“Anxiety is any time you leave the present.”
— Fritz Perls
Here’s a quick way to stop feeling anxious about speaking in public.
Stop thinking about it.
That’s right. Just stop thinking about the fact that you’re going to be speaking. Stop worrying and anticipating and fretting over how you’ll do, what you’ll say, whether you’ll blank out.
Easier said than done, right?
When we have a big event coming up, like a chance to speak in public, our minds love go into overdrive with ideas, planning and preparation. But all this thinking turns ugly when the mind starts to bombard us with worry, threats and insults, such as “You dufus! You’ll never make a good impression. You’re sure to forget what you’re supposed to say…” and on and on it goes.
These are the kinds of thoughts that can cause massive amounts of anxiety.
Anxiety, as Fritz Perls eluded to in his quote above, is fear about something that is not happening now and has not happened yet. It’s the fear of something imaginary, really. Something we experience in our minds only.
So, how can you release your feelings of anxiety?
Bring yourself back to the present, right here, right now. Let go of all the “what-if’s” and be here now. Here are three tools to help you come back into the present.
The breath is your best friend when you are anxious. Not only because the very act of breathing deeply calms and centers your nervous system but because it is a reliable point of focus. If you can bring your full focus to your breath, allowing yourself to simply be aware of the breath moves in and out of your body, you can come back to the present moment.
People who meditate know how to do this, and you can, too. Just bring your attention to the sensations of breathing. Feel the air enter your nostrils. Feel your belly expand with the inhalation and then let go with the exhalation. Just be with the sensations of breathing and you will start to feel centered, calm and at peace. Even if thoughts of doom and gloom start to enter your mind, just refocus on the sensations of breath.
Place your hand on the desk or table in front of you. Let your full attention be with the sensation of your hand on the table. You’re just noticing what your hand feels as it touches the table. That’s all.
You can do this with any part of your body. Feel your butt on the chair, your feet on the floor. The important thing is to just be with one point of contact. Let your attention be with just this much. Just the hand on the table. Just the butt on the chair.
So often when we are waiting to speak, we are thinking about what we are going to say or do. We are, once again, in the future.
Listen to what is present now. If your refrigerator is humming, let yourself be with that sound and take it in. When you are being introduced before you speak, really listen to the person introducing you. Let go of everything except your intention to listen. This will bring you smack dab into the present.
Sure, your mind might start shouting at you, “Hey, you better remember this, and don’t forget that.” Just bring your attention back to what is present now.
All your power is in the present, now. So bring yourself back to your powerful present by focusing on your breath, your touch and listening.