One of the very first things a presentation skills coach will advise you to do if you suffer from public speaking anxiety is to breathe. You would expect that as obvious advice as its something we were taught when we were children when we were nervous, scared or anxious about anything.
There’s nothing new about breathing you are probably doing it right now as you are reading this article. Despite the fact that it’s the most natural human function on earth many of us still don’t do it properly when we’re under pressure.
It’s an age old human phenomena, we often know exactly what to do but still we don’t always do it
We all know the importance of drinking at least 8 glasses of water each day and every presenter knows the number one route to reducing nervousness and enhancing performance is to breathe. Despite that knowledge how many of us drink at least 8 glasses of water a day and how many speakers actually take the time to breathe properly before a presentation?
I’m willing to bet that not many of us drink enough water each day and that most people don’t even think about breathing before they speak.
Perhaps its because it seems just too simple to be effective or maybe we are just too busy being busy; who has the time to breathe properly?
Most of the tension and anxiety we see affecting presenters today can be dispelled by the simple and immensely powerful act of mindful breathing. Here are 6 good reasons to pay attention to this blog and learn how to breathe properly before you speak.
1) Its free, you don’t need to join a gym, use technology or buy any fancy equipment
2) It reduces anxiety, agitation and stress helping you to feel relaxed, calm and focused
3) You can do it anywhere
4) It only takes a minute
5) If gives time to think
6) It works – scientifically that is!
The reason we’ve all been told about the importance and value of breathing properly when we are feeling uncomfortable is because the benefits are based on science not myth. We each have the gift of something called the ‘Vagus nerve’ which is a long cranial nerve which reaches all the way down to our heart, lungs other internal organs and even our tongue and vocal chords .
We’ve all heard of ‘fight or flight’ which is a primitive yet critical function of our sympathetic nervous system which basically says that when we feel under threat our body reacts in a instant to either fight off the threat or run away from it. Unfortunately, the feeling of vulnerability when speaking to people in public can represent a significant conscious and subconscious threat for a great number of people. This is where the vagus nerve can come to our swift rescue because as a key part of our parasympathetic nervous system it’s the nerve that calms you down
Here are 3 simple steps to a game changing presentation through mindful breathing:
Sit quietly for a few moments tune in to yourself and ask ‘What’s going on with me at the moment? Acknowledge and just accept everything you’re experiencing in the moment, sensations in your body, your thoughts, any emotions any negative feelings. Don’t try to change or fight anything just recognize and accept everything as it is for a few moments. The important thing is just to acknowledge without feeling compelled to want to change anything.
Take a deep inhalation into your belly and as you do so count slowly in your mind to five, then very slowly release each breath while pursing your lips and feel the breath leaving your body.
Focus totally on your breathing for 10 breaths or more. Experience fully and completely every breath. Follow each breath as closely as you can in through your nose, then down your throat and into your chest and abdomen feeling your stomach expand as you breathe in and contract as you breathe out. Notice all of the physical sensations you experience as you breathe in and breathe out. If your mind wanders (and it surely will) draw your attention back to your breath.
Expand your awareness to notice what’s going on in your whole body now, where you are, what’s happening for you right now? Notice a sense of space around you now and broaden your awareness to notice your whole experience. Notice any tension or sensations in your body and gently bring your breath into those spaces.
The joy of taking the time to really breathe before a presentation is that you can’t get it wrong and the benefits are enormous. Focusing on your breath leads you to focus on and listen to yourself, to tune into the rhythm of your mind and body. You become centered, release tension, increase clarity and get to deliver your message while managing your adrenaline.
Go ahead and breathe!
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