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How To Free Yourself From Fearful Thoughts

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How To Free Yourself From Fearful Thoughts

Many of us are susceptible to fearful thoughts during our lives, as well as feelings of dread and anxiety. If you have experienced this it is important you know that you are not different or broken; you are human. Having experienced this himself, Josh Bowler has shared six tips to help you free yourself of fearful thoughts:

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

Here I am, huddled up close to the wood burner, my only source of heat, sitting on an old recliner chair that was given to me, in a rented apartment with windows soaked with condensation. Outside it is cold, wet, and dreary, a typical English winter’s day.

My business folded in July with substantial personal debt and I turned forty-four in August.

Perhaps not the most heart-warming start to a post, but rather some raw facts of how my life is now, not x number of years ago before I turned my life around, but now! I’m pretty sure I am not alone in this situation I find myself.

In July when I folded my never very successful business resulting in substantial personal debt, the first thing I did was completely freak out—panic attacks, endless anxiety, depressive thoughts, the whole nine yards.

I went to my doctor who gave me anti-anxiety medication without a second thought. I tried them for a couple of months, but I had been down that route before and this time I felt that it was not the solution to my problems. So after consulting with the doc I carefully weaned myself off of them.

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What I needed was answers as to what was causing me so much pain inside rather than a Band-Aid to cover it. I needed to find out why I seemed to have spent my entire life under a shadow, a shadow from which I never felt comfortable emerging to engage fully with the world for fear of being seen.

Enter Tiny Buddha. I found Tiny Buddha by chance while endlessly searching for answers as to what was broken in me. What I discovered after reading hundreds of posts was a revelation: I am not broken.

After digging deeper, I began to realize that I was locked in a trance most of the time, a trance created by my egoic mind. A trance shaped by fear during my formative years. My psyche was trying to protect me from the fear and lack of safety I felt when growing up; it was trying to keep me safe.

My childhood interpretation of the events I experienced, combined with non-compassionate and non-understanding authority figures, led my psyche to decide that the best way to deal with life was to retreat to a place of safety and hide, to not get involved or be exposed in any way.

It met any situation or event that it interpreted as fearful with vigorous resistance.

As most things in life contain some element of fear and anticipation, especially new things, my egoic mind trance was active most of the time, constantly in the background, ready to come to my rescue at the slightest whiff of perceived danger.

The irony is that my mind’s way of “rescuing” me was to paralyze me with feelings of dread, worry, and anxiety, coupled with the physical feelings associated with panic. 

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It’s not easy when your egoic mind has spent the greater part of your life trying to convince you that it is the only place where you are safe.

Over the years the egoic mind has plenty of time to really go to town building a devilishly intricate trance machine that becomes deeply entrenched in the psyche. Mine was so entrenched that I thought it was me. Until recently, that is.

What I am learning from reading many posts on Tiny Buddha, which led me to books, podcasts, and other resources on the subject of the being, is this:

1. We need to realize that we truly are not our thoughts.

Our thoughts come from the egoic mind. We are the awareness that hears the thoughts.

When you talk to yourself inside your mind, to whom are you actually talking? It is your awareness, and that is who you are, that is your being. Not the thoughts.

Your thoughts are just constructs of your egoic mind. You can actually choose to let them float on by without believing or engaging them, should you choose to.

2. Understand it is not your fault that your mind is causing you such pain; it’s a product of evolution. 

Back in the days of caves and things with sharp pointy teeth, you were more likely to survive if you were ever vigilant of danger—meaning the genes that favored this behavior were more likely to get passed down… to you.

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The egoic mind thinks it is helping you by keeping you safe and trapped inside a trance. It is not its fault, and you have to face your trance thoughts with compassion and love, and be able to forgive yourself. It really isn’t your fault.

3. Use meditation and mindfulness throughout the day; learn to see the space between the real you—which is awareness—and the egoic mind, as its thoughts race by.

Observe thoughts for what they are: just thoughts. Try not to allow yourself to become absorbed in your thoughts and go into trance, but do not punish yourself if you do.

Be kind and compassionate to yourself when you recognize you have drifted away and start fresh in the moment, returning to a state of mindful awareness whenever you can.

4. Identify the trance thoughts and emotions as they arise and name them.

For example, “Oh, this is fear I am feeling, just fear,” or “I feel you dread and worry; it’s okay,” or “Hello shame and unworthiness; I see you.”

This technique of compassionate recognition will reduce the power they have over you, as you have exposed them for what they really are: just thoughts.

5. Remember that it takes perseverance and practice, lots of it.

Another fun thing we inherited from our ancestors is that the fear of something can become embedded in our long-term memory even after a single, brief exposure to it. Conversely, it takes much longer and repeated exposure to positive stimuli before they are committed to long-term memory.

6. Each time you notice yourself in a state of negativity, use it as an opportunity to practice, to mindfully observe your thoughts with acceptance and compassion.

This will allow them to flow through and out of you rather than be kept inside to be constantly recycled.

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Do not beat yourself up if you find it difficult to let go of thinking. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. It took you more than a few days to learn to read and write. It will take a little time for you to calm your egoic mind and let your awareness shine through.

This is the path I have begun to walk. I’ve begun to let go of expectations about others and myself; to learn to be compassionate and to love myself; to accept who I am, and where I am in this moment; to try not to judge others or myself. To know that in this moment everything is okay.

And now that my cat is lying on my lap, I guess that means it is time to finish this. Life is all about these moments.

Josh Bowler is a musician, writer and ecologist stepping back on the path he inadvertently left 24 years ago and finding it is all still there just waiting to be seen. He has a blog telluwot.com/complete-being/ and has written a short guidebook on the subject of dealing with anxiety and stress.

6 Tips to Help You Free Yourself from Your Fearful Thoughts | Tiny Buddha

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Siobhan Harmer

Siobhan is a passionate writer sharing about motivation and happiness tips on Lifehack.

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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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