A few weeks back as you will remember we were discussing why we have stress as a response from our body, and found that it was in order to facilitate the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response in a life threatening situation. So this in itself is not a problem and on the contrary is necessary.
The problem is when we mentally treat everyday situations in the same way as a life threatening situation, and therefore the stress response is the same. Some examples that come to mind would be facing an exam, a job interview, getting pulled up by a manager, getting screamed at by a customer, having to make a speech, etc. I am sure you would agree that none of these situations are life-threatening. We shouldn’t worry about them but on the contrary need all our mental faculties in peak condition to deal with them.
What if I do worry about these situations?
Well easy to say and difficult to do you may say! Well let me give you a few tips as to how to reduce anxiety and build up self confidence.
- Calming our nerves: Take deep breaths as this helps to calm ourselves down. Sit in a comfortable chair. Breathe in for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds and then exhale or breathe out for 4 seconds slowly counting backwards on each exhalation. You can go backwards ideally from forty down to zero. By the time you get to zero you will be totally relaxed.
- Building up confidence: One easy way to do this is to pretend that you are confident, and magically after some time the pretense becomes reality.
Firstly, stand up straight and don’t hunch. This simple change in stance starts getting us confident as the body sends a signal to the mind indicating that it doesn’t seem nervous any more. In turn the mind also responds with a feeling of more confidence.
Secondly, smile. This simple act does wonders to change our mental state. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, well smile anyway.
Thirdly, visualize success. Well actually affirmations and visualizations go together. Let’s discuss this through an example ok! Let’s say that what is causing you to feel anxious is a speech you have to deliver. Well for around 2 weeks prior to the speech (ideally the more time you take to do this the more success you will have) sit down in a comfortable chair, first do the breathing exercise to get into a responsive and meditative state and then tell yourself a statement over and over again with a lot of positive emotion. In our case of making a speech you may say something like, ‘my speech is really fantastic and everyone loves it and is inspired by it’.
And then … see yourself being successful like watching a movie of yourself
While saying this … visualize yourself walking into the hall to make the speech; seeing the crowd filling the space; feeling confident, proud and happy; start making the speech and seeing the faces of the crowd hanging on to your every word with smiles on their faces; finishing the speech and answering many questions confidently and positively; walking off the stage to thunderous applause; and getting feedback from many people after, bosses and colleagues alike, that it was a fantastic speech and well done! It’s like seeing a movie of yourself making the speech. Only difference is, it’s in your head and in reality it hasn’t happened yet J
What’s the rationale behind this? How does it really work?
This visualization is actually a fantastic thing which works really well and is now used by all top sports man in honing their skills for optimum performance. A story is told of Michael Phelps by one of his coaches as to how Michael used to visualize every one of his races many times in his head prior to the race itself. And then by the time he actually went for the real race … in his mind … he had already done the same race many times before and won every time. So this time (the real race) is no different. Therefore building up immense stores of confidence!
What happens is that when the visualization is vivid enough the brain is tricked into believing that it is actually happening … and results in certain neural connections being made. If you want to know more about how this happens write to me ok!
- Practice, practice and practice some more: While everything else mentioned above will help you to gain confidence and overcome nerves, this doesn’t and cannot replace practice. So there are really no short cuts here. You want to be good – practice. You want to be great, well practice more and more.
I truly believe that if one really wants to excel it has to be a mixture of talent plus hard work. And guess what, hard work is better than talent most of the time but of course having both is great.
So! Consciously trying some of these techniques out, will help us avoid getting stressed out unnecessarily. That will for sure give us a greater chance of achieving our goals and becoming a better version of ourselves.