Manage Public Speaking Anxiety by Getting Uncomfortable

by Janice Tomich

Recently I attended a class that was way out of my comfort zone. It was a form of breathwork called Breath Wave. The reason I planned to attend this workshop was to learn more tools to help my clients regulate their public speaking anxiety. And my own. Yes, everyone gets stung by pre-presentation nerves, and that includes me. (Learning how to calm yourself down before giving a presentation is a essential life skill.)

Poor breathing mechanics are directly correlated with anxiety. Often, when working with new clients, I’ll ask them to take a big, deep belly breath. Most can’t and are only able to breathe from their upper chest.

I knew the mechanics of what to expect from the class, however, I had brought my misguided bias along too. I wasn’t expecting to have to engage in hugs or extended moments of direct eye contact with my fellow classmates, all of whom were complete strangers. Because I’m an introvert, I was way out of my zone.

I enjoy a good hug like the next person and direct eye contact is welcomed if it’s with people I know. A large group of strangers…not so much.

The evening was off to a bit of a rocky start but echoing in my ears were words I often share with my clients, “You have to get out of your comfort zone to grow”. I was definitely uncomfortable.

I hung in there. It was worth it. The floating zen-like feeling of deep breathing for over an hour was pretty enjoyable. Some of my fellow classmates said they transcended. I didn’t join them there.

Although I thought I had a good grounding and capacity for taking a full breath, I learned that was true but also learned my breathing was constricted in my upper chest so I really wasn’t taking in a true, full breath.

Breathwork is a significant piece of the work I do with clients who experience public speaking nerves/anxiety. The results of using the power of breath to tame cortisol and adrenaline that fuels public speaking anxiety is remarkable.

If you haven’t been able to get a handle on your public speaking nerves consider learning some new skills to access deep belly breathing such as yoga, pilates, or voice lessons. As ridiculous as it sounds, because all of us do know how to breathe, it’s tapping into the depth of your breath that is one of the keys to regulate your public speaking jitters.

​​​​Do you have an important presentation coming up?
You don’t have to plan it alone.

If you’re lost and unsure about how to make your presentation compelling, I can help.

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