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Realizing you’re anxious only when it’s too late

In mid-January, I was invited to speak at a panel at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute, a conference for independent booksellers. Because I ended up funding my business through various atypical means, I sat with two others and talked to the audience about nontraditional business financing.

I was feeling a little run down the day of the panel, but not particularly worked up or nervous. My migraine had been teasing me off and on for a couple of days, but it hadn’t settled in and I hadn’t had to take any medications to control it. It just hung out on the periphery, letting me know it would jump in at any moment if I made the wrong move. So I drank plenty of water, made sure to eat well, and felt pretty sure I could keep it at bay.

While on the panel, which lasted for about 1.5 hours, I think I was well-prepared and didn’t have any major flubs. I was doing well and wasn’t sweaty-palmed or shaky. But as we got farther into our discussion, I noticed that my body temperature felt slightly elevated and that my neck was a little uncomfortable. By the time we wrapped things up a little before 6 PM, I felt decidedly worse. No headache or nausea, thankfully, but ill at ease and tense all the same.

About a week later, I went to a meeting of community organizers and, after speaking to the group a handful of times about my points of view, I could feel that same heat creeping up on me. By the time I walked out of the evening meeting, I felt really hot and my neck was achy again. A migraine was sneaking up on me just as it had tried to when I was at the booksellers conference

So what gives here? Is public speaking a trigger for me? I am guessing I should engage in some mindful meditation or light cardio before I next have to speak to a group. It’s feasible that I am continuing a pattern I had as a child and teenager, where I wasn’t aware I was stressed until I actually got ill with migraine. Does anyone out there have a story similar to this? Do you get nervous or anxious without being fully aware of it? If so, how do you cope with it?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Lyn Howell
    7 years ago

    I have anxiety, panic attacks, and aura without headache. Early symptoms of all three are similar and it is difficult to know which preventative meds to take. It is so frustrating. If I mistakenly take alprazolam for panic and it turns out to be an aura, I really suffer as I then become super drowsy and sleepy due to the effects of the alpraz. Any one else experience this?

  • Elaine Gross
    7 years ago

    Yes, I certainly do…. Yeesh, it feels like a hot flash coming on, and I feel like I’m losing it. Doesn’t take much stress anymore for anxiety to set in and migraine symptoms begin. Mindfulness is wonderful. Sometimes in the moment all I can do is just focus on my breathing, slowing it down, focusing on my in breath and then my out breath. I’ll also silently say to myself while breathing in “Breathing in I calm my body” and when breathing out “Breathing out I calm my mind”. It’s amazing to me how calming this is. If I’m really wacked out it takes a while.

  • Brad Harris
    7 years ago

    I would suggest getting a Urinary Pyrroles test done to see if your anxiety is draining your body of B6 and Zinc. The Bio-Center Laboratory is an “open lab” that does this testing on individuals without a doctor’s prescription.

  • Maria C. PantanoBourlotos
    7 years ago

    I suffer from Severe Chronic Migraines…………

  • Linda Barham Nabors
    7 years ago

    So glad to know someone else experiences the headache just hanging around waiting to blow up. It can make it very hard to know when to take meds. That seems to be why I have a daily headache, but Dr’s can’t understand.

  • Irmela's Velvet Touch
    7 years ago

    have you tried a massage, maybe put some lavender on some tissue in your bra for relaxation.

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