7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

panic attacks at work meetings

In this blog post, we are going to discuss how you can prevent and manage panic attacks at work meetings.

7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

How to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

Whether we work 6, 8 or 12 hours a day, from home or from the office, stress at work is present in almost any field of activity. Along with exposure to prolonged stress caused by multiple tasks, tight deadlines or perhaps strained relationships with the boss or colleagues, anxiety also appears.

Therefore, employees may face a whole chain of consequences such as panic attacks or burnout episodes. 

Work meetings, public debates, presentations of different topics or projects in front of bosses, colleagues, clients or a bigger audience that have been unpleasant in the past, or have had unpleasant consequences can trigger performance anxiety to some employers. 

Having to speak in public is an uncomfortable feeling for many people as they fear of being laughed at, publicly ashamed, or failing to know something important. 

The accumulation of anxiety often leads to the onset of panic attacks, which are mainly triggered by the fear of being made fun of or losing their position and authority in front of one’s colleagues. 

The following 7 tips may help you prevent panic attacks at work meetings. Read and choose the ones that you find are best for yourself. 

Tip #1 –  Do your Research

The more you know about anxiety and how it can manifest itself (panic attacks), the easier it is for you to know what your own person’s vulnerabilities and triggers might be, and how to avoid them.  

For example, if your fear is that you will be asked something during the work meeting and you will not know the answer, I’d suggest you prepare the material so well that you leave no room for any doubts. And if this scenario does become a reality, you can answer something like: “At this moment I do not have enough information to form an opinion, but let me do my research and come back to you.” 

Tip #2 – Avoid tobacco and other stimulants

Some people are sensitive to even small amounts of tobacco and/or other stimulants,  and because it is difficult to know exactly what are a person’s limits, it is better for an anxious person to avoid consuming them at all. The more stressed and preoccupied you are with various problems – including work meetings – the more tobacco, coffee and alcohol are physically harmful and mentally disruptive. 

At a work meeting, you want to be as attentive and present as possible, you don’t want to be distracted by the imminent desire to smoke another cigarette, or even worse, by a hangover.

Tip #3 – Do breathing exercises

When panic attacks begin, what the person feels most strongly is hyperventilation. Feelings of intense heartbeat, suffocation, pressure and burning in the chest area. You will be able to control these annoying sensations with the help of breathing exercises. Gain experience in this area and in case of a panic attack you will be able to be in control.

Listen to soothing music on the way to work, inhale and exhale, focus on your breathing and on the present moment, not on what might happen in the future. And if negative thoughts arise, tell yourself: And if things are good in the end, what will I do then?

7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

Tip #4 – Exercise

Any activity that involves movement and physical effort are more than welcome. You don’t need to do this for more than 30 minutes a day. But make it a daily habit and stick to it. It will help you change your mood. It will protect you not only from the manifestations of anxiety but also from depression.

Maybe on the day of the meeting, you choose to walk to the office instead of taking your car/public transport;  or go for a jog early in the morning.

Tip #5 – Practice relaxation techniques

Each person relaxes in his/her own way. Analyze yourself, test and see what works for you. Music therapy, sports, a new hobby, active rest, etc. Anything can work. Make sure you schedule time to relax, it’s really important. And during this time you can put your thoughts in order. Especially those that generate fear in some way.

Before the work meeting, you can take a few minutes just for yourself to relax. Do some breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques, listen to your favourite song or call a loved one. 

Tip #6 – Quality relationships

A person who has good relationships with his/her family, friends and colleagues is less prone to illness (fear, worry, etc.). Take the time to maintain these relationships properly and you will enjoy an amazing support network.

Tip #7 – Learn to rest

Rest is the key to a balanced and healthy life. Do not schedule activities in the evening or on a Sunday. The night is for sleep. The evening is for relaxation. Sunday is a break from any kind of stress and pressure. Sign out. Don’t open Facebook, don’t watch catastrophic news, for a few hours you can even turn off the phone completely. You can sleep 1-2 hours after lunch. You will feel different if you apply these simple health rules.

You can avoid panic attacks

Some of the things listed above are probably familiar to you, but you have never applied them. Go from theoretical knowledge to practical application. You will become healthier and your work anxiety will reduce significantly. 

7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

How does anxiety manifest at work?

