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10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

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10 Questions To Ask Yourself To Stay Positive When Facing Difficulties

Everyone faces difficulties from time to time.  It’s a natural part of the cycle of life.  Just like we can’t really know hot without knowing cold, we can’t really know the good times if we don’t know bad times.  Sometimes the difficulties we face in life come from situations out of our control, and other times our difficulties are a direct consequence of the decisions we make.

In life, we cannot change events or their outcome.  We can, however, choose the emotion and meaning we attach to them.  It’s like the saying goes “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react”.  Our brains are designed to store information and then, at every single second of every day, when new information is received, our brains search for a reference memory to lay the foundation for our response.  Think about it, this is why if you have a bad experience on a roller coaster or eating a certain food, for the rest of your life you have an automatic impulse reaction whenever you come across them.

We have to retrain ourselves to see the positive in even the most challenging times.

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Am I Still Breathing?

Sometimes the best we can do is breathe.  During overwhelmingly difficult times, our stress levels rise, our breathing gets shallow, and our body’s natural rhythm gets all out of whack.  At these times it’s essential to stop and ask yourself, ‘am I breathing?’.  If you are then, hey, you live to fight another day.  If you find yourself highly stressed out, take 10 minutes, find a quiet space, and just breathe deeply.  Diaphragmayic breathing has been shown to lower stress levels and helps relax your automatic nervous system.  One of the keys to staying positive is to be relaxed, and making sure you’re breathing correctly is the best way to start.

What Is My Part In This?

Notice this said your ‘part’, not your ‘fault’.  There’s a huge distinction in these two words.  One is acknowledging and accepting your responsibility for your current situation, the other is self-defeating and simply assigns blame.  Focusing on your part instead of just casting blame reduces the challenge you’re facing to a more manageable size.

What Is In My Control?

When life feels completely overwhelming, we often lose sight of those things we can change.  Assess your situation honestly, and look for those things you can control.  This will help you to feel more centered, more focused, and assist you in being able to tackle the challenge.

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What Is Out Of My Control?

Sometimes there’s things we just cannot control.  Whether it’s other people, mother nature, or just plain bad timing, no matter how much we want to, we cannot control everything.  Take time to look at your difficulty, identify the things that are out of your control, and then let them go.  Too often we view the totality of our difficulties and it is overwhelming.  Being able to segregate what you can and cannot control makes the problem smaller, your stress levels lower, and often the path to the solution much clearer.

What Is My Emotional State?

Making decisions when we’re overcome with the emotions that are inherent in difficult times is about the worst thing we can do.  We’re more likely to make poor choices when we’re in the wrong emotional state.  Being able to recognize that we’re not ‘of our right mind’ in the middle of our trials allows us to stop, breathe, and get ourselves in a better emotional state, allowing us to make better decisions.  When we make better decisions, we’re more likely to feel better about our circumstances because it gives us a sense of empowerment.

What Is The Most Important Thing I Can Do Right Now?

Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing.  Sometimes the best thing we can do is make a phone call.  Focusing on and doing the best thing you can do right now when in the midst of difficult times helps center you and relax your nervous system.  It also increases our confidence in ourselves that yes, we can weather this storm.  Progress is progress, no matter how small, and progress towards resolving a difficult situation will boost your self-esteem.

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What Can I Learn From This?

With every difficulty comes a lesson.  As crazy as it sounds, if we can see even the smallest lesson, the smallest purpose in the trial we’re facing, it gives it positive value.  It also gives us an outcome to move towards, whether it’s improved health, more stability in finances, or fixing a broken relationship.  Suffering without purpose leads to a feeling of helplessness.  Shift your belief from “Why me?” to “What can I learn from this?” turns the challenge from just a random happenstance of bad luck into a problem to be solved.

Am I Taking Care Of Myself?

There’s an abundance of evidence that stress wreaks havoc on our physical health.  There’s also abundant evidence that our physical health directly impacts our mental health.  When challenges arise, the most common things we do are eat less, sleep less, and get less physical activity.  Overwhelming challenges have a tendency to cause us to completely shut down.  Don’t.  Sacrificing your physical health isn’t going to make the challenge go away any faster and may actually make the challenge worse because now you’re a physical wreck.  Maintain a normal sleep schedule.  Eat healthy.  Stay hydrated.  Get some physical activity.  Maintaining your physical state is a key to maintaining your mental and emotional states.

What Are My Choices?

Make a list.  Write them down.  Weigh the pros and cons.  Creating a list of choices brings clarity to the path we need to take to overcome the difficulty.  It also helps us realize that we actually have choices, which is a big thing when we feel powerless.

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Will This Matter 5 Years From Now?

Don’t sweat the small stuff… and really, 95% of our difficulties are all small stuff.  Looking into the future and thinking about whether or not the current difficulty will matter 5 years from now often brings it into perspective.  We’re naturally oriented to turn molehills into mountains and imagine the worst possible outcome to every challenge.  If you’re having difficulty with this, try to think of a difficult time you faced 5 years ago that you thought was the ‘end of the world’.  Very few difficulties have the kind of impact that resonates through time.  Take heart and have faith that what you are facing now isn’t as bad as you’re imagining it to be.

Challenges and difficulties are a natural part of life.  We can stop from feeling overwhelmed by finding and focusing on the positive in our lives.

Featured photo credit: Geralt via pixabay.com

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Christian Salafia

Rocket-scientist, Nuclear Engineer, Theologian, and creator of the TransformRadio podcast

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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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