How to reduce anxiety of public speaking

Public speaking is one of the most common fears we have. Just thinking about going up in front of the crowd can make you shiver. You are not alone. Some us are just nerve wrecked people when it comes to going up in front of the crowd.

nervous guy

My story

Ever since I remember I have had a huge fear of public speaking. My heart was beating hard, my hands were sweaty, I had trouble to breathe. Even if I was prepared well to do my presentation I still was scared shitless.

My first unpleasant memory of public speaking is when I was 8 years old. The teacher used to make us learn poems then we had to go in front of the class and say it out loud by memory. For an 8-year old boy, it was pure hell and torture. I ‘ll never read another poem that’s for sure.

Waiting is the worst part. It’s like going to execution. As you wait your turn, the anxiety gets worse and worse, rationally thinking you know it’s not a big deal, but sometimes the unconscious mind has its own way of seeing the situation and you don’t have any saying in that.

I still remember when I was 13-years old and everyone from the class had to and presentation of an item they like. As a video game nerd, my item was classic Playstation game Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2. It was so gruelling to wait for my turn, I was the last one and I was extremely nervous and shaking. Just writing this and remembering the event makes me dizzy and anxious.

fear of public speaking

When I got in front of the class I was already red, sweaty having almost full blown panic attack. As I was talking I was mumbling and shaking, I wanted to run away and go cry. I wanted to die. I did my presentation knowing It was the worst presentation one of the class.

I remember the bully in front of me smiling as he knew I was experiencing huge anxiety. The embarrassment and shame I felt from it couldn’t be described in words. I will never forget it.

After that incident, every single presentation and public speaking would make my heart jump out of my chest. I didn’t know what to do about it. What was wrong with me. How could I fix this? It was a big burden and it made me feel different and isolated from everybody else. If I knew that I had to participate in any public speaking I would skip the class.

Self medication

When I was 17 I found out that drinking alcohol could ease my nervousness. I remember this one time when I drank two Budweiser’s just before presentation to calm myself. I demanded to go first with my friend while the effect of alcohol was strong. It was smoothest public speaking I ever had. This also set a very bad habit for later in life.

When I was 22 I had this thing where I took black battery drink bottle and make vodka mixed drink it. I would sip it to get the right buzz and it helped. I remember one time when I had my vodka mixed drink and I was drinking in the class, right next to the teacher. I was chewing gum so nobody could smell (fortunately) my breath. I did “lively” presentation and teacher applauded me. Little did she know it was liquid courage.

alcohol courage

I knew this wasn’t healthy and couldn’t mask this problem, especially with alcohol.
Over the years I experimented with different healthier ways to control my anxiety:

Healthy ways to combat public speaking anxiety

One of my habits is to chew gum. For some reason, it takes away the jitter and relaxes me. Chewing a nice big piece of gum. During the presentation, I would slowly chew it between sentences.I would concentrate on chewing it nice and slowly. It also gave this laid back vibe to the crowd. I like chewing gum.

Right before the presentation I would crack jokes with classmates and talk loudly to get myself in the zone and out of my head. This is a very effective method. You make your brain think that you are safe in the environment and nothing bad will happen.

Comedy is very effective way mask your insecurities, make it like a joke. This has been a big part of my presentation, I always add some humour and comedy . People might laugh and you will laugh, it eases up the situation.

laughing

I will meditate in the morning to calm myself and my thoughts. Meditation is scientifically proven to lower anxiety. From my experience it does work. I do Transcendental meditation every day for 20 minutes.

Something I learned reading excellent book The Ultramind solution by Mark Hyman is the vagus nerve response. Breathe in 5 seconds, holds 1 second then breath out 5 seconds. Do this breathing exercise 5 times. Controlling your breathing is very important when dealing with panic attacks and anxiety.

Coffee makes me wired and  nervous so I definitely won’t be drinking it before the event. I have love/hate relationship with coffee, sometimes I take breaks from it. It is nice uplifter, but it does give me unwanted side effects like nervousness and anxiety.

I drink green tea instead on that day, it has l-theanine in it, green tea gives me a nice relaxed buzz I like. I also use solgar l-theanine capsules .I have used them occasionally. They are not a magic pill but they do work a little. Take them an hour before. See for yourself how do they work for you.

Occasionally I use 5–HTP. It elevates your serotonin levels which make you happier and calmer. The product I use from solgar has magnesium and valerian root in which will calm you.

Magnesium is awesome relaxation mineral. I take 600 mg at evening to relax so I can sleep. I had no idea about this until last summer I started taking 600 mg of magnesium with 5-HTP, I was so relaxed and sleepy that it took me a shitload of coffee to get myself back up.

Dr. Mark Hyman wrote a nice article on his site.

This one is my favorite! Going for jog gives me nice endorphin release and makes me  quite relaxed for the rest of the day. It’s amazing how good you feel. Good sweaty 30-40 minute running session works wonders. Blood flow in the brain increases and you start thinking clearer!

I always wanted to stay off prescription stuff, but I finally decided at the age of 26 to try beta blockers. Blockers block epinephrine, you will not get the fight or flight response when you get anxious. I tried Propranolol 4 times, it works nice, takes away the rapid heartbeat, shaking, gives you this numb feeling . It didn’t take away all my anxiety, though, but it helped in bringing myself down a notch instead of going off like a rocket.

Conclusion

I hope some of these tips help. After all these years I still hate public speaking, but it gets better in time as you grow, learn to relax and stop caring so much. Also the more you do it, the easier it gets cause you start learning about yourself as a public speaker, you develop tools for dealing with your anxiety. I don’t think you can eliminate your public speaking anxiety completely, lots of performers have stage fright all their life, but you can reduce it and learn to control it so it doesn’t overpower you.

Stage Fright

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