How to breathe your way out of the fear of speaking out
You can call it stage fright, performance anxiety or fear of presenting.
Whatever the label, if you suffer from it, your physical reaction will be much the same … your heart starts beating faster, your mouth dries and throat tightens. You might start trembling, get sweaty or feel nauseous. If it gets really bad then you literally can’t speak.
If you suffer from it then you will usually avoid speaking in public using any excuse you can think of. Don’t worry if you do … according to a Prezzi and Harris study, 20% of the 1000 business people asked, admitted to doing that too!
What’s happening is your body is getting ready to fight or flee. Your sympathetic nervous system is kicking in. However, when you are preparing to speak you don’t want to be ready to punch out or run … you want to be calm and able to concentrate on what you are doing rather than searching out the nearest exit.
In these moments you want your parasympathetic nervous system to take over and calm you down. Both systems react with automatic (subconscious) responses to the situation, so you need to trigger the “correct” response in the moment … and the best way to do that is to regulate your breathing.
There are lots of techniques that can do this but the one I have found most useful is ‘Seven-Eleven’ breathing. You can do it anywhere and no-one needs to be aware that what’s going on.
Breath in deeply through your nose for the count of seven and then out through your mouth to the count of eleven. If you can shut your eyes, that’s great, but the important thing is to concentrate on breathing … in for seven and out for eleven. After inhaling and exhaling three or four times you should find yourself starting to feel less panicked and calmer.
You will literally breathe your way out of the fear of speaking out!