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Panic at the conference!

Panic at the conference!

This week I had a conference to go to in London. As a PhD student conferences are pretty common, but dealing with anxiety can make them less enjoyable than they should be, and more challenging than expected!

For most people, a quick overnight stay in London, and a two day conference would not be anything to worry about at all, but for me… it was a different story. I am now going to show you just some of the thoughts going through my head, and let you into the inner workings of my anxious brain. Prepare yourselves!

  • What if my alarm doesn’t go off?
  • What if my taxi doesn’t come?
  • What if my train is delayed, or cancelled?
  • What if I can’t get an oyster card?
  • What if my oyster card doesn’t work?
  • Where am I going again?
  • Do I have a back-up route?
  • What if I don’t like the food?
  • Or if I am not hungry?
  • What do I talk to people about?
  • Do I actually tell them about my work (I work on GMO’s; many people at the meeting were very anti-GMO)
  • What if they find me on Twitter and realise what I work on?
  • How do I get to my hotel?
  • What am I going to have for dinner?
  • Are there places nearby?
  • What if the hotel booking has gone wrong?

Yeah… that’s just a snapshot into my brain, the morning of the conference.

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Source: pixabay

Some of these were reasonable worries I think, but most, now I look at them written down, really weren’t!

So, how did I cope with it all? I wrote a lot of anxiety charts - writing down the destructive thoughts going round inside my head, writing down the chances of these coming true; basically putting them all in perspective.

I am glad to say I survived the conference! Wooh – not that I was ever not going to survive. I have done plenty of conferences before, and been to London before too - and yet at times I still felt overwhelmed by these anxious and negative thoughts.

Now that I am back home and reflecting on what I did and how I coped, I am pleased. Sure I definitely had a reduced appetite on these days, and yes, I had to take some extra anxiety medication. But I went to London, I went to the conference, I networked, I asked questions, I travelled around, I survived. I am going to concentrate on all those small achievements rather than the negatives, and I can use this to back-up and challenge future anxious predictions I may have revolving around a conference.

Last year I really don’t think I could have done this by myself. This year I have, and although I still have a lot to improve on, I am getting there. And I am proud what I have achieved.

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Source: Flickr, Bernard Goldbach

For more information on anxiety and self-help treatments:

Dr. Erica Hawkins (@ScientistErica) is a postdoctoral scientist working on starch synthesis in plants. This story was published on July 7, 2017, on Dr. Hawkins’ blog, 'A scientist called Erica’ (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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