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8 Things That Stress You Out That You Should Ignore

8 Things That Stress You Out That You Should Ignore

If you find yourself overwhelmed and stressed out consistently, you might actually be a victim of your own thoughts/decisions. There are many things that can cause stress, but here are eight things that can stress you out that you should simply ignore.

Negative People In Your Life

Commonly referred to as “da hatas”, these people will criticize you every chance they get. Especially when you try something a little different, or you dare to challenge the status quo. In a world where it’s easy to make Facebook friends, but not so easy to make real connections, it can be incredibly hard to “dump” your negative friends. In most cases, you can sort the problem out by ignoring their negative input, and if you realize that’s all they have to offer, ignoring them completely and stopping spending time with them.

The Opinions Of Strangers

Something that can be a rather overwhelming source of stress, is the prospect of the opinions of strangers. Typically this concerns people the most during high school, but many keep being haunted by this concept throughout their twenties, or even their entire lives.

Not only do the opinions of strangers not matter at all, it’s unlikely they even care enough about you to make up one about you. Sure they may look at your fancy suit, and your fancy car, and think “he seems rich” or “oh great, another wealthy douche moved into my neighborhood” but it’s unlikely they’re going to dwell on you for any amount of time after that.

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You can take solace in the fact that even if you’re about to speak to a large group of strangers, no matter how badly you flop, they will likely forget about you completely at some point during the next hour. Another thing that can help to remember, is that the most visible parts of our society are the extremes, the very best, and the very worst. Sure the only speeches you see online are either amazing or mindblowingly terrible and hilarious fails, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t millions of average speeches in buried in there somewhere.

What Your Parents (or Others) Think Is Best For You

This can be a tough one, as your parents will often use the “life experience” card, and many times rightfully so. (Other times they are just plain wrong.) But even if they are right, in life, it’s important to have your own failures and reach your own conclusions, not always simply receiving and following guidance from “more experienced individuals”. Don’t let what your parents think you should be doing stress you out while you’re out there doing what is best for you at this time.

If they are always on your case, and getting in the way of your work/project/studies, you can always let them in on your secret (fake or real) back-up plan to do what they want you to do, if your current endeavor fails.

Your Ideals

If you’re doing any kind of creative work, it’s easy to get stuck, never feeling quite ready to release it, or move on to the next project, because it’s “just not right.” Ira Glass describes this problem as “the gap”, between how you feel good creative work should be, and your current ability. Watch this video to help you overcome this tendency.

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And if you’re stressed out about not being the person you want to be, don’t. Nobody is their own ideal person. Even the greatest people you can think of had their own flaws. Either you learn to accept them, or you choose to slowly tackle one area at a time, and focus your energy towards improvement rather than worrying.

Or if you’re one of those people that have a 100% clear idea of what your perfect partner looks like.

Resistance

Sometimes things are difficult. Sometimes you keep running into barrier after barrier after barrier, and you can’t seem to get into any sort of acceptable pace. Instead of focusing on the barriers, and indeed, expecting more of them and letting that stress you out, focus solely on the process of overcoming them and learning from every experience. Instead of getting stuck in an “Oh God why did this happen again??” pattern of thought, instead immediately think “How can I overcome this problem? Have I run into a similar problem before?” And focus your energy on moving forward.

Your Expectations

It’s funny how your expectations of something stressful happening can be almost as stressful as something stressful happening. And while it’s healthy to remain realistic, and be open to possibilities, it’s counterproductive to remain overly focused on worst-case scenarios you cannot prevent or do anything about, as it will only cause stress and is unlikely to yield any valuable insights. Instead quickly consider a few things that could go wrong where countermeasures are available, take the countermeasures and move forward.

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Another thing that can cause stress, is expecting something to go well, or a certain way, only to experience that it doesn’t. For everyday matters, it can be better to try to expect nothing, or as much of a neutral result as possible, and focus on enjoying the process instead.

Your Self-Criticism

Now don’t get me wrong, a certain amount of self-critique is necessary to remain sane. But after a point, it can not only become a dominant source for stress, it can lead to a downward spiral towards depression. While having the self-insight to realize when you’ve messed up is good, things start to turn bad when you dwell on those mistakes, and then infer that you have some deep character flaw that is causing you to make this mistake, and similar ones, earlier. Of course, the second you start believing that this character flaw exists, it becomes more and more apparent, (as it becomes easier and easier to use it as an excuse to make bad choices). The most obvious example is laziness. Half a generation is crippled by their self-affirmed belief that they are too lazy to go out and actually do things. And because they’ve told themselves so many times, it’s no longer debatable. You can’t even suggest to these people that they have the potential to change, because it’s simply “part of who they are”.

Thankfully, avoiding this is rather straight forward. When reflecting on mistakes, accept the blame when the fault is yours, but don’t try to conceptualize the flaws in your character that lead to this mistake. And always remember to challenge any negative conclusions you reach about yourself. If you find yourself thinking “I’m just lazy!.” Simply ask this: “Am I really? Has there never been a time when I have proven to be the exact opposite?” It can be hard to stay objective when you’re in a bad mood, but give yourself some time. Think of a few examples and avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of “laziness”.

Worry About Being Stressed

If you feel that you’re too stressed all the time, it can become a source for more worry and stress. Some studies even suggest that the adverse effects of stress come mostly from the belief that stress is harmful for you. (Watch this video.) So if you have a rather stressful job, or life in general, learn to welcome it as a boost of energy, to join hands with it and become friends, and you will not only likely feel less stressed/worried in your free time, but you can reduce the negative health effects that many associate with prolonged periods of stress.

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Although there are many more things you can obsess over and stress yourself out, I think we’ve established a few ways you can deal with this tendency and reduce your stress through conscious choices, and conscious thoughts.

Featured photo credit: Stefan Neuweger via flickr.com

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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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)

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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