For people who suffer from panic attacks or general anxiety public speaking anxiety is a major source of worry weeks or even months before the speaking event is to occur.
It is often observed that many people’s top ranking fear is not death but having to speak in public. The joke is that these people would rather be lying in the casket at the funeral than giving the eulogy.
These speaking engagements do not necessarily have to be the
traditional “on a podium” events but can be as simple as an office meeting
where the individual is expected to express an opinion or give verbal feedback. The fear of public speaking anxiety and panic attacks in this case centers on having an
attack while speaking. The individual fears being incapacitated by the anxiety
and hence unable to complete what he or she is saying. The person imagines fleeing
the spotlight and having to make all kinds of excuses later for their
undignified departure out the office window…
This differs slightly from the majority of people who fear public speaking because their fear tends to revolve around going blank while speaking or feeling uncomfortable under the spotlight of their peers. The jitters or nerves of speaking in public are of course a problem for this group as well, but they are unfamiliar with that debilitating threat which is the panic attack, as they most likely have not experienced one before.
I am going to show you exactly how to do this, although I know that right now if you suffer from public speaking and panic attacks you may find it difficult to believe you can ever overcome it.
My first point is this and it is important. The average healthy person can experience an extreme array of anxiety and very uncomfortable sensations while giving a speech and is in no danger of ever losing control, or even appearing slightly anxious to the audience. No matter how tough it gets, you will always finish your piece, even if at the outset it feels very uncomfortable to go on. You will not become incapacitated in any way.
The real breakthrough if you suffer from public speaking anxiety and panic attacks happens when you fully believe that you are not in danger and that the sensations will pass.
Using this new approach is a powerful ally because it means it is okay to feel scared and feel the anxiety when speaking - that is fine; you are going to feel it and move with and through the sensations in your body and out the other side.
Because someone is feeling very anxious, often before the talk has begun, that person may feel they have already let themselves down. Now, you can relax on that point. It is perfectly natural to feel the anxiety. Take for example the worst of the sensations you have ever experienced in this situation—be it general unease to loss of breath. You will have an initial automatic reaction that says:
The key to controlling your fear of public speaking anxiety is that
In this way you turn the anxiety to your advantage by using it to deliver a speech where you come across more alive, energetic and in the present moment. When you notice the anxiety drop as it does when you willingly move into it, fire a quick thought off when you get a momentary break (as I am sure you have between pieces), asking it for “more.” You want more of its intense feelings as you are interested in them and are absolutely not threatened by them.
It seems like a lot of things to be thinking about while talking to a group of people, but it is not really. You’d be amazed how many different non-related thoughts you can have while speaking.
This approach is about adopting a new attitude of confidence to what you might have deemed a serious threat up until now. This tactic will truly help you with fear of public speaking and panic attacks you have associated with them.
If your predominant fear of the speaking engagement is driven by a feeling of being trapped, then I would suggest factoring in some mental releases that can be prepared before the event. For example, some meetings/speeches allow for you to turn the attention back to the room to get feedback etc. from the group.
If possible, you might want to prepare such opportunities in your own mind before the engagements. This is not to say you have to ever use them, but people in this situation often remark that just having small opportunities where attention can be diverted for the briefest of moments can make the task seem less daunting.
It may even be something as simple as having people introduce themselves or opening the floor to questions. I realize these diversions are not always possible and depend on the situation, but anything you can factor in that makes you feel less trapped or under the spotlight is worth the effort and can help alleviate fear of public speaking and panic attacks.
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This article is copywritten material by Barry McDonagh, an
international panic disorder coach.
His informative site on all issues related to panic and anxiety attacks can be found here