly.

How we interpret events and situations can have a large bearing on how we feel. Believing we will fail at something and that it would be disastrous for our career and reputation would cause anyone to feel anxious! However, if approaching new experiences, including meeting new people, as an opportunity for growth, for learning (because what else is failure really?), we are more likely to be more relaxed and positive about the situation. With this in mind I shared with Emily a strategy for capturing and effectively dealing with unwanted negative thoughts turning them into a more positive way of approaching situations.

The Outcome

Putting her newly learned strategies into practice Emily soon surprised herself at how comfortable she now was giving presentations, talking to groups of people, and even “talking up more in meetings which I never used to do!” She would often find herself in the middle of a presentation thinking to herself, “look at me…this is great!”

Session 2

The Issue

Three months later Emily contacted me again and shared that things have been progressing well and she had recently organised an event that would be attracting over 100 people. As she was the organiser she felt she needed to open the event and introduce the keynote speaker. Emily had never spoken to a group this large before and it was causing some of her old feelings of anxiety to surface. We decided that we would meet again for another coaching session and go a little deeper to understand where these feelings of anxiety originated from.

The Solution

As we explored this Emily shared that she noticed she becomes more anxious when she is feeling under pressure, i.e. has a lot on and feels a sense of overwhelm. This occurs largely because Emily likes to please people and doesn’t often say no to requests. This is a problem when running a team of 17 people! Exploring this more we ran an exercise called Timeline Therapy and sought to identify when Emily first felt these feelings of needing to please others (this was connected to the fear/anxiety of not being accepted or rejection.) During this exercise Emily went far back into her past to when she very young. At this time Emily was in an accident which lead to three near-death experiences. She realised in an instant that she was carrying around her mother’s guilt from that event. This manifested itself in a need to be liked and to please other people. Once Emily recognised this it was like a weight was lifted off her shoulders and she couldn’t stop smiling. The feeling of guilt that she was carrying with her for so long lifted and with it, like a string of pearls, all the other emotions such as anxiety disappeared as well.

The Outcome

In Emily’s own words…

“After both of our sessions I have noticed a lot of positive change. I felt noticeably different towards speaking in front of groups of people. Yes I was still nervous about opening the wellness session but my nerves had lost the debilitating anxious edge which used to cause a constant stream of worry in my mind, hyperventilation and lost sleep. It was just normal public speaking nerves which only gets better with practice. My mind was much more quiet too! It has been bliss!

I have noticed a lot more subtle changes too which are actually a huge deal for me. Things like meeting new friends and socialising without the constant anxious tension inside. Oh my goodness it feels nice being able to relax around people. My mind is clearer about what is going on around me and things that cause me stress. I am able to praise myself about how well I handle pressure when I do get worn down instead of looking at this as my failure.

All of these subtle changes just tend to unfold since our session and I do take the time to stop and appreciate the more positive way I think and feel.  Oh and my creative side, this past weekend I got my creative streak back in full force and made a stack of beeswax wraps (great to use instead of gladwrap), reusable produce bags for me and some friends, a cactus tote and a purse.”

 

If you’d like to know more about how to achieve more in life or business, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.

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