Lately I’ve been thinking of my early days of dealing with IBD at work. When my symptoms were raging, and I didn’t even know what was wrong with me, things were difficult. I could go to work one day and be okay, then be too sick the next and so on.
Luckily my employer at the time was understanding.
I have held four different full time jobs since being diagnosed with Crohn’s. I only had to miss work due to the Crohn’s at the first place, but even having things under control doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
Even having things under control for many years does not mean I don’t worry that I will start to feel bad at an inconvenient time. Things can still be unpredictable even when you are feeling good most of the time.
The inconvenient time I worry about the most is business meetings. I have at least two business meetings a week, and it is not unusual to have four or five.
So I have come up with my business meeting survival guide.
We probably all know that worrying about feeling bad can sometimes be a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the first thing to do is get rid of that anxiety.
When I was in high school I was terribly afraid of speaking in front of the class. In my senior year I tried to combat that fear by taking drama and debate classes. I did great in debate because I was confident in what I was saying. I have always liked writing, so if I wrote a good speech and had all my points ready, speaking in front of the class turned out to not be a problem.
Drama was a different story. I never felt all that comfortable. I tried hard. I even auditioned for one of the school plays. What’s my point in all of this – confidence. Confidence relieves anxiety. My drama teacher taught me a trick to quell the anxiety I was feeling:
- Breathe in slowly while counting to 5
- Hold the breath while counting to 5
- Slowly breathe out while counting to 5
Whenever I feel particularly anxious about a meeting I use this trick, and it works pretty well.
Here are some other things you can do to get through your business meeting.
My business meetings are in a conference room that is a little too small to hold everyone comfortably. That means there is the potential to be penned in during the meeting. Being penned in is not good for IBD’ers.
I always sit close to the door. Just knowing that I can get up without making a big scene makes me feel much better.
Bring some peppermint tea into the meeting. It’s calming and sipping the sea is a distraction from feeling anxious.
Pay rapt attention to whoever is talking. This might seem like a no-brainer, I mean that is why we are in the meeting, but stomach flutters can make it hard to pay attention. I have found that hanging on every word of the speaker makes me forget about anything else. At some point in the meeting I’ll realize that I’m feeling completely comfortable.
So those are my tips for getting through the business meeting. I know they may not be as helpful for those experiencing severe symptoms, but hopefully there is something there for people dealing with milder IBD at work. I developed these tricks when I still had some active symptoms and most of the time they helped a lot.