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9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

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9 Simple Ways To Stay Calm In Highly Charged Situations

Let’s face it: we all sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel like our patience is on its last thread. We blow a fuse and our anger boils over, making us want to damn-anything-to-hell that gets in our way. But losing it can really bring all sorts of problems for you, including ruining your career and damaging your relationships.

So, it’s vitally important that you learn to calm yourself down in highly charged situation before you lose it and aggravate the situation. Say, for example, someone dangerously cuts you off on the freeway. You don’t have to let sudden bursts of anger control you. There are ways to calm down and get through it with your sanity intact. Contrary to what you might think, anger is not an uncontrollable force that takes over us. It is a manageable emotion.

Here are some ways that can help you stay calm in highly charged situations, and avoid overreaction.

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1. Pause and take deep breaths.

The first thing you need to do when you find yourself in a situation that ruffles your feathers is to take a deep breath. Don’t act in a rush, as you will almost certainly regret it. Just close your eyes and count to 10 to get a grip on your adrenaline rush, and then take deep breaths to calm down.

Carlos Coto, a psychologist at Pick the Brain suggests you try the 4×4 breathing technique where you breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds and exhale the breath slowly for four seconds. Repeat this breathing technique until you feel calm enough to react.

2. Step back and ask yourself some simple questions.

Never react when you are really agitated. You are a pot of boiling water, and need to step back and ask yourself some question to assess the situation. Is the upsetting situation something you can control? Did you misunderstand the thing that’s setting you off? Does the issue really matter that much? How do I look and behave while I’m angry? Is my face red? Am I waving my hands around wildly? Would I want to work with someone like that? Probably not. Thoughtful questions help you go to the intellectual part of your brain that protects you from overreaction. Questions work wonders for most people.

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3. Declare that you want to be productive and calm, and focus on that.

You cannot fully control other people’s behavior, but you can only control your own reactions. The sooner you realize that, the faster you can handle emotionally charged situations. The realization (and acceptance) that you can only truly control your own behavior and not other people’s actions can take the emotion out of the situation and allow you to proceed with a greater degree of control. Think about the things you want to do in the next hour or next few days, and declare you want to focus on those things instead of the situation that’s fueling your fire. Your thoughts will drift from anger to those things that make you more productive and joyful.

4. Label your emotional state in just a word or two.

Another trick to stay calm and overcome a rush of negative emotion is to get in touch with the emotion and label it in one word or two. Different brain studies show that labeling negative emotions reduces their impact. Trying to suppress a negative emotional doesn’t work and can backfire on you, says Kevin Ochsner a professor of psychology at Columbia University. You might look fine outwardly, Ochsner says, but inwardly your limbic system is just as aroused as without suppression, and in some cases, even more aroused.

So, if you feel terrible, give that feeling a name. Describe that emotion. Pissed off? Frustrated? Sad? Label that negative emotion you’re feeling in just a word or two and see it diminish just like that.

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5. Let go of any unhelpful thoughts you may have.

This includes thoughts of revenge and thoughts such as “It’s not fair,” or “People like that should be locked up.” Such thoughts don’t help. They only make your anger worse. Let those thoughts go and you’ll find it easier to calm down and move on. Also, avoid using words like always (for example, “You always do that), never (for example, “You never listen to me.”), and should or shouldn’t (for example, you should know better than that.) Those words aggravate the situation. Instead, focus on thinking about positive things you could be doing that make you truly productive and joyful.

6. Write down the experience in a journal.

If you’re still upset about a situation even after you’ve tried letting it go, try writing it down in a journal. Nagging thoughts have a tendency to linger and flare up into fits of anger later at the slightest provocation. Writing down your emotions has a calming effect because it brings clarity and allows you to process complex issues and come up with solutions. It also tells your brain it can stop obsessing over the issue because the issue’s now recorded in a permanent place.

7. Tell someone about it.

One of the things that makes us lose our cool and burst into anger is that we get stuck inside our own heads with our own thoughts. If you have a friend with you in a highly charged situation, tell them what you’re feeling. If you don’t have someone with you, call a friend and tell them about it. Talking to someone and letting it all off your chest can leave you feeling calmer. If, however, you are constantly feeling frustrated and angry no matter what you try, and your temper causes you problems at work or in your relationship, consider talking to a professional. A psychotherapist, for example, can look at trends in your behavior and suggest solutions.

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8. Burn off some of that pent up rage with exercise.

No matter how well we try to keep a lid on it, anger bursts may still make occasional appearances. When they do, another great way to manage it and get back to being calm is to switch gears and exercise. Do pushups or situps, go for a run, or just hit the gym to blow off steam. Exercising burns off pent up rage, lifts your mood, and helps you feel healthier and happier. You can also try taking a nap if you’re terribly upset. Sleeping has a calming, rejuvenating effect on the entire body and mind.

9. Go outside and reconnect with nature.

A final trick to keep calm in highly charged situations is to just step outside and get some air and sun. Take a few minutes to walk in a natural setting with trees. Watch the birds fly in the blue sky and feel the wind blow against your hair. Reconnect with nature. Fresh air can help you calm down and remind you that we create most of the stress we feel in our minds. Studies actually show that spending time in green spaces with trees reduces stress, relieves mentally fatigue and alleviates feelings of depression. Even if you only go to a nearby park on your lunch break, do it to strengthen your bond with nature. Nature’s replenishing effect is fairly instantaneous.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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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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