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20 Things People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder Wish You Could Understand

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20 Things People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder Wish You Could Understand

General anxiety disorder is an anxiety disorder that is categorized by persistent worrying. It differs from other anxiety disorders in that there is no specific cause of the anxiety, unlike social anxiety, for example. (Social anxiety is categorized by worry that impacts a person when they are in a social setting.)
People suffering from General Anxiety Disorder often experience symptoms that make daily activities difficult.

Here are a few things that people with General Anxiety Disorder want you to know so that you can better understand our struggle:

1. We can’t control when we get anxious

It’s a wave of worry that just overcomes us, sometimes when we least expect it. We try our best to push it down and continue to do what we are supposed to be doing, but sometimes it is too strong for us to control.

2. Forcing us into doing things doesn’t make the anxiety go away

When people force us into situations we feel anxious about, it actually makes the anxiety worse. When we feel anxious about a situation, we want to come to terms with our anxiety and make the decision to either go or back out. Being forced into a situation makes us feel trapped, which in turn makes us anxious and frustrated.

3. We feel really helpless when we start feeling anxious

Sometimes our anxiety shows up at the worst possible time. We may want to do certain things but our anxiety overtakes us and stops us from doing what we want to do. This leaves us feeling helpless. It also doesn’t help when people tell us that we should just go do what we want to do without letting things stop us, because it’s something that we can’t really control.

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4. We get anxious at the thought of being anxious

When we feel our anxiety coming along, that actually makes us more nervous. Anxiety has a way worsening at really inconvenient times. When we are in situations that require us to be at our best and our anxiety shows up, it actually makes us more anxious, which is not fun at all.

5. We can’t just push through it

There are times when we can push it down and try to focus our attention on other things. There are other times when it overcomes us and there is nothing we can do to stop it. When people tell us to push through, it makes us feel like it is our responsibility to try and overcome it when in reality we can’t always control our experience of the disorder.

6. We are often crippled by our anxiety

There are so many things we actually want to do and wish we could do, but we are stopped because of our anxiety. Contrary to what many people think, people with general anxiety disorder aren’t lazy. We are stopped from doing many things because our anxiety holds us back.

7. We are grateful when people try and accommodate our anxiety when making plans

When friends consider how we get anxious when making plans and they try to accommodate our anxiety, we really appreciate it. Friends who make sure there is a fixed plan and time, pick you up, and make sure you get home safe are the best.

8. We feel frustrated when we have to cancel plans

When our anxiety takes over and we have to back out of plans we have made, we feel really frustrated. We want you to understand that it’s not that we are flaky. We didn’t want to cancel, and doing so leaves us feeling very frustrated, and at times really depressed.

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9. We don’t like being asked if we wish we were normal

This is the worst thing you could possibly ask us. It makes us feel even more singled out and frustrated than we already do. When our anxiety is bad, and it holds us back we actually suffer a great deal. You asking us if we wished we were normal doesn’t help that at all.

10. We understand that our anxieties are irrational more often than not

We know when we worry about the things that we worry about, it often has no solid foundation. We know that sometimes it doesn’t make any sense. We appreciate it when you take the time to calm our anxieties down even when you know they are irrational.

11. When we feel anxious, our senses are heightened

When our anxiety starts, we feel things more intensely. Sounds are louder than they should be and we feel very hot. It makes it easier for us to calm down when we are in open spaces with fresh, cool air.

12. We often feel proud of ourselves for doing things

Things that may seem small and insignificant to you may be a big deal for us. When we do things like give presentations, or even get on a plane successfully, we feel really proud of ourselves. People don’t really understand how hard some of these things are for us. We feel happy when you acknowledge how hard it was and how we did do a big thing by carrying it out.

13. We can’t explain why our anxiety is triggered when we are in certain places

When you ask us why we feel this way or what happened to make us anxious, we can’t really give you a straight answer. When our anxiety comes, sometimes we have no idea what triggered it.

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14. Asking us to breathe and do calming exercises doesn’t work. So please stop.

Thank you for all your breathing techniques, but we have tried them all and they don’t work. Once the anxiety has started the breathing techniques don’t really help much. We prefer leaving the situation and going somewhere with fresh air. The thing that helps the most is going somewhere we feel comfortable to help us calm down.

15. Sometimes we just wake up with anxiety and there’s nothing we can do about it

There are times when we wake up in the morning feeling anxious and we know that we’ll be feeling that way the whole day. We like to lay low and do minimally stimulating things on days like this to lower the effects of the anxiety.

16. Caffeine is our worst enemy

Caffeine is the devil, in terms of making us feel even more jittery. However, this doesn’t stop many of us from drinking it, as we may need it to carry out daily activities. So, we  often have to deal with the nasty side effects of caffeine on our anxiety.

17. We are plagued by terrible thoughts when we leave our comfort zone

When we leave our comfort zone, we constantly worry about things like if we left the stove on, or if we forgot to lock the front door. It’s something we struggle with daily and most of us have come up with ways of trying to rid ourselves of these thoughts.

18. It doesn’t help us when you talk down to us

Don’t treat us like we are children. Just because we feel anxious doesn’t mean our brains have melted. We understand what you are saying, we just need time to calm down.

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19. We really don’t appreciate it when you tell us it’s all in our heads

Trust me, the feeling is very real and very strong. It’s a feeling we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, so saying that it’s all in our heads ultimately isn’t useful at all.

20. We really do appreciate it when you understand it’s something we can’t control

When people understand that our anxiety is something completely out of our control, it actually makes it a lot easier for us. It takes away the worry that you won’t like us anymore, and the worry of having have to explain to someone what is going on. It also reduces our anxiety a great deal to have someone who understands what we are going through in our presence.

Featured photo credit: mamnaimie piotr via flickr.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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