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Ten Ways to Beat Stress and Anxiety

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Ten Ways to Beat Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are a part of modern life and there is no way to avoid it. Therefore it pays to know how to reduce stress and anxiety in order to function as well as possible without buckling under the strain. Once you know how to manage stress, it becomes a lot easier to live with. Here are fantastic ways to alleviate stress and enjoy a more carefree existence

1. Exercise

Exercise has proven time and time again to reduce the effects of stress. The psychological benefits of exercise have a neurochemical basis. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulates the production of endorphins which are the body’s natural painkillers and mood enhancers.

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2. Maintain a sense of humor/laugh a lot

Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress and anxiety. Nothing works faster lighten the load and help you feel more lighthearted. Humor lightens your load, inspires hope, connects you to others and keeps you grounded. Laughter boosts the immune system, relaxes the body and allows the body to release hormones known as endorphins that promote an overall sense of physical and emotional well-being. Laugh every day and stress will be minimized.

3. Watch your thinking

Thoughts lead to emotions which in turn lead to behavior. When you monitor your thinking, you alter the associated emotions and behavior. Think thoughts that work for you and you will automatically reduce stress and anxiety. We all have a tendency to work ourselves up by worrying and thinking of the worst possible scenario. This only adds to stress. Ensure that you challenge your thinking regularly. Ask yourself where the evidence is – just because you feel a certain way does not mean that it is real.

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4. Take time out – balance in life is essential

All work and no play leads to a life that is out of kilter. A lopsided life will inevitably lead to stress and anxiety. It’s important to maintain a balance and keep your eye on the bigger picture. I often remind my clients that there is only one of them yet the company that they work for will still carry on. People feel such loyalty to almost kill themselves for their employers. There is a lack of balance and perspective and it is often only once physical health problems kick in that people sit and take notice. Take preventative measures and introduce balance into your life before your health is affected.

5. Express yourself. Be assertive

When you stifle your needs and allow others to take over, this suppression can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Learn to say “no” and stop pleasing others. The more you stand up for yourself the easier it is to keep stress and anxiety in check.

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6. Maintain Perspective

When we are stressed, we tend to exaggerate the possible consequences of our situations which only makes stress and anxiety worse. Try to detach from the situation by asking yourself whether this current problem will still matter six months from now. Sometimes it helps to imagine yourself on a balcony looking down on yourself. From this detached position it is often easier to maintain perspective and remove yourself emotionally from the situation. Once you have detached, it is easier to think clearly and reduce stress and anxiety effectively.

7. Stop trying to please others

If you live your life for others, you ignore your own needs at your own peril. It is never a good idea to put other people’s needs constantly ahead of your own. This can lead to resentment and inner tension. It’s almost as if an inner toxin develops when we do not honor our own needs. This does not mean you have to be selfish but when we try to be martyrs for too long this inevitably ends up being counterproductive.

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8. Follow your own path

In order to be truly happy, it is important to know what it is that gives you that pleasant buzz. That feeling when time flies and you feel alive. Make time for those activities in life that inspire you and fill you with positive energy. Energy awareness is vital in managing stress levels. When we spend time with emotional vampires, they suck positive energy out of us. Limit your time with these people and be aware of where you get your positive energy. Fill up those coffers!

9. Love what you do

Quality of life is important if you want to reduce stress and anxiety. Common sense suggests that if you spend a large amount of your life doing things you really don’t enjoy, this will influence your mood and increase your stress levels. As far as possible, engineer a life that is full of activities that you love. Find your passion and incorporate it into your life as much as possible. Watch your self limiting beliefs and believe that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”.

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10. Be selective about the news you watch or listen to

We are receptive beings and we are constantly influenced by our surroundings. Be aware of your environment and what you are exposing yourself to in terms of positive and negative energy. Often, the news can be a source of negative energy and can lead to a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. Of course, it is a good thing to be informed about the world but be aware of the effect this has on you and if you find that you are easily influenced by others and your surroundings, limit your time watching informative programs of a negative nature.

It is a good idea to figure out what works for you and have an anti-stress strategy. Whether that’s regular exercise, achieving more of a work/leisure balance or making time to follow your passion, it’s vital to prepare a system that you can call upon when you feel frazzled. Energy awareness is key in order to reduce stress and anxiety. Limit negative energy sources (difficult people, negative media stories etc) and increase  positive energy sources (fun music, inspirational people, exercise etc) to maintain a relatively stress and anxiety free life.

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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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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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