Anxiety is, in fact, a state of mental tension that manifests itself through nervousness, irritability, strong fear accompanied, in most cases, by a lack of self-confidence and the inability to take risks. Anxiety can cause headaches, nausea and suffocation, dizziness, sweating of the palms, numbness of the upper limbs.

It can be felt in certain characteristic situations, and the affected people have great difficulty concentrating on the daily tasks that they often postpone, which generates negative effects on their performance at work.

Anxiety can also lead to a type of social phobia, one characterized by a fear of public speaking. Many people refuse to expose themselves in this way, claiming that they are not able to give a speech in front of clients or colleagues because they stutter or to avoid any possible negative evaluation or fear of failure.

The fear of receiving negative feedback or a sanction prevents all those who suffer from anxiety from taking on this problem in front of their superiors.

How does work anxiety affect our home life?

Anxiety at work constantly affects people, both at home and in social interaction. Irritability, fear, inability to take risks are also transferred to family life or relationships with friends. Those who suffer from anxiety begin to isolate themselves, to avoid going out, they have aggressive reactions when they are faced with unforeseen situations.

All of this also affects family members and close people. In more severe situations, all these symptoms can lead to the installation of a panic disorder with serious effects on the quality of life of the individual.

What can employers do to reduce employee stress and anxiety?

To reduce the stress and anxiety of employees, employers can include in their salary packages certain benefits for them, such as fitness and personal development subscriptions, because physical movement and psychotherapy contribute substantially to reducing anxiety.

Physical movement eliminates stress, anger, fatigue generated by concentrating on daily tasks and routines, and through therapy, the specialist can identify what happens in the person’s mind when he/she feels anxious and what are the irrational beliefs that affect his/her emotions so much.

7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

Conclusions

In this blog post, we talked about how someone can prevent and manage panic attacks at work meetings. 

The 7 tips for managing panic attacks at work meetings are: Be informed, avoid stimulants, do breathing and physical exercises, relax, build a supportive network and learn how to rest. 

Panic attacks can be avoided with the right techniques and help in place.

Please feel free to share any comments or questions you may have!

FAQ about panic attacks at work meetings

How do I stop panic attacks during meetings?

To stop panic attacks during meetings you have to remind yourself to breathe and that these feelings you have are temporary. Go to a safe place if possible, as far away from your triggers as possible. Take deep breaths, try to relax your muscles and tell yourself that you are doing just fine, you are going to get through this. 

Why do I have panic attacks at work?

There may be many reasons why someone has panic attacks at work. Among them, may be the common worries related to work-performance, deadlines or the fear of failing. These are work-related triggers that must be identified beforehand in order to learn to manage work-related anxiety.

Can I be fired for having panic attacks?

You cannot be fired for having panic attacks. However, your employer and colleagues may be concerned about your mental health and general wellbeing. You may be offered time off, or encouraged to speak to the HR department. 

What happens to your body during a panic attack?

During a panic attack, and generally, when people are stressed, their sympathetic nervous system (the sympathetic nervous system is a component of the nervous system and activates in conditions of fear, anxiety, stress – n.r.) accelerates, releasing energy and preparing the body for action.

Then, the parasympathetic nervous system comes into action, and the body stabilizes, reaching a state of calm.

How do I stop feeling anxious at work?

To stop feeling anxious at work you have to practice self-care. Make sure you schedule a time to relax, to exercise and to do things that you really enjoy. To manage work-related anxiety and stress, take frequent short breaks during the working hours, make sure you stay hydrated and eat nutritious meals. 

What is workplace anxiety?

Workplace anxiety is a state of exaggerated fear related to one’s work performance. It is often caused by exposure to prolonged stress caused by multiple tasks, tight deadlines or perhaps strained relationships with the boss or the colleagues. 

Further reading

  1. Workplace Anxiety: How to Deal With Stress, Conflict, Toxic Coworkers and Bosses, and Fear of Losing Your Job 
  2. Managing Workplace Anxiety: Volume 4 
  3. The Science and Art of Managing Workplace Anxiety: 10 Quick Strategies for Success
  4. Work Makes Me Nervous: Overcome Anxiety and Build the Confidence to Succeed
  5. This Too Shall Pass: Stories of Change, Crisis and Hopeful Beginnings 
  6. Social Anxiety in the Workplace: Strategies for Managing S.A.D. in the 9-5 World 

References

Stress Management At Work & Life – Tony Fred

Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace – aada.org

7 tips to prevent panic attacks at work meetings

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.