The Science and Psychology of Conquering Speech Anxiety

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Does public speaking make your heart race? Do you feel like fainting whenever you think of how near the days are before addressing a huge crowd? Does your gut twist and turn to the point of vomiting? And amidst all these, is your mind on the brink of exploding by rehearsing different scenarios of how you can mess it all up?

These symptoms that you are experiencing is medically coined as, “Glossophobia” or what is commonly known as stage fright. It is that anxious, panicky condition you feel when you are about to go on stage and give a speech. According to Robert Allison, MA, LP, “When anxiety is at it’s worst and reaches the level of panic it can be debilitating and feel paralyzing. Your mind gets a little too suspicious. Suspicious of what might happen, what could happen, suspicious of other people.”

 

What’s causing speech anxiety?

Fear of society. Fear of what people might think. Fear of saying something that people might misinterpret and judge. Fear of saying something that’s entirely against your audience’s belief.

Speech anxiety comes from a place of self-doubt and low self-esteem. According to a study made, almost 30% of Americans are terrified of public speaking. And because our modern society has created an environment where actual interaction physically takes place through a bunch of posts and tweets, speech anxiety tends to heighten.

 

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It’s not as uncommon as you think. However, you have to remember that you don’t have to be stuck in that hole for the rest of your life; especially if your line of work depended on conversing publicly with some people.

 

How can I get rid of my anxiety?

Yes, it can be quite terrifying…at first. However, it becomes less and less foreboding once you get used to the system. Overcoming speech anxiety is a process that requires a lot a positive mind and an able spirit. Here are some of the baby steps that you can do to conquer of fear of public speaking finally.

 

  1. Relax and breathe

According to Marla W. Deibler, PsyD, “Deep breathing encourages our body’s relaxation response. Other calming and stress-reducing activities include progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, Tai chi and yoga.” Breathing exercises help you relax and soothe your nerves. This technique also strengthens your voice, adding authority and confidence. Deep breathing for a couple of minutes keeps you centered thereby preventing any unnecessary talk that can make you lose your poise and credibility. Before going up on stage or standing behind the podium, before those critical minutes of your introduction, close your eyes, shut down the background noise, then do deep breathing for five times.

 

  1. Practice

Anxiety comes and goes, especially when it is triggered. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be managed. Keep in mind that public speaking is not something you were born with. It’s a specialized skill that has to be honed. There is no such thing as being “born with it.” That said, though you may not exhibit the skill now, through constant practice, you will be able to learn how to ease your speech anxiety. If you already have a speech made, make a plan of practicing the entire speech days before the event. You can practice in front of a small number of people like family or friends. Some even practice in front of their pets. Do whatever it takes.

 

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  1. Think positive thoughts

“People with social anxiety disorder experience anxiety when faced with social situations. They do not believe their anxiety is related to an illness or disease, yet have little control over their fear of social interactions,” says Charmaine J. Simmons, LPC. It’s such a predicament that when anxiety arises, the mind floods itself with negative thoughts. How in the world would you still think of something positive when your brain has already been wired to self-destruct? Re-define your anxiety. How is this done? Amidst the negative thoughts, find it in yourself to say something positive like, “This is a walk-in-the-park. I did what I have to do, and I am equipped with the tools I need.” Turn that anxiety into excitement rather than calming yourself down.