How To Calm Nerves: Mindset Techniques To Overcome Anxiety And Fear

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How to Calm Nerves

 

Anybody that’s ever watched an interview with an elite athlete will hear them say over and over that 99% of their success is mental. Now as a performer and an executive speaker coach, I can tell you that 99% of your success as a presenter is mental also. But—

  1. How do you overcome that speech anxiety?
  2. How do you overcome that performance anxiety? 

Stay tuned—today on Moxie Talk, we’re going to talk about tricks behind using mindset to ensure success. Hey everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder, and welcome to Moxie Talk where we help you find your voice, share your message and lead with confidence.

Today we’re talking about speech anxiety and how we can use mindset techniques and mental reconditioning to make sure we give a successful presentation. Now the first thing we should talk about is psychologists and their studies on performance anxiety. Psychologists have been studying performance anxiety for decades and they’ve realized a couple of things that are really interesting –

The First

Our amygdalas are pretty dumb. In two million years, they haven’t figured out the difference between being afraid of giving a speech and being afraid of getting attacked by a saber-toothed tiger. Our brain does not know the difference between these kinds of fears. It just knows fearWhen it senses any kind of threat whether it’s a rustling in the bush from a saber-toothed tiger or a looming presentation date, it goes into fight or flight

 When brain sense fear it goes into either Fight or Flight.

Really our speech anxiety is a full-blown hormonal reaction to an imagined threat. Now I know you’re probably saying the threat of losing my job or being made fun of or everybody laughing at me is a real threat.

The Other

The other thing that psychologists have studied is our ability as human beings to catastrophize.

It’s normal to catastrophize but you can stop it!

We have these massive brains unlike most animals and because of this, we have the ability to catastrophize. Even our imagined threats of getting laughed off, getting booed off stage, losing our job, getting told to leave the room, most of these things are never going to happen, these are catastrophizing. We are taking this fear to the next level.

It’s important to look at speech anxiety:

  • What is the real threat?
  • What is imagined? 
  • What lays on the other side of that fear?

If we actually walk towards that fear, if we actually push ourselves towards that fear—What could happen? What could we accomplish?

Sometimes I’ll give the example of Michael Phelps. Everybody knows that Michael Phelps is the Olympic athlete who holds the most gold medals of any human being in history. Do you think Michael Phelps isn’t nervous? Do you think he thinks – Ahh! I’m just not gonna do it because what if they Boo me or what if they laugh at me or what if I don’t win?

No! he’s so nervous, when he’s sitting on the edge of the pool waiting to dive in, he’s so nervous but he knows that what lies on the other side of pushing past that nervous energy is greatness, is the reward.

We have to think about mindset when we are talking about speech anxiety. Most of the things we’re afraid of are-

  1. Imagined.
  2. Catastrophe – they’re not going to happen.
  3. If we walk towards that fear we can accomplish great things.

Mental Reconditioning

Let’s borrow a page from some famous sports psychologists and how they work with elite athletes because I think this is pretty amazing. Elite athletes definitely suffer from performance anxiety just like speakers do and there are some techniques that they use with their athletes that I have applied to my clients in my coaching business that has been highly successful.

The first is what we call mental reconditioning which means that when you start to feel that discomfort—when you start to feel yourself getting nervous or your blood pressure rising your heart starting to race, all of these physical things that happen to us when we get nervous—you must recondition your brain to say, Hey, I’m actually growing! I’m actually improving! I’m actually pushing myself towards my goals! Because let’s face it:

Growth comes from a place of discomfort.

Nothing that we want in life that’s not easy, you don’t get it from just playing it safe, going easy on yourself. Whether it’s you know hitting new goals with your running and your speeds or learning a new skill or trying a bolder communication style, all of this requires you to be uncomfortable for a while.

Most of us when we start to feel that nervousness, that discomfort, that pang of dread, we back down, we stop doing it we turn down the speaking opportunity, we don’t stand up and speak at the executive briefing we don’t go into that job interview. Instead what I’m suggesting is to recognize that discomfort and then tell yourself that you are growing, that going through this discomfort is how we grow.

Name Your Fear

So that’s the first step and sometimes I’ll call this:

Name it to tame it

Right? If you’re like most of my clients, you’re going to feel that discomfort and you’re going to push it down, you’re going to push it away—nobody wants to feel that way. It doesn’t feel good. But if you recognize it then you can deal with it, right?

Give your fear or your discomfort a name. Literally name it. I have clients who have names for their discomfort, names for their fear, and once you name it then you can talk to it. You can say things to your fear like, “Hey Fear. I sense you’re back. Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate you saving me from going in the ocean when those waves were too big. You probably saved my life, but I’m just giving a presentation today and I’ve got this because I’ve practiced and I don’t need to go through this, Fear. You’re welcome to stick around but you got to sit in the back of the theater.”

You can talk to your fear but you can only do this once you recognize it, acknowledge it, name it and then you can start to make sure that your fear is not taking the driver’s seat. You’re making sure that you are in control, not your fear.

Fear’s Greatest Hits

Let’s talk a little bit about fear itself, I call this fear’s greatest hits. Some of us have:

  • Fear of failing – We want to be perfect the perfectionists in the group understand this.
  • Imposter Syndrome – Imposter syndrome is higher in women than men. This is when you go through that kind of thought process of I don’t belong to here, I shouldn’t be here, other people can do it better, they’re more experienced than me, I’m not sure why they picked me, they’re gonna find out one day then I’m not really all that great.
  • Perfectionists and Catastrophizers

Nonetheless, fears greatest hits are important to think about with mindset because when our brain goes into fight or flight and we start to feel that fear, our brain starts to try to protect us from doing that thing which it thinks is threatening. Thus, it starts saying all these things to us to keep us from doing that threatening thing. I call this:

K-Crap Radio

K-Crap Radio plays crap in your head all day long. Things like you don’t belong here, you’re gonna mess up, you suck, you shouldn’t do this, somebody else would have done it better. This radio station gets louder and louder and louder, the closer we get to this high event – high stakes event.

