Updated: Jan 5
Speaking in public, giving a big and important presentation to the board or client, taking an exam or test - all of this initiates similar chemical reactions in your body and results in a state of anxiety, the stress of various degrees. Leaving biochemical theory aside, below I am sharing the 4 practical tactics of how I deal with such situations, by converting them into joyful and learning experiences.
Important, none of the below techniques would work if you don’t truly accept the fact that it is completely natural and normal to feel nervous. Exposure to stress equals growth - the basic underlying principle.
The first trick, or metal habit, was acquired by me during college time. Since then the longest presentation, workshop and simulation I’ve delivered non-stop lasted about three-four hours. Prior to such “stressful” engagement, I take a moment to think from a point of time in the future. Example: a speaking engagement is scheduled for 9-10 am. At 8:45 am, right before the start, I visualize vividly that it is already 12 pm on the clock and I’m catching up with team casually, having a debrief and a cup of tea. I imagine the morning engagement is over, it is in the past, and I’m already thinking about all other items that I need to act before the day ends. Transferring yourself into “future state” ultimately lessens current, made up my the mind, tensions.
Looking back I can’t but appreciate an opportunity to get a college degree in History from a Russian university, where back that time neither students nor professors knew what a standardized test was about. Instead, every mid-term exam was more like a big day in student's life, when he or she groomed properly, used to find themselves in a state of complete petrification, with trembling hands picking up a small piece of paper from Professor’s desk. Questions selected in blind were supposed to be answered in a form of a dialog with a strict and highly respected professor, while having all of your classmates sitting just behind you and watching you rambling. On my very first exam the very first question to be answered was about the evolution of serfdom institute in the Middle Ages. The question which made me realize - I must find a way to deal with that unbearable stress.
Concentrating on the breath for a minute. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale.
I tend to ask myself periodically, especially when I deal with a new “setting” of a stressful situation - “What is the % of the population who haven’t made through a similar experience, meaning they physically didn’t survive”. Historicallynumbers have been on my side, i.e., no casualties have been recorded as a result of a similar public speaking, client, investor presentation or test.
Practice, practice and practice - self-explanatory.
Listed above tactics have worked well for me, in various settings. My today reading list includes two recently purchased books rich in insights and ideas on the subject of this note:
Book. The Whole Brain Child, by Dr. Dan Siegel. While primarily was written for new parents, the book is exceptionally helpful to understand how the human brain works and how we interact with reality, our perception of reality and consequently emotions.
Book. Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, by Timothy Ferriss. Reading in progress.