You know the feeling…sweaty palms, your heart beating out of your chest, restlessness; relax, you are not alone! According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, you are like the 40 million adults in the United States who struggle with anxiety, which happens to be the most common mental illness in the United States. I am part of the population who suffers from anxiety, so I can relate to you. So how do you get rid of it? Unfortunately, you can’t wish it away, but I can introduce to you some tips that will reduce your anxiety and help prepare you for your big speech day.
1) Breathing Exercises– While you are anxiously awaiting your turn to speak, close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. The key to proper deep breathing is to breathe through your stomach, not just your chest. Slowly inhale through your nose for 5 seconds, extending your stomach outward and letting it fill completely with air. Then hold your breath for 3 seconds and exhale through your mouth for 5 seconds. Repeat for 5-10 breathes or until you feel relaxed and less anxious. According to a blog by OB/GYN Marcelle Pick, your body is designed to release 70% of its toxins through breathing. When you exhale air from your body you release carbon dioxide that has been passed through from your bloodstream into your lungs. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste of your body’s metabolism. Deep breathing is the fastest way to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, which is the body’s relaxation response.
2) Physical Exercise and Yoga- Regular exercise has been proven to help reduce anxiety. If you are not an avid exerciser, I recommend you get started well before your speech day. As the Mayo Clinic states, exercising releases feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins) that may ease anxiety, reduces immune system chemicals that can worsen anxiety, and increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. Yoga is my personal favorite for reducing anxiety because your mind naturally calms when you focus on your poses and deep breathing. By exercising, you gain a positive feeling that you are taking steps towards improving your physical and mental health, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety.
3) Meditation– Meditation is a mental exercise that calms the mind and promotes deep breathing. According to a Psychology Today article, Neuroscientists have found that people who meditate shift their brain activity to different areas of the cortex. Brain waves in the stress-prone right frontal cortex move to the calmer left frontal cortex. This mental shift decreases the negative effects of stress, mild depression, and anxiety. There is also less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear. My morning meditations have really helped reduce my anxiety. I sit in a quiet space, breath deeply, and think positive thoughts, focusing on what I’m grateful for. Doing this reduces my anxiety about future events because I practice staying in the moment. The following is a video that helps visualize breathing and shows you how to meditate in a moment:
4) Journaling- If you feel anxious or upset, write down your thoughts in a journal or diary. When I feel anxious, it helps me to get it all out of my system on paper. That way I can remove the cluttered thoughts from my head and have them in front of me to review. Often, I can see that I am not being rational and a lot of my fears and anxieties are “all in my head.” I can talk myself out of my anxious or negative thoughts and realize they are only fear based. It would be helpful to do this while you are waiting for your turn to speak.
I hope these tips can be a helpful way for you to be prepared before your next speech, and most importantly, reduce your anxiety. You can follow this link for more information on anxiety and ways to reduce it:
Megan Reeves is a Professional Writing student at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. She is majoring in Behavioral Healthcare and minoring in Business Administration.