A simple solution for meltdown
Often when I travel, it’s to give speeches and workshops. Last week, I was in the audience for a change, attending a conference by speakers for speakers.
I like going to conferences—the stimulation, the connection. But it’s also exhausting and draining. All those ideas crammed into my head for days in a row. All that intensive notetaking. All the small talk. After a couple of days I melt down—hyper and spacy at the same time, overcaffeinated, overstuffed, worried about whether I’m getting everything I came for, and incapable of articulating a coherent sentence.
I tried something different this time, something I took away from the Wisdom 2.0 Conference last February. At that conference last winter, I was surprised that I didn’t go into Conference Burnout, and that I was able to relax and enjoy the experience more than I typically do. One reason is that, every day, everyone in the general sessions spent a few minutes sitting in silence. OK, this was unusual! — maybe not for the mindfulness community, but certainly for a conference setting. I found myself letting go a bit of my standard fretting over what semi-famous people I must try to connect with, what action points I must act on. I was able to let things unfold. I even offered, and led, a spontaneous breakout session on one of my workshop topics.
So a few times at last week’s conference, when I felt meltdown approaching, I just paused. Wherever I was—standing by the coffee bar, sitting in a meeting room waiting for the next speaker—I closed my eyes and took a few slow breaths.
It worked. I got my brain and body back.
I had some minor concerns about whether this looked weird. It seemed like the majority of people didn’t notice—they were too busy running around being hyperstimulated themselves. Invariably, though, after a minute or two, somebody would come over and say, “Oh, meditating, eh?” or “Having a quiet moment?” At that point, part of my mind would wonder, “Huh, what would make a person interpret closed eyes as an invitation to come over and chat?” A bigger part of me was receptive and found it kind of cute. Maybe they were looking for a little vicarious calmness. Maybe they were just curious about this unexpected behavior. I rolled with it and had some pleasant, quiet conversations—more testament to the benefits of breathing.