Dealing with anxiety can be hard and public places with unfamiliar faces make it even harder. It is most difficult when you are facing the crowd and you have something to say. A lot of questions and fears pass through our mind; questions like what if I make a mistake and embarrass myself, Will they pay attention to what i have to say? All these questions bring about self-doubt making us lose our stamina.
For those who are already pro in public speaking i believe you can remember the first time you spoke in public. The fear, the rumbling in your stomach all the chills and anxiety? It wasn’t easy taking the first step but look at the journey so far and realize how much progress you have made with constant practice.
Symptoms of anxiety in public places
I remembered the first day I was asked to peak in public I ended up crying without uttering a word. I know a friend that froze when asked to speak in public. Therefore, the symptom we experience due to anxiety can vary.
It can range from a slight feeling of nervousness to being incapacitated and being unable to say a word. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Butterflies in the stomach,
- Dry mouth,
- Hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
- Rapid heartbeat, and
- Shaky voice.
Let’s discuss some ways to deal with this anxiety, and make it work to your advantage.
1. Become aware of your breathing patterns and control them:
Once anxiety sets in, it begins with changes in our breath. We begin by experiencing hyperventilation which is short and shallow breathing. We can also experience Shortness of breath and panic.
To gently counter this state, we can take some practical steps to help us control our breathing and its rhythm this can help bring us back to normal helping us stay composed and relaxed. Regardless of your current location, these steps can be practiced anywhere with ease and little distraction.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Close your eyes to help you relax, avoid distractions and focus on your breathing.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose, with your mouth closed. If you’re relaxed, the air will reach the lower part of your lungs. Your stomach will push out against your hand. If your breathing is controlled, the hand on your chest will hardly move.
- Breathe out through your nose. Your stomach will fall gradually. as you do this, you being to feel less tensed and more relaxed.
- Do not use a lot of effort. with every breath, you take, try to make your breathing slow, smooth and relaxed.
Also, counting your breath as you go can also help ease your anxiety
2. FOCUS ON YOURSELF AND YOUR ENVIRONMENT
This might be the best way to get your mind off the situation causing your current anxiety. It helps you focus more on your body and it’s senses. That way, you draw your mind to the present moment this will help you stabilize anxiety by connecting to what is happening right in front of you instead of focusing on the anxiety itself.
This body scan should begin from the ground up. You will get the best result when this is done with with long deep inhalation and exhalation of equal ratio.
Focus on your breath.
Slowly begin to observe your surroundings.
Observe and feel the ground under your feet
Feel the chair you are sitting on
Feel the tips of your fingers.
Relax your muscles
Become aware of your environment, notice the sound you hear and pay attention to the nature surrounding where you are.
Keep repeating this process by beginning at the feet and working your way up the body each time you feel anxious.
3. Bring a friend or someone that can be there to help you stay calm:
Good friends are good moral support. When we are faced with public situations that trigger anxiety, having a friend or loved one to help us deal with the situation can be really helpful. They can help you stay calm, give you positive pep talks, etc. Through social support, you can feel more secure and relaxed in public.
If your friend or whoever you are going with isn’t aware of your symptoms and fears, please inform them. You can also come up with various activities or coping strategies to help you whenever you feel anxious.
4. Dress confidently and comfortably:
We all have times when we dress up and we feel very confident, comfortable, and good about how we look. Wear clothes that you feel confident in. There are good outfits to wear when you present a speech especially in a new environment with new people.
If you feel good about how you look standing in front of your audience, you will be excited and you can focus on the message you are passing across. You do not want to distract your audience or yourself by adjusting your clothes or hair during your speech.
5. Practice! Practice!! practice!!!
As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day”. therefore, the more we practice and get feedback, the better we become. Prepare your speech early and thoroughly proofread it to correct any errors. You can ask someone to help you review what you have written to make the necessary corrections. Remember, two heads are better than one. I know we have people that enjoy doing things last-minute but that will only complicate your situation by increasing your anxiety and making you prone to errors.
Practice presenting your speech to your friend or anyone that can help correct you. You can also present in front of your mirror, video, or record yourself this will help you notice and correct any wrong body language. Focus on the topic you are giving.
Lastly, walk with the time allocated to you. Don’t go overboard with timing because other people have their own lives and plans. Use a stopwatch if you need one to keep track of time.
6. Always encourage yourself:
There are times when you are asked to carry out activities in public places and you flop. Do not beat yourself so hard or talk down on yourself. Try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones always visualize success. Thinking negative thoughts or thinking about our past mistakes will only increase our anxiety. Focus on how to make this one the best.
Learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you think, “you are going to embarrass yourself,” replace that thoughts by saying, “I have prepared and I have put in the work so I will deliver the best”. Performers like athletes and musicians have realized that visualization is a very powerful tool to improve performance. Visualize being in public speaking and people applauding you.
Public speaking is an art that has to be improved so take it one step at a time.