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8 Effective Ways To Defeat Terrible Stress

8 Effective Ways To Defeat Terrible Stress
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Stress is a fickle entity. Without it, we wouldn’t feel the push to move forward in life. Too much of it, and we hit a brick wall. It’s important that we notice the warning signs telling us we’ve become much too stressed out, and take steps to alleviate the pressure building up inside of us.

1. Vent to a friend

Sometimes, you just need to let off some steam. If you choose this outlet, it’s best to find a trustworthy individual who can give you some actionable advice. Of course, you might not even need advice, and just want to share some horror story from work so a friend can commiserate with you. That’s perfectly fine once in a while, but make sure you don’t become “that friend” who constantly dumps his own burden on everyone else. Telling the story of your awful day for comedic relief is one thing, but being a complainer is a whole different story.

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2. Get lost in a book

After a stressful day, it’s tempting to come home, turn on the TV, and veg out for the night. The problem with this is watching television is a passive action. You’ll most likely end up stewing about your awful day for the rest of the evening anyway. Picking up a book will allow you to relax your body, while keeping your mind actively engaged in something completely unrelated to the terrible day you just had. Depending on what book you chose, you might gain some perspective throughout your reading session. You never know, you might realize your day wasn’t all that bad in the first place.

3. Write in a journal

Growing up, I never realized how helpful and therapeutic writing could be. Since I started writing for Lifehack a few months ago, I’ve realized that I completely wasted a large amount of my life stressing out about things and thinking in circles, when I could have been writing my ideas and feelings out on paper (or a computer screen, at least) to make sense of them. Writing a bunch of self-help articles for others to learn from has (ironically) taught me a ton about how I can help myself. Truthfully, I’ve never felt as active as I currently feel. I really do believe it comes from the enormous amount of writing I’ve undertaken in the past year.

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4. Exercise

Again, I know after a tough day at the office you just want to get home to your comfort zone. However, hitting the gym for a quick bike session can do wonders for your emotional and physical health. It’s pretty obvious that working out has physical benefits, but it’s incredibly surprising how much better you’ll feel mentally after taking an hour after work to push yourself even farther. Then, when you’re back at home, you’ll most likely find you’re too exhausted to be upset anymore!

5. Meditate

Try to remember the last time you were somewhere that was completely removed from all other stimuli. You probably can’t — and that’s okay. Honestly, today’s world is so busy that it’s almost impossible to find time to simply exist without a phone ringing, or a car alarm going off, or something to interrupt your moment of relaxation. Because of this, we must actively find time to remove ourselves from the world, sit quietly, and spend time in deep thought. Doing so will help clear our minds and find solutions to the problems we’ve been facing, so we can start the next day without carrying baggage over from the day before.

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6. Unplug

This goes along with meditation. The days of working 9-5 are all but finished, as our phones and computers keep us constantly plugged into our careers. Our phone beeps with an email from the boss at 7:00 PM, and that keeps us from enjoying our family dinner. A colleague texts you at 9:00 at night to tell you he’s calling in the next day, so you spend the rest of the night stressing out about all the slack you’ll have to pick up tomorrow. Try this: turn off your phone. Don’t check your email. If you’re not contractually obligated to do work outside of your normal hours — don’t. You’ll find you have much more time on your hands than you thought you did to do the things you enjoy.

7. Eat healthier

Ditch the typical comfort foods, such as ice cream and cookies, and begin eating foods that will benefit you in the long run. The vitamins found in fruits and vegetables, and the protein found in other wholesome foods will make you feel better physically, which in turn will improve your mental state as well. You don’t have to suffer, either. There are plenty of ways to make healthy foods taste amazing. Put in the effort to find alternatives to the usual junk food full of sugars and fats that would otherwise be your go-to snacks. Your body will thank you.

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8. Reward yourself

Be kind to yourself, and give yourself a treat every once in a while. Everything is okay in moderation. So once in a while, throw all this other advice out the window. Binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Lose track of time playing video-games like you used to as a kid. Go eat a banana split… No, eat two! You’re a hard-working adult, and you deserve to indulge yourself in some less-than-healthy activities every once in a while. Like I said, be careful to not overindulge, or you risk getting caught in a vicious cycle which will only serve to exacerbate your stress level.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm7.staticflickr.com

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Matt Duczeminski

A passionate writer who shares lifestlye tips on Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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