By Chetna Bhatt
Chetna Bhatt explains how to overcome anxiety by quietening the mind
Homeworking is becoming the new normal post-covid-19 with lawyers relying on platforms such as Zoom to replace physical meetings and court hearings.
Clients have sought my support with increased anxiety and a lack of confidence to speak. I’ve been asked, ‘how do I build my confidence to speak over Zoom?’ and told, ‘I feel crippled by anxiety in team meetings and can’t speak’.
Time and again, I’m humbled by the transformative impact of helping clients uncover their fundamental wellbeing, no matter how challenging their circumstances. As we navigate these times, it feels like the medicine we all need to leverage our wellbeing and potential.
By ‘fundamental wellbeing’, I’m referring to our sense of security; a feeling of okay-ness and peace of mind that is naturally available when our minds quieten, regardless of our circumstances.
Our wellbeing is visible to us in the present moment. When we rest in the now, we feel calm and solutions occur to us (often out of the blue) and we have absolute clarity over what to do next. In this way, we are taken care of – and the present moment is the gift that keeps on giving. We have access to innate wellbeing; can work in a confident, productive way with mental clarity to navigate anything and bounce back from setbacks. When our minds are quiet, we feel resilient and access common sense in abundance.
Yet we live in a world of chronic distraction, caught up in insecure thinking. Similar to when the sun hides behind the clouds, our wellbeing is obscured from our vision when we innocently attend to insecure thoughts. We may feel self-conscious on camera, worrying about how we sound and whether we have anything helpful to say. Thoughts are, however, transient by nature unless we engage with them.
Claire* wanted to overcome her anxiety about Zoom. She was “paralysed by thoughts about having nothing helpful to say” and could not speak. Her anxiety continued long after team meetings.
I mentioned to her that when her mind quiets, she has innate wellbeing available. It seemed alien because she had spent so much time with a busy mind. She realised just how much anxious thinking she had about team meetings. She worked herself into a state, consumed by the noise of her thinking, taking her away from the present such that she could not engage with team discussions.
Claire realised that she had just assumed unhelpful thoughts about not being good enough were true. She hadn’t questioned the truth of them and treated them as helpful data that she needed to engage with. In doing so, she not only moved away from the present moment, she innocently perpetuated her anxiety.
On speaking with colleagues, Claire discovered she was not alone. It was settling to see she was not in any way broken; and to see the humanness of people experiencing feelings like anxiety from time to time, even those who speak confidently. The only difference was that some take their anxious thinking seriously (with anxiety getting worse) and others do not (speaking confidently regardless).
Having discovered that her experience was entirely psychological and how variable our thinking is, Claire became less interested by unhelpful thoughts. She told me that “it really looks like it is the Zoom calls that create anxiety but I now see that is a trick of the mind”. She saw how our experience is thought-created; and this explained why her anxiety persisted long after meetings finished.
Her anxious thoughts in the moment were the root cause of her anxious feelings. As soon as she noticed this, her mind automatically recalibrated and returned to the present moment.
With a quiet mind, Claire had mental clarity and looked forward to Zoom meetings. '¨In the absence of insecure thinking, she naturally regained confidence to speak.
Her insights gave her an elevated perspective of how the mind works and a deeper understanding of what anxiety is. It no longer has the same hold and she’s able to engage with, and even enjoy Zoom meetings.
*name changed for confidentiality with permission obtained
Chetna Bhatt is the founder and CEO of Being Lawyers beinglawyers.com