How to overcome public speaking anxiety?
One of the major issues I work with is ‘How to overcome public speaking anxiety?’ This issue affects different people in different ways and I have come across so many manifestations of anxiety, it is something of a slippery fish. The good news is that help is at hand and anybody and everybody can move forward on their anxiety by understanding what’s happening (in their head).
First of all, it’s important to recognise the distinction between fear and anxiety.
Fear is a natural evolutionary process designed to save your life. If a hungry lion stalked down the corridor of your office, a good strategy would be to run, probably to the first room where you could lock yourself in safely.
If I were to tell you that a hungry lion might be walking through your office in the next few hours (and you don’t like the thought of this uncomfortable confrontation), it would be your thoughts creating the anxiety. You were not born with anxiety and therefore you can remove it equally with the power of thought.
I recently worked with a man who was telling me that he couldn’t sleep because of his anxiety of delivering a best man speech in six months time. As the event is six months off (and clearly hasn’t yet happened), we can be certain that the situation is being created in his thoughts moment to moment.
So anxiety is just thought. Anxiety is self-induced, it’s what we do to ourselves (and I have done this to myself many times, I am human after all).
The agitation associated with anxiety is your inner wisdom telling you to back away from that thinking. If you’re on a motorway and you get too close to the edge of the road, you’ll feel and hear your tyres on the rumble strips. The rumble strips are there to indicate that you’re getting too close, so take note and get back to the centre of the inside lane.
Your body has an inner wisdom or intelligence – let me explain. If you’re involved in an accident and seriously cut your hands, arms, head or back, your body’s intelligence will grow back the correct type of skin. It will send white blood cells to fight off infection and your skin will grow back in time. Your body is a self-correcting system, it is drawn to a natural equilibrium. A car is not a self-correcting system. When you have a puncture, that wheel isn’t going to fix itself. It requires external action.
Your mind too has an inner wisdom/intelligence. The agitation of anxiety is telling you to drop it. It is an indicator. So best drop it, because it is just a thought. Thoughts come and go, they are transient. When that anxious thought pops to the forefront of your mind, just accept that it is a thought, an electrical impulse, you don’t have to follow it or invest in it. Just let it go. Relinquish it. Notice how much easier it is to get on with your life without those unhelpful thoughts.
That’s how to overcome public speaking anxiety, all it takes is a thought.
So, can I invite you to leave a few comments here? Share with me your thoughts and concerns around anxiety and see where this discussion leads? Regards Vince