Social anxiety is a funny old thing. Today I found myself on the brink of a panic attack, because of tea and coffee.
Obviously it wasn’t the drinks themselves; I’ve been making them for years, and frequently do so while half asleep. The problem today was that at work I had to take jugs of tea and coffee into a meeting of managers (panic number 1) who were meeting in a room I had never entered before (panic number 2).
Panic 1 is basically the story of my life. People stress me out, and the more ‘important’ the person the more stressed I feel. If I were to meet the CE of Babcock I’d probably have a stroke on the spot.
My usual coping mechanism for this is to plan ahead. I repeatedly go over my order in my mind as I stand in the Starbucks queue (even though it’s the same every time), I plan the route I will take when I have to deliver print-outs during meetings, I have a mental checklist that I work through when I have to speak to people. I still end up stressed, but it’s at a manageable level.
But then you add in panic 2. I’d never been into that meeting room before so I couldn’t plan my route, I didn’t know what was in there so I didn’t know where I would put the hot jugs down. Off went my mind:
There will be a table like there is in all the other meeting rooms, just put them on there and leave.
But what if they’re all crowded round the table and there’s no space?
What if there’s a side table or a cupboard and I’m supposed to put them on there?
Put them on the table. No, look for somewhere else. No, just put them on the table. Whatever you do, don’t just stand there like a lemon, trying to think where to put the stupid things.
Should I ask where they want them?
What if they’re talking and I interrupt them? They’ll be cross.
But what if I put it in the wrong place? They’ll be cross.
What if I trip? What if I spill it? What if they want milk and cupsandsugarandWHATSHOULDIDO???
So far no smiles. But then the meeting got delayed for half an hour, and by the time they needed their tea and coffee I would be covering reception for the lunch hour i.e. unable to leave the front desk.
So my manager left her meeting, made the tea and coffee, and carried them round to the mysterious room I have still never seen.
Today I am smiling because relief is the sweetest feeling.