Conferences are the perfect place for introverts like me to get stressed out. Who to sit with? What workshop to attend? Of course there’s that darn agent/editor appointment, or, in my case, the stress of learning if I won the contest I entered. However, being stressed out isn’t a bad thing, and in fact, can be quite helpful.
We’ve all heard that stress makes you more susceptible to things like the common cold, cardiovascular disease, and infection. But did you know that if you think of stress as something helpful, rather than hurtful, you can potentially improve your health and possibly even increase your life span? Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal reveals in her TED Talk that increasing your personal connections, either by reaching out to others (“Excuse me, is that seat taken?”) or being available to others (“This seat is open if you’d like to sit down”), during times of stress can release hormones that help your body, not hurt it. So can regarding stress not as something stressful, but as your body’s preparation for something new and exciting. Consider the stress response (increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shallow breath) not as your body’s reaction to fear, but your body’s way of preparing for something momentous (akin to becoming “battle-ready”). Doing so can actually make your body and mind work better.
So when you’re wandering around the convention hotel, stressed because you don’t know a soul or because of the agent/editor appointment you have in an hour, take a deep breath and tell yourself your body is prepping for the challenge. Reach out to someone and have a chat, even if you don’t know them. Stress makes you social, so don’t be afraid to talk to someone new. Most of all, embrace that stress is there to help you, not hurt you.