I did it again!
My anxiety was overwhelming me and I cleared my throat in the middle of a sentence.
As I swallowed the audience waited patiently. Then I continued, but I was off my rhythm.
I stumbled to regain my composure. It never came back.
I finished up my presentation and sat down. Once my heart stopped racing I started beating myself up.
I asked myself:
“Why couldn't I do better?”
“Why does my anxiety attack me?
“Why do I even try?”
These were terrible questions so I paused, went to the bathroom and did the Pulse Breath Technique to calm myself down. It worked. Then I asked myself better questions to help reframe the situation:
“What did I learn from my presentation?”
“What could I do a little better next time?”
“What am I grateful for about the situation?”
The audience seemed to like it. They at least didn’t throw their hot coffee at me.
Public speaking has gotten easier for me after practicing at Toastmasters and volunteering for every presentation I could at work and in my community, but my anxiety still flares up. My palms sweat and sometimes my anxiety overwhelms me during an important presentation.
Many of my clients come to me with similar situations. They want someone who has been through the struggle just like them. They could read my book or my articles, but to have someone walk them through it and explain what is going on inside of them really helps deepen the experience and, allows them to process it a little better.
The simple act of noticing when you get stressed or feel overwhelmed is so important. This is the biggest hurdle. Many of us are taught to ignore stress. We don’t give it the attention it deserves because it makes us uncomfortable.
“One simple mindset reset that can help us face and find the good in the stress in our lives is to view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. The ability to learn from stress is built into the basic biology of the stress response. For several hours after you have a strong stress response, the brain is rewiring itself to remember and learn from the experience. Stress leaves an imprint on your brain that prepares you to handle similar stress the next time you encounter it. Psychologists call the process of learning and growing from a difficult experience stress inoculation. Going through the experience gives your brain and body a stress vaccine.” - Kelly McGonigal, Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education
We have to retrain our synapses by noticing what is going on inside of us, so that we can appreciate and learn from our feelings.
Once you notice these feelings then you can practice appreciating them.
Know that everything will be ok. Sometimes it takes time to process and adjust to a situation.
When you take the time to appreciate the moment, you will slow down enough to reframe how you view a situation. So when I came back to the meeting, I silently thanked everyone for being there and reminded myself that I’m human and I’m far from perfect.
I appreciated that the presentation showed me that I let myself get a little over confident. I should have done a few run-throughs so I would have felt comfortable with my presentation.
The voice inside our head determines much of our happiness. If we support ourselves and have strong beliefs that come from a good place then we can have an encouraging dialog that helps us reach new heights.
Next time you go into a stressful situation, ask yourself good questions (try the Gratitude Quiz) vs weakening ones.
- When have I handled a stressful moment?
- What was the moment?
- What did I do well in that moment?
Know that you have handled a stressful situation in the past and it will help you understand that you can handle the upcoming situation too.
As I was driving home I thought about how I handled the moment. I listed three things I was grateful for in that moment. I felt so much better because I had a system that supported me. It’s still not perfect, but I’ve grown from my stress instead of allowing it to push me around.
When you look back and realize that there was a lot to savor in that moment it can help you learn and grow from it.
I learned that I was able to calm down. In the past I’ve had panic attacks while speaking and I had to stop talking and leave the room. I was so embarrassed, but now I know I can recover and finish my presentation.
My Challenge to You
I challenge you to keep an awareness journal for 30 days. An awareness journal is a great place to go a little deeper into your thoughts and feelings to find new ways to grow without being too self critical.
When you notice the “what” and “how”, you will begin to understand that your view of the situation causes your body to react the way that it does.
- What is happening?
- How am I reacting to it?
The more aware you are of your stressful thoughts and feelings, the more you can reframe how you process them. This will help you reframe a stressful situation in a more positive way. It’s all in how you view a situation.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” - Viktor E. Frankl
Your stress is only as bad as you make it. I know this sounds cliche, but it’s true. You have the power to turn any stressful situation into a positive one with a lot of practice. That’s why an awareness journal is so powerful. It helps you see a stressful situation from different perspectives, which helps you step back and not let your emotions dictate your choices and happiness. When you are able do this, you create emotional separation from the situation so you can make the choice to continue to go after what you truly desire.
Photo by pine watt