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The Simplest Ways to Stay Enthusiastic in Life (Even When You Are Drowning in Work)

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The Simplest Ways to Stay Enthusiastic in Life (Even When You Are Drowning in Work)

“What you need is an attitude of gratitude,” my boyfriend said.

I wanted to smack him.

It was 2002, and I was working like a dog to build up my art business, desperately trying to fill in the gaps left when my spousal support ran out. I was burning out quickly, and whenever my boyfriend was over at my apartment, I was pretty vocal that this was not the life I wanted to be living, which inevitably prompted him to chirp a reminder to have “an attitude of gratitude.”

It was infuriating, and no less so because he was right. Or partly right. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to help stay enthusiastic in life when you’re drowning in work, but it’s not the only one.

A dozen years later, I’m now living a life I truly love, but sometimes I still find myself overcommitted. Here are 13 tips I’ve learned in the past decade-plus that really help me stay enthusiastic in life, even when I’m crazy busy.

1. Act enthusiastic

Back in the early 1900s, there was a major league baseball player named Frank Bettger, who was demoted to the minors (the story goes) because his manager thought he lacked enthusiasm.

Instead of lamenting his bad luck, Bettger took his manager’s note to heart and determined to establish a reputation as one of the most enthusiastic ball players in the league, even if he had to fake it. People began to take notice, and before long Bettger landed a position with a better team, shout-outs in the papers and a dramatic increase in his income, too.

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It’s worth noting that Bettger’s playing hadn’t improved; it was simply the power of his enthusiasm that led to his change of fortune.

Bettger’s baseball career only lasted a few years, but he went on to become one of the most successful salesmen of his day, and a best-selling self-help author. “Force yourself to act enthusiastic, and you’ll become more enthusiastic,” was his number one rule. He challenged people to try this for just 30 days, because this one change could easily revolutionize your life.

2. Take 15 minutes a day to do something you love

I used to complain regularly that I “never had time” to pursue my passions, until I heard an artist I admired say, “If you can’t put fifteen minutes into doing what you love, you’re making an excuse.”

I’d been nailed. That very day I determined to paint for at least 15 minutes every day for the next month. I was astonished at how my enthusiasm for life soared, just from 15 minutes a day of doing something I loved.

Try this yourself. Make a list of everything you love to do. What’s calling to you right now?

No matter how busy you are, take 15 minutes to do something that gives you joy, and watch your enthusiasm return.

3. Get enough sleep

There’s a prevalent notion in our “go-go-go” culture that sleep is for wimps. “You can sleep when you’re dead,” goes a popular saying.

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In fact, chronic sleep loss not only drains energy and enthusiasm, but can contribute to serious health problems. Learning and memory, metabolism and weight, cardiovascular health, and immune function all suffer when you don’t get enough sleep, and so does mood.

Getting enough sleep can be so hard, but making it a priority makes everything in life go so much better!

4. Feed yourself well

The typical American diet is not just terrible for the heart, bones, and belly. Big spikes and drops in blood sugar levels also wreak havoc with the way the brain uses energy. When your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, it affects brain chemistry, which impacts mood, memory, and cognitive function.

Shifting to a plant-based, low-glycemic diet actually changes how the brain functions, which can boost your mood, help you deal with stress, and make it easier to stay enthusiastic.

5. Move your body

Face it, we were not designed to sit eight (or more!) hours a day. Our bodies are made for movement. Exercise is not just essential to keep obesity at bay and keep our muscles, hearts and bones healthy; research has shown that it’s a powerful mood booster.

In his book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Dr. John Sarno shares study after study that demonstrate the power of exercise to improve thought processes, attention, and creativity, and even eliminate depression more effectively than prescription drugs!

When you’re feeling unenthusiastic, you may want to head for the couch, but instead of lying around in the dumps, go do something that will make you sweat. Take a walk, swim, dance, go throw a football around with a friend. Anything that gets your body doing what it was made for (i.e., moving!) will make it easier for you to find your enthusiasm again.

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6. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is the practice of noticing what you’re feeling, remembering that you’re human (and therefore fallible, just like everyone else on the planet), and treating yourself with the same kindness you’d give to a beloved friend. Unfortunately, few of us have been trained to respond to ourselves in this way. Much more often our response is to beat ourselves up when we stumble, but research has shown (and your own experience may echo) that self-flagellation is counterproductive.

If you practice responding to yourself with self-compassion rather than aggression, you’ll discover it’s a much more pleasant way to live, and when life is better, it’s so much easier to stay enthusiastic.

7. Meditate

Meditation (or any kind of mindfulness training) affects the brain in powerfully positive ways. In fact, studies have shown that mindfulness training actually increases grey matter in brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, sense of self, and perspective taking — all important for keeping your enthusiasm up!

Even just 10 minutes a day can spur these kinds of positive changes, and because meditation is the practice of continually — and self-compassionately — redirecting your attention (and redirecting your attention, and redirecting your attention … ) when you notice it becoming absorbed in thought, it’s the perfect way to strengthen your self-compassion muscles, too!

8. Flex your “what’s going well” muscle

Human beings seem to be wired to focus on what’s not going well. It’s important to notice this, of course, so we can make adjustments, but it’s equally important to notice what’s going well.

Yes, I wanted to smack my boyfriend whenever he preached “attitude of gratitude” at me, but he was right: the more attention you put on what’s going well in your life right now, the better life goes, and the easier it is to stay enthusiastic. Instead of focusing on all the things you wish were different, write down everything you can think of that you’re grateful for, and make a practice every day of noticing what’s going well.

9. Clear out clutter

It’s hard to be enthusiastic when you’re weighted down with stuff cluttering up your space. You can’t find things (where did that overdue cable bill go?), you’re ashamed to have people over, and it’s hard to even think!

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If clutter is a big problem for you, it may feel overwhelming and impossible to start. Just pick one small area where you’ll really notice a change, and you’ll be amazed at the fresh supply of energy and enthusiasm (and motivation to keep at the clutterbusting!) that will be your reward.

10. Spend time with enthusiastic people

Enthusiasm is contagious. Since your time and energy is limited, pay attention to how you feel after spending time with people in your life, and seek out those who fill you up, energize and inspire you.

11. Avoid energy drains

Negativity is also contagious. If you notice certain people or relationships causing you to feel drained, depressed, or badly about yourself, stay away from them!

12. Learn to say no

Notice where your time is going. Write down everything that takes up time in your life, and ask yourself who you are doing it for. Is it nourishing you, or are you acting out of a sense of false guilt or martyrdom? The happiest, most enthusiastic people I know are those who have learned to be ruthless with their time and energy, and to say no to things — and people — who suck them dry.

13. Practice spontaneous acts of kindness (but not sacrifice)

Have you ever noticed how good it feels to say or do something kind for someone else? Performing random, spontaneous acts of kindness — even just a kind word or a genuine smile — has been shown to boost self-image, lead us to perceive others more compassionately, promote a greater sense of connection with others, and feel grateful for our own good fortune. All of these things make us happier, and when we’re happier, it’s easy to be more enthusiastic.

Be careful, however, not to get sucked into acts of kindness out of a sense of obligation. Acts of kindness must be offered spontaneously — not as an act of martyrdom — in order to have a positive effect.

Each of these tips has helped me keep my own enthusiasm up. Let us know if you have any to add!

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Featured photo credit: Peter Conlan via unsplash.com

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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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