Hence, what we really have to do after we’ve recognized the fear, given it a name, asked it to sit in the back of the car or the back of the room, then we have to recognize that it’s going to get louder and louder and louder as we get closer to that event—that’s just our body trying to protect us from this thing it thinks is threatening. It is our job to turn the radio station down, that radio station down and turn up the volume on our confident voice and we all have a confident voice.

Finding Your Confident Voice

Let’s talk about how to find that confident voice. You might be thinking, I’ve turned down the volume on that naysayer, that negative voice – K Crap Radio. But how do I turn up the volume on my confident voice? This all has to do with how you talk to yourself. That K-Crap Radio that’s playing probably isn’t really your voice. If you go back in time, it’s probably the voice of somebody in your life who had an influence on you, whether it was a sibling or a parent or a boss or a teacher that said something to you, that ingrained in you in a way that you started to believe it.

You’re not a good singer, you’ll never get, you’ll never be good at this, you should consider doing something else for a living, and it’s stuck and that becomes the voice of your K-Crap Radio that gets louder and louder and louder as you get closer to this event but

I want to encourage you to find your inner voice that is confident, that is strong, that is positive, that is your best coach ever.

How do you do this? Start by asking yourself for the K-Crap Radio voice, for that naysayer’s voice – What if that voice was projected through speakers at a football game and everybody heard this messaging. Would you be proud of it? Absolutely not!

What would you like to hear? What would you like a coach to say to you before this high-stakes event?

Would you like them to give you mantras, would you like them just to tell you that you’re ready, would you like them to say you can do this push past your fear, you know you deserve this, or maybe your inner voice is a little quieter and it’s just a couple words.

Everybody has a different inner voice or a different coaching voice that they want to hear, that they can use before this high-stakes event. Now the key is, once you’ve thought about what you want this positive voice to say, you’ve got to script it out. Studies show that actually handwriting this script helps us remember it more helps us ingrain it.

I recommend once you’ve figured it out write it down for yourself every night before you go to bed. Then read it every morning you wake up. And you might have to test it—you might have to put it to the metal and see if it works. You know, see if it’s going to help you in some kind of stressful situation. If you are talking to a colleague that gives you stress or you are doing something that’s outside of your comfort zone before that high stakes event, test this muscle and see if your script works if it doesn’t…

Revise-Revise-Revise

…until you have your coaching script and this is the voice you are going to turn up the volume on before your presentation, before this job interview, before this thing that is scaring you to pieces but you know you must do in order to be successful.

That, my friends, is a lot of the key to a successful mindset before the presentation. It is about recognizing the fear and the discomfort realizing that something matters more than that fear, much more than that fear, turning the volume down on that K-Crap Radio, turning the volume up on your inner coaching voice, Repeat-Repeat-Repeat until you actually believe it.

Now when you do this—you guys all know that I love my neuroscience—when you do this you are literally growing new neural pathways in your brain, you are rewiring your brain those negative neural pathways that say, you can’t do this, they’re going to atrophy, they’re going to get small you’re not feeding them at all and these positive ones are going to grow. They’re going to be strong the more you say this, the more you believe it, the more you do it – the bigger they get, this is literally rewiring our brains.

A positive mindset takes work and consistency – But its worth it!

Visualization

The last tool I want to talk about as far as mindset I would be remiss to not talk about visualization. We’ll talk about this higher level a little bit quickly but I want to give you this tool also. Now, our brains— speaking of neuroscience—do not know the difference between doing something and visualizing something. 

Our brain literally travels the same neural pathway if we’re doing something as if we’re visualizing it. This is why visualization is such a powerful tool and so many performers and so many athletes use this.

I talked about Michael Phelps earlier in this blog – Do you know that a month before any Olympic event Michael Phelps visualizes himself swimming through the pool, through his own eyes, and winning? Then he visualizes himself in the stands watching himself swim through the pool and winning every single day for a month before any Olympic event and he credits this visualization to be the reason he has won more gold medals than the person right behind him. It is this visualization tool that he uses that guarantees his success.

I recommend for anybody that’s having a hard time about leading up to a high-stakes presentation to use visualization as soon as you feel that pang in your stomach, that feeling of dread your butterflies, your heart starts to race, as soon as you start thinking these things and you start to feel yourself going to this negative place, close your eyes (unless you’re driving) and do a quick visualization.

The more specific you are with your visualization the better it will work. Really see yourself, hear yourself, smell it, taste it—go through the entire experience of giving a successful presentation, and do this every time you start to feel that dread. Again… re-wiring.

If I were going to you know sum all of this up in a nutshell, the key to making sure you use mental techniques to ensure your success and your presentation is mental reconditioning and rewiring of your brain. You can do this by reconditioning your inner voice and using visualizations. These simple tools will really help you on the go-forward to make sure you go into any high-stakes situations with confidence.

Thank you so much for reading this blog. Make sure if you enjoyed and found it informative and relevant, share it with friends, and subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel so you can become part of our Moxie community, our Moxie tribe. If you want more information on fear, read some more of our blog  Fear Less: Using The Fear of Failure To Pursue Passions . There’s a ton of them that might be relevant to you. 

If you want more information about how Moxie can help you master your fear then check out our Fear of Public speaking page or book a call

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