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5 Proven Unconventional Strategies To Make Your Mind Peaceful Again

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5 Proven Unconventional Strategies To Make Your Mind Peaceful Again

Think of a time where you felt overwhelmed. I’m sure it wasn’t long ago. Maybe it was while you were at work and your boss started to rip on you for messing up a project . . . Or maybe worry started to creep and snowballed while you were at home making dinner for the family.

Regardless of where or when it takes place, losing your peace of mind and venturing deeper into anxiety causes the same physiological response: activation of the fight or flight response.

Your eyes dilate and you become more agitated. As you become more agitated, your heart beats faster and your breathing increases. Your mind and your body are being ”revved out” to the max as if there was an external threat.

Eventually if you cannot return to a peaceful state, you will crash into burnt out state.

So how do we avoid this? Should we follow the same tired old advice that is copy and pasted all over the internet like:

  • Just turn your mind off and relax!
  • Think positive?
  • “Just be?”

If we could actually do all of the above we would be Zen and peaceful all the time. The truth is this advice is vague and misleading. There is no such thing as turning your mind off while being alive.  You think all the time, even when you are asleep you are still thinking!  And even when we are not consciously aware of our thinking, our subconscious mind is busy thinking by processing information.

Think positive?  How do we actually do that? Should we jump up in the air and shout hurray? Maybe, but the techniques below to think positive are much more effective.

Just be?  Have you ever asked someone what was wrong and they said “NOTHING” in a problematic tone?  You knew they were pissed off and trying to hide it.  If you keep asking them what’s wrong they just might blow a head gasket.

Research indicates that trying to suppress negative thoughts is far more likely to increase misery than create a clear mind. In the 1980’s, Harvard psychologist Daniel Wegner conducted an experiment proposing students NOT to think about a white Polar Bear by suppressing the thought. Everyone was then asked to ring a bell every time the white bear came to mind. The result of the experiment? Daniel Wagner thought the cows were coming home because the bells never stopped ringing!

Attempting to suppress certain thoughts makes people obsess even more on the very topic they are trying to avoid.

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So if most conventional tips don’t work, what does? Here are 5 strategies you can implement today to keep your peace of mind.

1.  Write Your Heart Out 

If we had a nickel for every time we worried we’d be rich. All of us experience chaos, setbacks, hardships, life problems and anxiety. Perhaps you just went through a long term breakup, are experiencing conflict at work or are in danger of losing your job or maybe all three!

In the book The Writing Cure studies indicate that expressive writing resulted in a remarkable boost in psychological and physical well-being, including a reduction in health problems and an increase in self esteem and happiness.

Common sense and habit lead us to try and share our pain with others by talking it out with a buddy. This does have some effect, but not nearly as much as expressive writing, especially in the long term.

Why does expressive writing work as opposed to sharing your pain with others?  

The brain functions very differently to produce thoughts, speech and writing.  Thinking is the most unstructured and chaotic followed by speaking and then writing. While thinking, your thoughts jump all over the place, from one topic to another topic without much connection. Speaking is more logically connected and writing is the most structured and takes the most work. . . trust me. I’m struggling right now to write this article.

While I’m writing, my brain is working hard to string together letters into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into ideas!  Because of the reasoning, logic and more concrete structure, we are forced to think and make sense of what happened.

This structured sequence of logic and reasoning will help you solve your problems in addition to expressing your feelings in a way that makes sense.

The whole process of writing brings a tremendous peace of mind.

So if life gives you lemons and you want lemonade, reflect on it. Spend a few minutes each day writing a diary type account of you deepest thoughts and feelings about it.

2.  Name that state 

Like I said earlier, suppressing emotion causes more problems than good. The opposite of suppressing emotion is to acknowledge it and let it out. I don’t mean letting it out in a destructive smashing pumpkins kind of way, I mean letting it out by calling attention to it.

One way to let out an emotion is to cry but, most of us don’t have that option. Another way is to use just a few words to describe an emotion.

