Managing Anxiety

Tools for Managing Situational Anxiety

Situational anxiety can be managed with deep breathing and by getting your blood flowing before you set foot on stage.

Learning Objectives

Use relaxation and warm-up techniques to mitigate the effects of anxiety

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Practice your speech early and often so that you are as familiar and comfortable as you can be with your wording.
  • Warm up your tongue and face by repeating tongue twisters as quickly, correctly, and articulately as you can.
  • Activate your body’s natural relaxation response by practicing some deep breathing to calm your nerves.

Key Terms

  • relaxation response: A collective term referring to how meditation induces a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that include changes in metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, and brain chemistry; coined by Dr. Herbert Benson in 1975.

Tools for Managing Situational Anxiety

A picture of two women in a yoga pose.

Managing Situational Anxiety: Taking a few deep breaths to trigger the relaxation response can help calm your nerves before presenting.

Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the biggest concerns people have about speaking publicly is how they’ll sound to others. The easiest way to overcome this is to practice your speech early and often. The more comfortable you become with the wording, the less you have to worry about in terms of delivery. Practice in front of a mirror or, better yet, record yourself. Think of all this practice as training camp for the big game. You will want to make note of and analyze things that might be distracting or awkward, often the result of situational anxiety.

Warming Up Before You Present

An effective way to shake off the pre-speech jitters is to fight fire with fire. You may already be feeling an increased heart rate and shortness of breath. Even brief physical activity can help you channel that nervous energy into a knockout performance for your speech. Get your endorphins firing by quickly jogging in place or bouncing on your toes or the balls or your feet.

You will also want to make sure your muscles are loose and limber, particularly those of your face and mouth. Try reciting some tongue twisters to loosen up your tongue and test your articulation. Gently massage your cheeks and jaw to relax your facial muscles.

Tap into the Relaxation Response

Dr. Herbert Benson described a series of physical responses you can use to calm the body down as the fear response ratchets the body up. The key to triggering the relaxation response involves activating the following elements:

  • Comfortable posture,
  • Using a mental device, such as thinking or saying a meaningful word or phrase,
  • A quiet environment,
  • Deep breathing and passive awareness.

Deep breathing is one of the keys to activating the relaxation response. A simple way to achieve this is to close your eyes and try to quiet your mind. Breathe in slowly and deeply for four heartbeats. Hold for a heartbeat or two and then slowly exhale for four heartbeats. Continue for twenty breaths, or until you feel yourself begin to calm down.

Tools for Managing Trait Anxiety

Trait anxiety can be managed well in advance through positive imagery and guided meditation.

Learning Objectives

List ways to combat fear of public speaking

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • If you’re worried about your speech being successful, try to envision it being a success.
  • Consider trying guided meditations on positive imagery well in advance of your speech, to help you build up your confidence early.
  • Even the best public speakers can have a bad day. If your nerves do get the best of you, simply do the best you can and accept your performance for what it is. There’s always next time.

Key Terms

  • meditation: a devotional exercise of, or leading to contemplation
  • trait anxiety: anxiety can be either a short term ‘state’ or a long term “trait. ” Trait anxiety reflects a stable tendency to respond with state anxiety in the anticipation of threatening situations.

Tools for Managing Trait Anxiety

A picture of a woman in a yoga pose. She has headphones on and is meditating.

Managing Trait Anxiety: Using guided meditation can help you work through your long-term fear of public speaking.

Envisioning Success

One of the biggest challenges for those dealing with trait anxiety is that their fear of public speaking may be a lifelong one. In order to confront and combat this long-term anxiety, you may find it necessary to engage in coping techniques well before you are scheduled to speak in front of a group.

One of the keys to managing long-term anxieties about public speaking is to envision success. Instead of constantly worrying about failure or ridicule when you speak, imagine instead that the crowd goes wild. Begin to replace those thoughts of doubt with thoughts of empowerment, success, and victory. Stop and ask yourself: what is it that you’re really afraid of? You might feel that if you have to get up in front of a crowd to speak, you might die. But really think about this: will you really die if you have to give a speech? Chances are, probably not. So rather than get caught up in the anxiety, channel that nervous energy into giving the most powerful delivery of your speech that you can.

Guided Meditation

If this is a particularly deep-seated fear, you might have trouble committing to a vision of success right away. Sometimes it’s helpful to prepare weeks and months in advance with a guided meditation, working you through key elements of envisioning success.

Guided meditation is a form of meditation where an individual is verbally guided into a beneficial state of consciousness, either by a person’s live voice or by a recording of a voice.

This process and practice of meditation requires an individual to follow verbal instructions that teach how to relax the entire body, clear the mind, concentrate on breathing, and focus one’s awareness and attention.

During meditation, one may choose to keep it simple by just sitting quietly every day for five to twenty minutes, or one may decide to fully explore the tremendous subtleties and depth for hours on end. What one chooses to explore when meditating all depends on the individual’s intentions, needs, and level of interest and passion.

When practiced regularly, the sacred state of consciousness that is achieved from meditating has the power to produce a variety of benefits to one’s self: reduced stress, increased energy and sensitivity, better mental and physical health, enhanced creativity and focus, a greater understanding of one’s self, and healing powers.

Meditation even has the power to change perspective by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. The benefit that is acquired after meditating is dependent on what the individual is specifically seeking guidance for. For example, if an individual were having trouble falling asleep, an effective drug-free solution would be to listen to a guided meditation for deep relaxation and sleep.

In the case of managing anxiety related to giving a speech, meditation might involve concentrating on positive imagery, so that the brain can become conditioned to becoming less and less anxious about the idea of public speaking.

One of the greatest aspects about guided meditation is that it is never without a purpose.

Accepting the Outcome

This can be incredibly hard to do, but sometimes, not every speech goes well. Sometimes your nerves just get the better of you. But like we asked before: did it kill you? Again: probably not. Sometimes you may have to the accept the outcome of your speech no matter how well or how poorly it may have turned out. There’s always next time and consider a less than stellar speech just practice for the next speech, making you stronger and more confident as a public speaker.