ALL THOSE PUBLIC SPEAKING FEELS!
So apparently public speaking is a worry for many people? Ha - just kidding! I know that speaking or performing in public is one of the top fears that people face. There are so many reasons why speaking in front of a group of people causes anxiety and worry.
Let's not talk generally though... let's talk about me, hehe!
In the past, when I felt the anxiety-symptoms related to public speaking, I would get overwhelmed by the physiological sensations. I would get all the typical ailments - sweaty palms, butterflies in my stomach, slight nausea, sweaty armpits, hot cheeks, uncontrolled breathing, rapid heartbeat, etc. My thoughts would automatically focus on how my body felt, which would drive my mind into a tornado-like frenzy of negative and hurtful self-talk. "I'm terrible. They don't like me. I wish I could catch my breath. They are noticing my trembling hands. Do I have pit stains?" So then my emotional symptoms would heighten even more and my physiological symptoms would match. It was so difficult that I totally understand why people (and I) would avoid speaking in public at all costs.
Then I learned a trick!!! Well, I kind of taught myself a trick while teaching 1st grade students about how worry and excited are kind of like cousin emotions. They mostly have the same effects on our bodies, but our thoughts about them are different. AH HA!! This is groundbreaking for me - it suddenly transformed how I allowed my thoughts to relate to those same two feelings!
This mindset trick enables your thoughts to respond differently to your body's reaction to a worry/fear. As I became more familiar with the basics of the brain, I began noticing that I have much more control over each part's function than I ever thought possible.
So a quick lesson... The limbic system is in the middle of the brain and, among several other things, is responsible for your fight or flight response. The amygdala is in your limbic system and is where your emotions live. When fear or worry take over your amygdala (feel free to imagine the movie Inside Out), your stress response is activated. Some very special neurotransmitters (hormones) are released into your body preparing you to save yourself from a threat! To me, the limbic system has an important job when there is a real threat, but not very necessary for speaking in front of people.
So now, as I visualize myself performing or speaking in front of an audience, I use my knowledge of the stress response to my advantage. I will literally say, "Wow - thank you heart and lungs for speeding up so that I can get more oxygen to my body so I can perform better. I actually would prefer to have a steady heartbeat and calm breathing, but thank you anyway." Then I use my coping strategy of taking a deep breath in through my nose, holding, and exhaling slowly through my mouth. I have sent a signal to my amygdala that I do not need that stress response and then I take action. It has worked every time. I also rephrase the random thoughts that pop up saying, "I'm so nervous" with "I'm so excited" - this helps me use the extra body energy to my advantage!
I have performed in front of audiences in my school SEVERAL times - I wish I had a tally, but I would say at least 8 times a school year, I stand in front of 500-800 kids/parents/staff members to speak or perform. I am quite confident within that environment actually, mostly since I have a relationship with my school that is built on vulnerability and trust.
Today, though, was my first public speaking event for Stackable SEL. I spoke generally about ways to promote mental wellness through direct instruction of some foundation social and emotional skills. It was in front of an audience of about 50-60 people, so not too large, which can often be more difficult for me because I can notice every detail about the crowd. The group was about 30-40 kids in preschool through 4th grade and about 15-20 adults.
My biggest stressor was trying to provide the adults with information while still engaging with the kids. It is quite difficult getting a 4 year old and a 40 year old laughing at the same joke or engaged with the same information. I am hopeful that I was able to meet my goal and everyone was able to leave with at least something new!
Overall, I am pretty happy with how everything went! I received some compliments, some interest for further offerings, and pretty good vibes. While reflecting, there are SO MANY things that I can critique myself on, but right now, I am not going to let self-doubt win (yes, I will be blogging about self-doubt soon as promised!).
So before I go to bed, I am going to say "Go me!' and put my first public speaking adventure to rest!
How do you feel about speaking in public? What do you think about my mindset trick? Do you have any tips/tricks you'd like to share? Please comment below!