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10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

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10 Ways To Find Strength If You’re In The Middle Of A Lifetime Struggle

In 2012 a series of personal events occurred to me at the same time, which felt as if everything in my life was crashing down on me. I was suffering of a serious illness and one particular day it came to a head. Leaving work to rush into hospital and without preparation, I received surgery the very next day. This occurred three weeks before I was booked and ready to go on a one-month trip around Europe.

After my release from hospital the very next day my then boyfriend of six months informed me that his mother did not condone our relationship. We had a good relationship as far as I knew. I received this news via phone call. I broke up with him a week later and still went on my trip to Europe.

When returning to my job after my holiday, my boss demoted me to part time without a legitimate reason. I had been with the company for four years never taking any sick days. But my sudden surgery and trip (that he blessed when I booked it) most likely triggered his decision. Imagine being told that you need to go part time and that a full time person will be hired, even though you are fine to work as normal. I gave in my two week notice on the spot.

I was on a major downward spiral and I experiences heavy depression during this time. Still recovering from surgery, a broken heart, and no job, I questioned what the heck I was doing in life. It actually felt like everything I had been pursuing was wiped away and I had to start over again. In the middle of this struggle, I found it in myself to focus on an attitude of reason.

Do you know the saying everything happens for a reason? I told myself this daily and really began focusing on taking advantage of the struggle I was in. I learned a few things during this time and I hope by passing them on they will help someone else.

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1. First and foremost, get off the mouse wheel

When life throws us situations that cause us to struggle, what can make it worse is our attitude towards it. Like mice go round and round on the wheel, in tough times it is important that we don’t spin ourselves out by limited thinking. Struggles come in many ways and for many reasons, which are unique to the individual. We can so easily become overwhelmed by the pressure and difficulties we are currently facing that we don’t stop and review what is going on. Getting off the wheel allows us to slow down and begin to take steps towards not allowing this struggle to consume us.

“Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed by a situation – when you’re in the darkest of darkness – that’s when your priorities are reordered.” – Phoebe Snow

2. Don’t lose sight of who you are

It is so easy to get into the victim mentality in those struggling times. Faced with despair and a lack of hope, the why me? thoughts can begin. We may neglect the very things that can possibly keep us grounded. Don’t forget to take care of yourself no matter how pointless or even draining it may feel. Which leads to the next point: health.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” – Helen Keller

3. Take care of your health: Mind, Body, Soul

Ensuring that we are focused on our wellbeing is the foundation of rising above struggles. Synchronising the mind, body and soul can bring about strength, health and also a sense of calmness. Even though there is hardship, when we feel well grounded physically and mentally, things are not over exaggerated. Stress can be kept at a minimal as well.

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“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” – Buddha

4. How you respond can make a difference

As I mentioned I began focusing on the thought that everything happens for a reason. Someone told me during this time that what I am experiencing is not the end it is just the beginning. Whilst I couldn’t see how or what that would mean further down the road, I held onto that belief. For such a massive change to occur, there had to be a deeper meaning. Through invested time in prayer and focusing on my self-awareness, I began to realise that for so long I had wished for more out of life yet wasn’t going after it. I wasn’t truly happy in my job and I was very stressed out, yet I never did anything about it. My relationship was wonderful but I ignored the fact that it was immature and I outgrew it. My health was a reflection of neglecting the heavy stress I was under from work.

I took everything into consideration and turned each part into a powerful lesson. I used those circumstances to fuel my decisions and not settle for anything that wasn’t pushing me to thrive. By viewing the situations as a blessing in disguise, it assisted me towards a better life filled with freedom, health and passion. Therefore, I was able to respond strongly.

“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” – Lou Holtz

5. Accept and let go, so you can heal and flow

Without acceptance, it is very hard to move on. People hurt us, we make silly mistakes, and change happens dramatically at times. Life is never fully in our control and we do not know what tomorrow brings. Accepting struggles as they are, learning from them and moving on empowers us. If we are constantly bitter at what life throws our way, we miss the opportunity to live in the moment. I believe that it is totally normal and human to cry, mourn and have a period of being sad. I cried every day for months. People told me to move on and pushed my grieving process.

