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7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

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7 Struggles Only People Who Live Miles Away From Their Family Will Understand

Families are usually what they would term “dysfunctional” in old sitcoms. Spending a few hours in a room with granddads, grandmas, uncles, aunts, your parents and siblings who like to tease you, can make you lose your cool and want to hit yourself over the head with a rock. However, as I’ve found out when I left my small, yet warm-hearted and proud country nestled deep in the heart of the Balkan Peninsula and spent a couple of years in London, family ties run really deep. You don’t even realize how much they mean to you or how much they contribute to your mental and emotional well being until you’re cut off, and get to see them only a couple of times a year. Here are a few big struggles that people who live far away from family have to endure.

1. We can spend an afternoon on Skype with our family, and still feel like crap afterwards

A common misconception is that getting some face time with your close ones can help curb that shadow of nostalgia that keeps cutting into our hearts. You see nostalgia can have certain benefits, but it can also be very emotionally draining. The problem is that, sometimes, seeing someone and having a great talk that reminds you of the good all days only pushes that shadow into overdrive an hour later, and you start to create an idealized image of the “good old days” and that beautiful hometown that no place on earth can compare to.

2. We can’t share some of our little moments with our new friends

There are certain things that you grow up with, common interests that you only share with your closest family. For me it was always boxing and wrestling with my dad, and our hunting trips. We’d spend the weekends leading up to the hunt sighting in our rifles, shooting 40-50 rounds down range, and just having a blast. I can still hear the characteristic clack-cling of dad’s old Zastava Arms Mauser 98 bolt action. Unfortunately, none of my friends and acquaintances in merry old England really understood the thrill I felt, and a lot of them would even gasp at the fact that someone would shoot and eat a live creature.

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3. We get irritated when we hear someone moan about a family dinner they have to attend

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that not everyone has a close relationship with their family, or even a psychologically healthy relationship for that matter. However, no family is even close to being “normal” in the 50s Hollywood family sense, namely because only aliens or deeply troubled psychotics trying to blend in with these strange “Hu-mans” would look like that. Everyone’s got problems, but for most of us it’s all about little annoyances like your folks pestering you about work or your love life, a few serious rows from the past and a perhaps one or two skeletons in the closet.

So, when I hear someone mope about “having to” go see their family, I just want to punch them square in the jaw. I wish I could sit there and try to dodge questions about when I’ll get married or change that stupid haircut, because I know we’d eventually get to lighter topics and I’d be happy I saw those irritating and judging goofballs.

4. We are limited to sharing exciting parts of our lives through images and the odd video

Where I once tried to always keep my family in the loop, living through both tough and happy times with them, and sharing my experiences as they happened, they are now left with only a few pictures on Facebook, a short talk on Skype and the occasional postcard as an insight into my life. I, in turn, get to look at their trials and victories through a smartphone screen that fits neatly into my pocket.

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While a nicely made slideshow or goofy collage does put a smile on my face in those moments of nostalgia, I long for that real human connection at times. Bringing my sister along on camping trips and parties, spending a good part of the night having a long drunken talk with my dad about life or talking to mom about this cute girl I met, these are life’s quirky little scenarios that help set the tone and cement a conversation in my mind. Pictures and Skype pale in comparison.

5. We can never get our heads around the fact that people keep changing

Kids grow, rebellious teenagers cut their hair and get sucked into the academic lifestyle, strong and vibrant father figures weaken with age, quirky little sisters get married and baby-faced little brothers, who you wrestled around the yard with, outgrow you and get jobs. When you’re in the same town, even if you don’t get to see them that much, you tend to pick up on these changes sooner, and the transformation seems gradual. When you are halfway across the continent, however, these things just hit you like a hammer, leaving you confused and at a loss for words.

6. We can’t really choose what to do on holidays

With all this talk of missing my family, and wanting to punch people who see family get-togethers as obligations, you would think I’d look forward to seeing them every chance I get–and I do. However, at some point you lose the freedom to choose how to spend your free time from work, as you are expected to come see the family for Christmas, Easter and basically any time when you’ve got a week or two to spare. The worst part of it is that coming back home can be more depressing than leaving, at least for the first few days.

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You don’t want to look like a hypocrite or a heartless bastard, so you rearrange all other aspects of your life to make a family reunion fit your schedule, even though sometimes you just want to blow off some steam partying or take your girlfriend on that trip to Barcelona you’ve been talking about for the past few months.

7. We keep hearing about how we’ve changed and how weird we look and sound

Okay, so every culture has their own slightly different set of social rules, ideologies, and general ways of doing things. It’s a fairly simple concept to grasp, but for some reason as soon as you go even a little bit against the grain you are accused of (*drum roll*) changing! You forget a word in your native tongue and suddenly it’s “ooh la la, look at the stuck up Englishman” or “we’ve got a nobleman at the table, mind your manners kids.”

The clothes you wear, that slightest change in your accent, or the fact that you keep referencing places and people no one has seen, been to or heard of, turns you into a bit of a clown that everyone can poke fun at. We get so used to people seeing us an a bit of an outsider when we move away, so when our family start to react similarly we kind of feel like we are caught up between two worlds.

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These are just some personal musings, but I hope that all of those who had to leave home and spend a long time hundreds of miles apart from their family can relate to this, and that this article can at least help them get some of that load of their chest. It’s a tough situation, but finding the freedom to chase after your dreams and discovering who you truly are is never easy.

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Nemanja Manojlovic

Editor at MyCity Web

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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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