Feeling Stressed or Anxious? 9 Easy Ways to Feel Calmer Right Now

October 25, 2019

You’ve been working on this trade show or conference for months — years, maybe — and your anxiety is through the roof as it approaches. You know that you can’t control every aspect of your event, and something, however minor, is bound to go wrong. 

Stress and anxiety manifest in many different ways, such as sweating, a racing heart, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, insomnia … the list goes on. But when you anticipate what’s to come and approach your event with a sense of calm, feeling collected and in control, you’ll prepare yourself to better handle any situation that comes your way. 

In a session at IMEX, Janet Sperstad, who founded the nation’s first associate degree in meeting and event management, offered this simple tip: During times of extreme stress, go to the bathroom and wash your hands, and take three deep breaths while doing so. It’s amazing how much calmer you’ll feel after this simple action, she said. 

We spoke with more experts to get their best tips for staying calm under pressure — a skill that’s crucial to success in the meetings industry.

Focus on what you want

The natural tendency is for people to think about what they don’t want (i.e., I don’t want sweaty palms, I don’t want to be afraid of handling questions). As soon as that happens, there’s both a psychological and physiological reaction, and the brain and body start to remember that last time you were nervous and clammed up, and so begins the downward spiral of fear, worry and anxiety. Instead, focus on what you do want: such as to be calm, or to speak eloquently. Marilyn Devonish, event manager for 30 years

Breathe into your belly

When you feel anxious, you hold your breath or only breathe into the upper part of your chest. When you're relaxed, you breathe deeper into your belly. It’s possible to 'trick' your body into relaxing by breathing into your belly. To do it, simply place your hand on your belly button, and focus on making your hand move in and out as you breathe. Toku McCree, former Zen monk

Use mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation trains your mind to stay in the present. Practice by taking an object, such as your breath or an item in the room, and continually return your awareness to that object. Your mind may wander to the presentation coming up in two weeks, or your forgetting to move out the trash yesterday — but in both cases, the goal is to redirect awareness to your breath. The result of that process is relaxation and a reduction in worry.Alex Fergus, health researcher and science writer

Sing a favorite song

When under pressure, such as before a presentation or a meeting, I often go to the restroom, look in the mirror and sing my favorite song to myself. It helps me calm down and the lyrics get me motivated. — William Taylor, career development manager, MintResume

Zoom in and out

Hone in on your senses in the present moment, and zoom out from your automatic, racing thoughts. Let's say you're sitting at your desk, anxious about an upcoming event. Pause and notice each one of your senses: What colors do you see around you? What sounds can you hear in the office? Is there a subtle taste in your mouth? What does the chair feel like under your seat? What about the fabric of your clothing on your skin? Run through two rounds of each of your senses, and you'll feel better in no time. Alexis Rockley, career coach and author

Ground yourself in the moment

Open up your peripheral vision, or your awareness all the way left and all the way right at the same time. While you do this, take a deep breath in and remind yourself that you are here now. When you open up your peripheral, this takes you out of your head (where the pressure is) and into the present moment. Andrew Alexander, author

Channel your inner lion

A technique that is applauded by national public speakers is called lion’s breath. This is where you do a full inhalation, then a sharp full exhale; the sound of the exhale should be sharp and loud from the mouth, while extending the tongue from the mouth and eyes large.  It is a very exaggerated motion that sends blood to the facial nerves and brain — doing three or four lion’s breath exhales creates an almost intoxicating effect. ­ Stephanie Wijkstrom, psychotherapist

Practice positive visualization

You are where your mind is. Instead of focusing on the worst-case scenario, use the power of imagination to visualize how everything is going to come together, how calm you feel when everything goes smoothly, and how you will remove any roadblocks with ease. This not only puts your mind in the right place to work effectively under pressure, but allows you to react favorably to situations before they even occur. — Adina Mahalli, certified mental health consultant at Maple Holistics

Play scientist with your thoughts

When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, ask yourself questions stemming from this one: “Where is the evidence?” For example, where’s the evidence that people will reject me or laugh at me? Or that my value as a human depends on my performance at today’s event? Or that this event should be easier than it has been so far? Or that you cannot change your circumstances? 

Yes, every event would be better if you always behaved in the manner you aspired to, and if everyone treated you fairly, kindly and nicely. Events would be happier if they had fewer obstacles, trials or tribulations — but they don’t. So instead, continue the line of questioning: Where’s the evidence that you behaved in a manner that was effective and kind? Or evidence that with all of the hard knocks of the job, there are many things to be grateful for in your career? Make a forceful argument that is evidence based, and see if it helps you to reduce the panic and fear. Ross Grossman, president of a live event staffing company and a licensed psychotherapist


Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Reach out on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn — we'd love to hear from you!

Add new comment

Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.