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I knew however that I needed to let it out in order to be free from it. Acceptance isn’t all about sucking it up and getting on with it. One healthy way to accept the struggles we face is by sitting with the uncomfortable reality and feeling it – not avoiding it. If that means sobbing like a big baby (like I did), so be it. It assisted in my ability to remain compassionate, free spirited, and not angry with anyone. Due to experiencing the feelings, bitterness was not enabled. I reached out to both my boss and ex boyfriend some time later thanking them for the wonderful things they bought to my life. I could only do this because I had accepted what happened and I had no room for anger. This helped my process of moving on.

“Acceptance doesn’t mean resignation; it means understanding that something is what it is and that there’s got to be a way through it.” – Michael J Fox

6. It is not weak to speak – Talk to someone

Don’t ever be too proud to talk to someone about your struggles and difficult times. You may feel awkward but it is one of the best actions you can do for yourself. Those who muster up the courage to speak up, do themselves and others good. To open up helps with healing, overcoming troubles and also gaining perspective. Sometimes when we keep things bottled up inside, we can overthink and create bigger problems for ourselves. Talking it out invites someone else to be a friend to you and allows you to be yourself – raw and real. Choose someone you fully trust and don’t be embarrassed. If you don’t have anyone, there are many ways you can connect with people. (Your welcome to talk to me if you need too!)

“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer

7. Turn your struggle into your power

Begin to look for opportunities in the current circumstance you are in. Yes, it is really hard to do this sometimes especially when your confidence has been stripped away. Putting your faith in someone again, a job or anything in a time like this can be so fearful. It is also liberating to realise that at any point in time you can stop what you are doing and start something new if you want to. For a long time I knew I was putting off what I really wanted to pursue and that is my focus on helping other people on a deeper level.

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So, I took advantage of the fact that I was incredibly free to do whatever I wanted to do. I started thinking of a business. I worked another awesome job. I did a course and I went travelling. I wasn’t attached to any of those things because I knew that I could never settle again like I did before. Almost two years later I can now say that I am starting to make sense of what I want to do and where I want to go. I feel purpose within my heart and I can help others through difficult times. I now recognize more than I did before when I need to move out of my comfort zone, before it blows up in my face again. That is a powerful place to be in.

“If you have a positive attitude and constantly strive to give your best effort, eventually you will overcome your immediate problems and find you are ready for greater challenges.” – Pat Riley

8. Learn from others

Gaining advice and direction from people we trust is very valuable in a struggle. When people open up about a tough time and how they got through, they are most likely saying it to encourage us. In saying that I ensured that I was guarded as to whom I talked to. Not everyone needs to know our struggles, as not everyone can be sensitive about them. Insensitive responses can leave us feeling misunderstood and embarrassed. There are also people who feed our struggles by pandering to us constantly without setting us straight when it’s needed. We need to surround ourselves with people who are honest and will sincerely let us know that there is hope. You know those friends who say the right thing, even though you don’t really want to hear it? Generally those are the ones who encourage you to rise up again and not allow this struggle to take a hold of you. They are sincere but they refuse to see you wallow in self-pity. Learn from them.

9. Set boundaries

Something I am still learning today is setting boundaries for myself. Instead of being someone who always says yes or does things to keep others happy, I have learnt the word no. Setting boundaries is actually living in honesty and representing your truest self. I was always available to everyone with the belief system that I had to drop what I was doing to help others. In the work environment the stress I was under consumed my whole core but I never said no to it. During a struggle it may be wise to review where boundaries may not be set and work towards putting some in place. Say no to the things that hurt you or destroy your health. Speak to your boss or find a job that does not stress you out. Choose a relationship that is enjoyable, not controlling – or be single. Have your own routines and disciplines in place that are focused on health (mind, body and soul). Say what you mean and settle for no less. Set boundaries and protect yourself.

10. And finally…it all happened for a reason.

Perhaps the biggest reason for my experience was that I could write this and let you know that your struggles are not the end of the road. They may just be the beginning of something new, change and a better life. Perhaps you will learn the best lessons that will push you to grow and give you wisdom in your future choices. Maybe you will find purpose, create something new or finally follow your passions. It could be a wake up call to get your body into shape, health into gear, mind re-focused or spiritual life on track. Whatever the reason may be, if you dig deep and allow yourself to be open, the answer will come in the right time and in the right way.

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It is not the end – it may just be the beginning.

Featured photo credit: Victor Hugo via photopin.com

More by this author

Anjelica Ilovi

Anjelica writes about how to grind and unwind for increased productivity, focus and joyful living anjelicailovi.com {grind + unwind}

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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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