Article by Ciara O’Neill, a Cisco Apprentice who is currently working with the Pavelka team as part of her apprenticeship.

Anyone can feel panic. You don’t have to be a young woman trying to find her way in a world of adults to experience anxiety – but I am one, and I do. This time, the difference was that I enjoyed it. So, what was it about last week’s feeling of panic that had a happy ending?

It was on an innocent Thursday that there I was at the train station on a busy morning. I was straight into the world of adults as they all rushed in straight lines, head down to their purposeful destination, while I was more like Simba, surrounded by galloping wildebeest pounding forth. As I was swept along, I fumbled clumsily with my train ticket. Just how many pockets did I have? After I’d finally clutched it like I’d found Willy Wonka’s golden ticket, I faced up to the ticket machine gate. I put the ticket in. Obviously, it didn’t work.

My ticket popped back out and there I was, stuck at the very front of the queue, blocking the way with a large suitcase, panicking. Sweating. I desperately tried the ticket one more time, feeling the glare of the frustrated crowd waiting behind me, but again, the doors stayed firmly shut.

I looked to find the ticket man, but of course he was manning the machine furthest from me. Preparing myself to cut across the stampede, I felt the prickle of anxiety creep up my neck. I took a deep breath, muttered ‘excuse me’ – but then ended up making panicked eye contact with the man on the machine next to me. The stress on his face was undeniably that of someone who had the same fate as myself… stuck. The relief gained once making eye contact and realising that we were in it together was so great that we burst out laughing.

That simple moment of connection was all we needed to confidently navigate our way through the mass of people, toward the ticket man, who finally let us through. We joked the whole way to the train before getting into our separate coaches, but that moment of connection has stayed with me.

The feeling of panic and anxiety also occasionally sneaks its way into my work life. I was on the train to meet my new team in person for the first time. Even though I was excited, in my mind there was a lot to be nervous about. After two years of work isolation, the thought of meeting a team I had only been working in for 2 months, who all knew each other and were very close knit, as well as travelling to a place I had never been to before via a train, which is always stressful, regardless of the situation, seemed a bit overwhelming.

Walking towards the doors of the meeting room I’d be spending the next two days in, I began to take some deep breaths and braced myself. I was one of the first to arrive and immediately a moment of overthinking fogged my mind, as if I was back in college… where would I sit? Too close to the front may seem overly eager, but too far back may reflect passiveness. Thankfully my monkey mind was quickly quieted as I was embraced in welcoming hugs by the team.

After strategically selecting a seat midway along the table, the meeting began. I kept noticing myself trying to understand the team dynamics before allowing myself to speak or voice my opinion. What if I said something stupid, or something so blazingly obvious to the room full of industry experts that I completely disrupted their flow?

I knew a feeling of imposter syndrome was getting the better of me, but then I remembered the train ticket moment. I knew connecting with the team would be the only way for me to feel more comfortable and trusting. So, even though my nerves were still simmering, I pushed myself to keep voicing my ideas and opinions and found that in-depth conversations would always follow the points I raised.

I’m so grateful I joined the Pavelka team as part of the Cisco Degree-Apprenticeship. I completely stand by their message of incorporating The Four Elements (Eat Sweat Think Connect) in order to live your best and most fulfilling life. As with my train ticket moment and focusing on Pavelka’s Connect Element, I find the more we connect, the less our minds go into an anxious overdrive. Over the past two years especially, we have all really missed out on these small moments of connection with others. Therefore, I’ve decided that I’m really going to focus on ensuring I make connection a priority inside and outside of work.

I may not be able to beat the British Rail ticket machines, but with the power of connection I feel like I can beat anxiety when it threatens to hold me back.

About the Author

Pavelka offers a suite of accessible tools and proven techniques to help support the wellbeing of leaders, teams and individuals – in the workplace and at home.

Jessie Pavelka is CEO & Co-founder of Pavelka Limited.

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