The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs.
You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it.
There are only people engaged in stressful thinking. – Wayne Dyer
Deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines, this has been my life in the past couple of years due to a very difficult, challenging and intricate project.
Everyone in the office is pulling their hair out as the client’s Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) keep finding new and ‘creative’ ways to change their original brief and technical recommendations and now it has become a vicious circle.
It is almost like they keep changing their minds on purpose, but it is not so, when one works in a project of that magnitude and scope, there are things likely to go ‘amiss’ during the planning stages, and somehow these missing pieces are compounding to become an eternal barrage of modifications.
This is my life, the customer gets what he pays for and we make sure they do get that and more.
How do I keep sane during this challenging period?
These are some suggestions on how I keep my sanity during times of stress. Whether you are a Designer or not these principles can cross-pollinate to other industries and occupations, they are as follow:
Be like water my friend – Bruce Lee
I love Karate and Martial Arts in general, and Bruce Lee’s advice transcends age and time.
When we become rigid in our attitudes there is no room for adjustment and sometimes we have to allow some ‘wiggle room’ in order to accomplish our objectives.
Life, career and love will throw a few curve balls and by being docile we accept sometimes we have to take a different path to get to our goals and it is far less stressful if we keep an open mind.Advertising
I use humor (laugh, laugh, laugh)
It is encouraged in the Special Forces to use humor to channel stress and keep a positive state of mind even when there seems no way out.
Laughter releases ‘endorphins’ which is our inbuilt happy drug, this helps us prolong our lives and improve our health when it’s naturally released and laughter is the key.
I have a favorite comedian; the late Robyn Williams, he had this ability to make anyone laugh with the simplest of skits.
Eddie Murphy’s ‘Raw’ and ‘Delirious’ always help me snap out of a grim spell, Eddie takes me back to when I was a teen.
If I am in a real desperate need for a laugh, Dave Chapelle’s old comedy shows cracks me right up.
Read about role models and draw inspiration from them
When I am stuck in a ‘hole’, I find inspiration from reading the following Greats:
Sir Norman Foster – Architecture
Daniel Libeskind – Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright – Architecture
Leonardo Da Vinci – Inventor, Artist, Architect
Stephan Sagmaister – Graphic and Visual DesignAdvertising
Max Miedinger – Swiss Graphic Designer and Typographist
Ken Done – Australian painter and artist
Jean-Michel Basquiat – Painter (RIP)
Don Norman – UX and Human Centered Design
Stanley Kubric – Cinematographer
Tony Robbins – Life coach and entrepeneur.
Wayne Dyer – Spiritual teacher
Neil Kramer – Modern Day Philosopher
I find reading about these inspiring gentlemen a real treat for my soul, they are my role models and I would try to adopt as many of their qualities as I can. I picture myself in their position and that makes me feel better about myself.
Exercise and Sports
I love Karate and I also have a gym set up at home, and after a stressful day in the office my wife and I find ourselves working out together listening to music we both like.
Not only do we channel all the frustration and negativity out, but funny enough we bond and find solutions to many challenges we are seeking answers to.
When you spend most of the day staring at a computer screen, there is not a lot of movement taking place, there is a slight muscle atrophy and if under constant duress (as most graphic designers) aches and pains will develop.
By ‘moving’ we also focus on the activity at hand, we clear our thoughts and like a computer we dump useless information that no longer serve us.Advertising
Spend time in nature
Spend time in the woods or at the beach, take yourself away from the city and you will see how wonderful it feels to leave it all behind, whether for a few hours, a day, long weekend or a few.
In Melbourne, we are very lucky we have small parks in every suburb, and I go for a walk every morning tea time for 20 minutes when the weather is good.
Not only is it a good ‘pick me up’ during the day, but it is nice to see other people doing the same, we usually say good morning and it is a great way to bond with other people and is specially extra nice when they take the time to ask you how you are going.
Reward yourself for those little wins
When you have a ‘breakthrough’ reward yourself, it doesn’t need to be something big, it can be something as small as a cup of coffee, a muffin, buying lunch or a quick drink after work.
Why reward yourself? Because, it gives you motivation for the next win, re-enforces positive behaviour (good habits) and also makes the effort worth the while.
It is also good on a psychological level because ‘all work and no play, makes your world all grey’ this is my own variation, feel free to use it.
Find your tribe, support network
When the chips are down it is important to have people who will support you and give you that much needed assist to get you out of the mess.
It is important to gravitate to people who have a positive attitude because not only will they be willing to help you, they are likely to have others like them who can potentially come to your aid.
If you have a ‘tribe’ you are a lucky person, but if you don’t, find solutions because they operate at a higher vibration.
If you want to grow, do not spend time with negative people, as they have a problem for every solution, life is way too short.
You are not your just your job
Society has taught us we have to define ourselves with what we do for a living and this has originated since the beginning of civilization.
This is where a lot of Old English surnames or last names come from: Tailor, Blacksmith, Arrowsmith, Spinner, Weaver, Baker, Clark, Carter etc.Advertising
Think about it this way, you are way more than your occupation, you are a father, mother, brother, sister, friend, grandpa, grandma, etc. and there is no one else like you in the world, and even if they could clone you there would be a few differences here and there.
When down, I remember I am the winning sperm out of 400,000,000 others.
When I am facing challenges, I remind myself I am the winning sperm out of 400,000,000 and if I made it here I can pretty much accomplish anything if I put my mind to it.
I constantly ask the question: ‘How can I be of a greater service to others’ and one of the answers so far is to be kind, compassionate and caring to other people.
But my burning question is: ‘How can I become better at whatever I do’ that is, having the greatest impact, because this transcends occupation, this delves into the realm of purpose and my own mission in life.
Connecting to ‘Source’
This puts things in perspective and helps me raise my vibration, connection to source, God, Yahweh, or whoever you believe in.
I am not preaching Religion, I am preaching ‘Faith’ in yourself and your ability to manifest what you want in life with the help of our Divine Creator regardless of what you call him or her.
We have to start listening to that inner voice and block out all the noise around us, the TV, news, ads, internet, smartphone, sex, drug, rock’n’roll, Justin Beaver, Kylie Minogue, etc. are craving for our attention, and sometimes we need to block them out to listen to your own voice.
There are many people out there who think (preach) to know the truth, but have they ever walked a mile in your shoes? Unless they have, how do they know is best for me or you?
You and I are in control of our own destiny
And as a last point, we have been taught we have no power over our own lives, but it is not true, we have the power to make anything happen, all we have to do is to have a vision, develop a plan/strategy and be willing to work hard for it.
By bettering myself and improving my skills I feel more confident about the future and takes away a lot of the uncertainty I feel about the future, every person at some point is concerned about the future, take charge and manifest a better tomorrow by improving yourself now.
If you feel you are stuck in your job, do some online courses, every skill counts and it will look favorable on you CV. Believe it or not, studying has helped me focus on other things rather than the stress of work as it has given me the skills and confidence to solve problems at a higher level.
If you have any other ways you deal with stress, please comment below, let us get the conversation started.Advertising
Last Updated on July 20, 2021
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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:
- How to Give a Presentation Like a Pro
- 10 Tips for More Effective PowerPoint Presentations
- Tricks to Deliver an Impressive Presentation Every Time
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