Do you get anxious speaking in front of large crowds? Me too. Recently, I was about to take the stage and could feel adrenaline pulsing through my body. I was conscious not to bounce my knee or fidget with my hands. (Man, I was wishing I could strike a power pose behind a curtain!) I was determined to remain confident sitting next to the host of the leadership training. Would my mindfulness presentation be a success? Would they walk away with great tools? Was I prepared? Of course! How did I deal with the anxiety that comes with speaking in front of an audience? I told myself that I was excited. I certainly didn't tell myself to calm down. I was introduced to this concept of reframing the sweaty-palm-inducing activity of public speaking by psychologist, author, and lecturer at Stanford, Kelly McGonigal. She says that telling yourself to calm down before a speech is like telling an athlete to calm down before a competition. She goes on to explain that stress is a guide that reveals what's important and that anxiety is energy. Wait, hold up! Stress is a guide that reveals what's important--I love this. Anxiety is energy--I love this too!
“Despite most people’s belief that some adrenalin improves performance, but too much impairs performance, the evidence suggests otherwise. When it comes to performing under pressure, being stressed is better than being relaxed.” - Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.
McGonigal's book, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, gifted me these ideas and more.
Key points that I'm loving from McGonigal:
- The way we perceive stress (harmful or enhancing) has a direct effect on how our body physiologically processes it.
- Stress is a tool to help you recognize what's important.
- Anxiety is a form of energy. Use it to work toward what's important.
Stress is part of life. Things we're proud of or passionate about have elements of stress.
Steps to transform stress
- Take note of a stressful moment.
- Determine the underlying factor of what is truly important and therefore causing you to feel stress. Are you looking to improve a relationship, take the next step at work, find personal growth?
- Recognize the deeper meaning of your stress and take action to move forward.
It's worked for me on multiple occasions. Hope it does for you as well.
Dig deeper. Check out MCgonigal's TED Talk, How To Make Stress Your Friend.