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7 Ways To Stop Yourself From Being A Slave to Your Emotions

7 Ways To Stop Yourself From Being A Slave to Your Emotions
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Emotions have a lot to do with our interpretation of an event. Emotional reasoning takes place when we assume something is true because of the way we feel, when in reality, the truth could be very different. While there is nothing wrong with noticing and recognizing your emotions, they also take us away from objective and neutral interpretations of life and can take us off on a tangent clouded with feeling. It can be difficult to learn how to control emotions and not let yourself be affected by others that are emotional around you. If you find that you react strongly to life with emotion, here are ways to be more rational and remove emotion before you take action:

1) Think of your emotions as part of your “map” not as part of the “territory”

Our thoughts lead us to feeling emotions. When we think positive thoughts we tend to experience positive emotions and when we think negative thoughts, we tend to experience negative emotions. Remind yourself that your thinking is your interpretation of an event and that is it never a direct experience that takes place. Our ‘map’ is the filter through which we look at the world. We all have different filters that have been shaped by our upbringings and what we have already learned about the world from our past life experiences. This means there will always be an element of emotional interpretation of the ‘territory’ (reality). Reminding ourselves that our thoughts and the ensuing emotions may not always be an accurate representation of what is really going on, it can make it easier to be less emotional.

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2) Stop and think before acting

Stop and wait for the emotional part of your brain to subside before taking action. The emotional part of our brain is almost always stronger than the rational part. Stopping for your rational brain to kick in is the wisest thing to do when you are feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Not only with it give you time to gather your thoughts, waiting to act may keep you safe from saying or doing something you regret.

3) Know where your weaknesses lie

Are there specific people or situations that tend to get an emotional reaction from you? When we know where our weaknesses lie we can be more prepared and aware. Keep regular tabs on your emotional levels by rating the intensity of you emotions from 1-10. When you reach 7 on the scale, use predetermined strategies to diffuse the emotional response. Some strategies you may want to employ include counting backwards from 100, deep breathing, or even removing yourself from the situation temporarily. So now all you need to know is — what are your personal triggers?

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4) Own your emotions

Take responsibility for your actions. We cannot control others but we can always control how we choose to respond to others. When we blame others for our emotional reactions we give ourselves a message that we are unable to decide for ourselves. Take back your control by learning to manage your emotions responsibly. Although you have heard it before, putting yourself in the shoes of the other person can go a long way. Remember, the other person has another set of life experiences, beliefs, upbringing, and culture which may not be the same as your own.

5) Learn to practice emotional detachment

You are not your emotions. As mentioned before, thoughts lead to emotions. A great tactic is to try  imagining thoughts as passengers on a bus. You are the driver on the bus and just as you put the key in the ignition, your passengers begin to tell you that you shouldn’t drive the bus as you are a terrible driver, that you may get them all lost or have an accident…oh and by the way, you’re looking really old and fat in that driver’s uniform. If you let the passenger rile you, they are in control and you aren’t. Learn to see your thoughts as passengers on a bus – tune them out and focus on the job at hand – driving. In most situations emotional detachment involves taking action without allowing all the thoughts in your head to constantly distract and upset you. Just remember, your emotions are passengers on a bus that can’t interfere with your job.

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6) Take time out

We all have a resting state-of-tension. Over time, if we don’t check in with ourselves or take a break,we can end up feeling quite tense and uptight for longer periods of time and the resting state-of-tension rises.. When we start to snap at others or burst into tears because we’ve run out of milk, it’s a sign that our resting state of tension is higher than it should be and that we need to take time out. Take a walk, get a change of scenery or do something relaxing to reset the tension level in your body.

Be aware of positive energy coming in to your life – that is, things or people that make you feel good and positive and take not of the negative energy in your life – those people or things that drain you emotionally – do your best to limit these. Ultimately, try to keep a balance so that there is always more positive energy in your life than negative energy. Too much negative energy will lead to stress and overreacting emotionally.

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7) Understand your emotions

Often, when we understand why we react to a situation in a certain way, it can help to lessen the impact of that situation on our senses. Being aware of the reasons behind your strong and intense emotions will help you to make sense of things and feel more in control. You may be triggered when a friend is late to a meeting or appointment because of past experiences which have nothing to do with your friend getting caught in traffic. Getting to the reasons behind your emotions will actually lead to a happier life.

We are emotional beings and emotions help us to feel alive and connected. Learn to embrace your emotions and to understand why they overrule you at times. When we take time out, relax, practice self-awareness and make sure we get enough positive feeling in our lives, we are on the right track to being in control of our emotions instead of the reverse.

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Featured photo credit: Robert Vitulano via flickr.com

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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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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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