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An example would be saying to yourself out-loud, “I feel anxiety creeping in,” or “ All this new information is overwhelming.” Try to use simple terms and not to over elaborate. Opening up a full dialogue about an emotion will increase it, making it worse. The trick is to catch yourself during the onset and label it before you are consumed by its intensity.

Oddly enough people that were surveyed predicted that labeling emotions would make their emotions worse.  In 2005 Neuroscientist Matthew Lieberman, Associate Professor of cognitive neuroscience at UCLA proved with FMRI brain scans that labeling arising emotions significantly reduces activity in the brain associated with fear called the amygdala.

3. Tear it down and RE-FRAME it

If your emotional state has drifted too far past the point for labeling to work, re-framing will work. Re-framing has a stronger calming effect to bring you peace of mind but it takes more brainpower.

I’m sure you’ve heard of aphorisms like, “there’s a silver lining in every dark cloud” or “turning lemons into lemonade.” These are all examples of re-framing.

Reframing is essentially controlling your interpretation of the meaning of the situation.

Our emotional responses flow out of our interpretations of the world, if we can shift those interpretations, we can shift our emotional responses.

Here are a few techniques

4. Normalizing

Suppose you were having a routine vaccination done at the hospital. As you sit down, the doctor pulls out a needle and injects the upper part of your leg without saying anything. He then quickly leaves the room without saying a word but laughs.

After a minute, your leg starts tingling and loses feeling.

At this point you are probably in FULL panic mode!

Now suppose the same thing happened, but the doctor told you exactly what was going to happen. Suppose he said, “after I inject you it’s NORMAL for it to start tingling and lose feeling for about 30 seconds.”

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Not as bad, ehhh?  That’s because it is normal and you know what to expect. This kind of re-framing is called normalizing.

Here are some facts to make a few things seem normal:

It’s normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed the first time you start a new task, job or endeavor.

It’s normal to fail at something over and over until you achieve your final goal.

It’s normal to feel embarrassed when you make mistakes at work.

It’s normal to feel overwhelmed and challenged when raising children.

It’s normal to procrastinate by surfing the internet and reading articles like these.

Find out if what you are going through is normal.

Just knowing that it is normal is proven to bring you peace of mind.

5.  Time Frame

Just like you, I rush in the morning to get out the door by a certain time to make it work. Sometimes I take a little too long to eat breakfast and I end up in a mad dash to try and get to work on time. Sometimes in this mad dash I literally run around the house and I’ll do things like skip packing lunch and brush my teeth real quick just to save 2.333 minutes.

It seems trivial now, because the time frame is completely different. The fact that I have to be at work within a certain time makes 2.33 minutes seem like an eternity, but within a day or week it’s trivial.

Think about this and slow down next time you feel panicked because of time.

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Expanding the time frame you view your problem in will bring you peace of mind.

An experience can be viewed as “terrible” within the time frame of a week, but within the time frame of a few years or a lifetime, the event will seem trivial.

”Why am I rushing?  I have plenty of time to brush my teeth and pack my lunch, 5 extra minutes is nothing over the course of the day.”

“In a week from now I won’t even remember this, and neither will anyone else, why am I so worried?”

“I will be working for the rest of my life until I’m 65, what’s wrong with taking a sick day to spend more time with my kids, maybe I should take a year off?”

”I’m going to spend the extra time to do it right because it will pay off in the long run!”

If you don’t use it you lose it

So there you have it, a few unconventional strategies that will bring you peace of mind. Of course these strategies will not help if you just skimmed over the article and “keep that in mind.” You have to apply it, over and over again until it become ingrained in you. My suggestion is to take just one and apply it throughout the day for a week or two, then another one the week after.

There are plenty more, enough for a part 2 and maybe a part 3 so stay in touch, but for now, less is more. Implement what you know and make it a part of you!

To sum it up.

  • Name that state:  Call attention to your emotions as soon as they start to arise to express it.
  • Write your heart out:  Write a detailed account of what happened and what you will do to solve it.
  • Control your interpretation of the events (Re-frame)
  • Normalize it: Is that normal?
  • Time frame: What time frame are you referring to?

Featured photo credit: Girl Feeling Free / Photo by: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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

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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