As a marketer, and more specifically a social media manager, I spend a lot of my time behind a screen - whether that's my phone, my desktop or my laptop.
And career aside, it's always been that way.
I grew up with a screen in my face, and it has come to feel like a form of protection - a security blanket.
So when I don't have my phone in my hand, or that blue light in my face, I can often feel uneasy.
Although I'm not suggesting that growing up with technology is the sole reason I have anxiety, I do believe that it massively contributed to my social anxiety.
And having anxiety when you work in marketing can feel extremely isolating.
You feel silly for not wanting to take calls, you don't tend to voice your ideas in meetings, and you definitely avoid networking events like the plague.
However, the only way to improve your anxiety is by working on it.
So, I took to Twitter and asked people for their absolute top tips on combating anxiety and paired it with my own experience to bring you this blog post.
So, are you ready to be better than you were yesterday? Let's dig in.
Naturally, a lot of this advice is going to be general hence the generalists heading but that doesn't mean it's not useful.
Working in the marketing world means there are endless demands from your employer, clients and colleagues. You're so busy that you're not sure how you're going to get everything done, but you'll be accepting calls, meetings and impromptu desk visits - sound familiar?
The idea of saying no can make you heart palpitate more than anxiety ever could, but it's important to set boundaries for the sake of your anxiety. If someone requests a call or a meeting, you don't have to say no completely, but make it clear how much time you have for the call or name a date and time that's best for you.
It's cool to set boundaries and preserve your sanity!
The marketing industry is full to the brim of talent, and it's especially apparent when everyone is posting their huge wins on LinkedIn.
Entering... Anxiety over the fact you're not good enough.
Well, plot twist, you are. Otherwise you wouldn't be doing what you're doing now and that's the tea.
But when you're having these moments of intense "oh fuck, what if everyone figures out I'm a fraud!" then it's a good time to remind yourself that you were hired for your expertise and the person or company who hired you, can't do it themselves.
If that doesn't work, then get away from your screen like, now. You will find nothing but misery if you're sat at your desk in a state of distress, anxiety and panic. Go take a walk, a break, talk to someone or do something that brings you joy.
The Networking Crisis
Being at a networking event feels like when you're a child and you're at school having to speak in front of the class and someone says:
"Your face is red!"
And now your face is even more red because not only are you anxious, you're not embarrassed.
The important thing to remember at networking events is that people are there to do exactly that. You can't look silly, or come across weird for trying to talk to someone because that's what you're there to do.
That's easier said than done, though. So, what you need to do is some trusty networking prep.
Give yourself a pep talk, and be your biggest fan
Meditate, if that's your thing
Drop any and all expectations of yourself with positive affirmations
Make yourself feel good when you're getting ready (shower, wear an outfit you love etc)
Eat and hydrate
"But Annie, what do I do about anxiety when I'm actually at the networking event?"
Take a friend, everything is less scary with a friend
Challenge yourself to talk to at least one person you don't know
Stick to small groups, or approach someone who also looks nervous (you should be able to spot this with your anxiety radar, we all have it)
Remind yourself that you're safe, you're interesting and you deserve to take up space
Treat it like a performance, still be you but create an alter ego where you can let go a little bit more
Remember that humans love talking about themselves, so when you're at a networking event - just ask lots of questions. You can talk about everything from what they do for work and what they hope to achieve to finding common ground through movies, books and general interests.
You'll then, hopefully and naturally, find a good flow of conversation like a friendly tennis match on a Sunday morning (idk anyone who does that on any given day, let alone a Sunday but you know what I mean).
The more you go to networking events, the less anxiety-inducing they become, I promise.
How to answer a question you don't know
THIS is what used to give me such anxiety surrounding meetings, calls and networking events.
Because in my head, if I don't know the answer to a question, I look stupid and that then spirals into me thinking I don't deserve to take up space in my role, that conversation or in this industry.
Dramatic, huh? But that's how anxiety can make you spiral.
Luckily, there's many way's you can actually avoid answering a question you don't know, or can't think of an answer for without just saying "I don't know".
Here are some of my faves:
Simply explain that you need some time to look into it, as you don't want to miss out any valuable or important insights
Be honest and say that you don't know the answer (perhaps extending this to explaining why, such as it's not a topic familiar to you) but you'll look into it for them
Ask a follow up question to navigate the conversation elsewhere to something you can answer a little easier on the spot
Navigate the question to a more comfortable space for you by acknowledging the importance of the question, but explaining that the focus should be on something else
It's absolutely fine to not know something, you're not a robot. It's how you deal with answering those questions that will make a difference. Learning to admit you don't know something and how to professionally address it will make calls, meetings and networking far less initmidating.
Faking it until you make it
The sooner you realise that most people are faking their confidence, the better. Now, this doesn't apply to everyone, obviously. Some people don't have anxiety - especially social anxiety - and are natural pros at dealing with people. Be gentle with yourself and take baby steps.
And these baby steps don't have to be in the professional world straight away. If you struggle with phone calls, try being the one to order a takeaway one week. If you struggle with networking, engage in some small talk when ordering your coffee at Starbucks. If you're struggling with meetings, try reaching out to a friend you haven't seen in a while and see if they want to hang out.
Once you have made these things into a habit, you can then extend it into your work life and it'll feel much less daunting.
And that's the tea
As humans, we all have a tendency to live in our own worlds and often, inside our own heads. Pair that with a sprinkle of anxiety, and it's a recipe to isolate yourself and stay in your comfort zone.
And trust me, I know how cosy ad safe that little comfort zone is.
But I'm a big believer in if you want to get over the fear of doing something, you've just got to do it.
As we discussed, this doesn't mean that you should be jumping into the deep end straight away and automatically being a pro at taking calls, leading meetings or attending networking events. It does mean actively taking the steps towards those goals.
We're all faking it until we make it, and we can only be better than we were yesterday. So stop being so hard on yourself, celebrate the baby steps and be proud that you're working towards the person you want to be.
You've got this.
(You can see all the lovely advice from the folks over on Twitter here)