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How to Stop Worrying and Regain Control of Your Life

How to Stop Worrying and Regain Control of Your Life
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Have you ever experienced this — your brain couldn’t stop replaying worst-case scenarios as you close your eyes?

What if I can’t make a great impression on my first day of work? Let’s see, I will wear this shirt with that pair of pants. Will I overdress? Oh no, I need to wake up earlier to iron my shirt. Wait, did I lock the door?

Usually, most of these worries are unnecessary.

In a study done in 2015[1], researchers discovered neurotic, worry-obsessed, and anxious people tend to be more creative. Unfortunately, while over-worriers are blessed to be extraordinarily creative, it is their creativity that fuels their anxiety.

Over-worriers put their thoughts in the wrong places

They use their imaginations in the wrong way. They tend to put their creativity to generate what ifs, could haves, should haves, instead of solving problems.

They focus too much on the future. American motivational speaker Leo F. Buscaglia says it best, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

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They keep guessing other’s mind. Reading someone’s mind doesn’t work usually. It will end up in more worries and misunderstandings.

Many people with the tendency of over-worrying believe they can hardly change this habit, or although the panic brought by over-worrying is unbearable, they can live normally after the panic recedes. So they choose to leave the problem unsolved. If that’s your thought, you should abandon it as soon as possible because…

It takes a toll on your mental health and physical health

Hypervigilance. Because of anxieties and worries, an over-thinker is constantly on the lookout for possible threats, even in the tiniest things.

Reduced concentration and indecisiveness. The brain of the over-worrier drifts in and out of their thoughts. Without focus, they can’t think properly or make decisions.

Problem-focused. Worriers are obsessed with problems instead of solutions.

Worries lower your immune system. Constant worries put you in a more tired and lethargic place, which makes you more prone to infections.

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Worries cause insomnia. With your head spinning and thoughts tossing you left and right, it’s hard to get a good night sleep.

So how can you stop worrying and overthinking?

Write off your worries

How? Whenever you are worried, list the problems bothering you and possible solutions non-stop within 3 minutes. You don’t have to be organized with your thoughts, just write as your mind flows.

Why? It’s usually the abstract and ambiguous thoughts that make you worry much. By turning the thoughts into something concrete through writing, you can empty worries and fears out of your mind. Also, thinking more of solutions can shift your attention to the outcome and action instead of the problem itself.

Example: You made an insensitive remark towards your co-worker, and you are worried she is upset with you. Instead, write down the possible actions you can take to solve the situation, like apologizing to your co-worker.

Focus on external environment instead of your inner thoughts

How? When your mind is not occupied, don’t wander off to your worries and inner thoughts, but shift your focus to something else — the details of what you see.

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Why? Science has found that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.[2] A wandering mind usually creates negative thoughts, and most worries are self-produced. Occupying your mind with objective facts rather than subjective imagination can help you live in the present.

Example: When you are commuting to work, don’t let your idle mind wander off to personal troubles and distresses, but pay attention to the people, the scenery, or the little things next to you.

Challenge your irrational anxious thoughts

How? List your worries out and ask yourself in a third-person perspective.

  • Are there any evidences to support this thought for being true/false?
  • Can I look at this situation more positively and realistically?
  • What’s the possibility of this worry going to happen?
  • How will worrying about this help or hurt me?

Why? As humans, we are easily convinced and persuaded by our irrational thoughts because of our confirmation bias. Take a objective look at your own worries can help you eliminate unnecessary thoughts.

Example: You just pitched an idea to your boss, and you thought your performance was less than satisfactory. Start asking yourself these questions:

  • Could your boss spot the one tiny point you missed?
  • Would worrying increase the chances of your pitch being chosen?

When you rationally challenge yourself, you’ll soon realize these worries are insignificant.

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Need more guidance? Here are two books to further lead you to a less anxious and worrisome life:

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

    This book deals with the fundamental causes of worries, and provides solutions to improve your physical health, mental health, and overall psychological mindset.

    Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying, Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking

      The authors suggest to get rid of worries, one of the most important ways is to be mindful and clean up your mental clutter.

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      Featured photo credit: Cuppa Catholic via cuppacatholic.blogspot.hk

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      Frank Yung

      Writer. Storyteller. Foodie.

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      Last Updated on July 20, 2021

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

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