What is it about Public Speaking?

inline-Scared-Of-Public-Speaking-Use-These-3-Variables-To-Flip-FearJane was having trouble with “performing”.  Standing up in front of people to present information did not feel natural.  It was high pressure and intensely worrying.  What she really wanted was to see public speaking as quite natural and not a performance; to feel comfortable enough in herself so that she could engage her audience in a steady and interesting flow of words.

She noticed this natural feeling when she spoke on various topics with friends. There had even been a handful of times in which she spoke confidently up the front and enjoyed herself.  When she looked at those experiences closely the key for Jane seemed to be ‘connection’.  What had worked for her was an authentic connection with her audience, herself and with the topic she was speaking on. During those occasions it all seemed to come together beautifully.  Why then, would she go on to feel so incredibly nervous in doing something that: a) she’d already done successfully before; and b) had gained a lot of satisfaction doing?

With the various demands of her work, Jane’s anxiety around performance kept appearing.  As soon as she was given the challenge, however far off the date was, it made it’s presence felt on her sub-conscious radar.  She’d begin thinking about it at odd times, and then all the time.  Not the excited kind of thinking, but the ruminating type where thoughts get repetitive or go nowhere. “What will I say?  Will I be interesting enough? What if I get super nervous again?”  Despite the presentation being weeks away, it was as if her body was preparing her for something that was bigger than it actually was.  She found herself feeling a little bit too energised; that jumpy state of over-alertness that prevents one from being completely in the moment.

Jane knew that she was a procrastinator at the best of times.  Perhaps if she began preparing the presentation immediately then she’d start to see that it wasn’t as big a deal as her mind and body were trying to tell her.  So she sat down to write a draft and, as the minutes of concentration and focus progressed, the worries and uncomfortable feelings began to dissipate.  The more she used the rational thinking part of her brain, the less her feelings could dominate.  Using the structured and organised side of herself she was able to complete a full ‘outline’, helping her to feel more in control.  Admittedly, much of the talk was still to be fleshed out but there was time for this later.  For now, she felt much better.

Several days passed uneventfully.  The jumpy feelings were manageable and there were enough demands in her home and professional life to be distracted by.  Soon enough, the actual week of the presentation was upon her.  If the diary hadn’t told her, the symptoms in her body certainly had.  The energy was palpable; getting her ready for what seemed like a climb up Mt Everest but was actually just standing up in front of a group of people to speak.  Her psychologist (whom she saw for a bit of help) later explained that these physical sensations were simply the body doing it’s job in the fight/flight response.  A bunch of messages from the brain to the body preparing her for action and potentially enabling her to perform well.  This mechanism is perfectly normal when it occurs briefly before the event, but is a sign that it needs managing if it is experienced too far in advance.  Ok, so what would calm her down?  What would make the sick feeling in her stomach and the racing heart go away?

Jane had noticed that sitting down and preparing her talk a few weeks prior had helped her to feel more in control.  Why not just do that?  Alas, she tried but it was useless. Constructive concentration when the presentation was only 2 days away seemed out of her grasp.  She was stressing out badly in her thoughts: “I’m running out of time!  Why didn’t I finish my preparation when I was calm? Now I can’t think straight.”  She felt down on herself and worried about not doing a good job: “I’m hopeless at this; why am I even doing it?  What if I freeze or my words get all muddled?”

She would need to try some different approaches.  How had she managed these situations in the past?  What seemed to work when it came to slowing herself down?  If she could manage this, then she might be able to sleep and then think more clearly upon waking.  Perhaps some exercise to take her mind off things and regulate her breathing?  And after that, she’d ring a friend who could empathise and listen as she bounced around a few ideas for the talk.  Jane knew that she had turned a corner when gradually she found herself feeling calmer and even thinking “hey, I have a lot of good things to share about this topic”.  Focussing on all the things she knew – both about herself and the content of her talk – enabled her to feel more confident.  No time to waste, she was off and away.

When the day of the performance came, Jane’s nerves returned with a vengeance. Somehow she’d managed to finish her preparation but now she just needed to execute. “Breathe and take it slow, breathe and act normally”she told herself.  Put your feelings in their place and put your mind on the job. Remember how you love this topic?  If you show your passion for it, the feelings will follow and then your audience will engage and you’ll find yourself connecting”.  And up she stood; with calm and with confidence.

What is it about public speaking?  It comes naturally to some but is a source of great anxiety for many.  Approximately 3 in 4 people experience “glossophobia”:  fear of speaking or performing in public (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossophobia). It’s real and it’s intense. Many have not experienced some of the small successes that Jane could draw on.  If you are one of these people and you want to address it; there is hope and there is help.  Keep your eye out for future presentations in which I, Sarah (a little bit like Jane:), shall seek to work on some of my own fears around public speaking by – err umm gulp – doing it.  It’s guaranteed to be authentic (but not uncomfortable). Please contact us at The Resilience Centre if you’d like to to be notified about what Sarah is doing on this topic in the future.

Sarah Piper is a Registered Psychologist at The Resilience Centre in Sydney.

Find out more about Sarah by clicking here. Email her at: sarah@theresiliencecentre.com.au

 

 

 

What Happens When We Forgive

Written by Ivette Moutzouris

Forgiveness is an important aspect of moving forward and experiencing healing from previous hurts and pain. It is often difficult to do and can involve a slow process whereby we cognitively and emotionally forgive only to have negative memories or insecurities trigger sadness again and make us question whether we have truly forgiven.

The negative consequences of not forgiving has been documented in studies that show that it can lead to emotional pain of anger, hate, hurt, resentment, bitterness and so on and as a consequence can create health issues, affect relationships and stop us from experiencing the freedom that forgiveness enables.

When we don’t forgive and experience symptoms of sadness, depression or anxiety the serotonin levels in our brain are lower than they should be which can also lead to other issues such as obsessive thinking. This can then lead to increased levels of stress hormones (cortisol) being released into our bodies because obsessive thinking is usually not a relaxing exercise.

It is difficult to forgive and it can take a very long time to get to that point and some of us may never get there or refuse to do so but hopefully our goal in life is to be healthy in every aspect of ourselves. If this is the case forgiveness can play an important emotional part in releasing us from the grips of our past. It isn’t an act that is just for the receiver but is equally if not more important for the person forgiving. It helps you to process a pain and see it in a different way and is in a way saying that “…my life is bigger than this pain”.

Does forgiveness involve forgetting? The Christian faith for example describes a God who both forgives and forgets the wrongs of people but I think that human nature makes it difficult for us to achieve this. However I do think that once you do forgive the positive consequences of releasing this pain and leaving it in the past can help you to move on better with your life and the sting of the pain can diminish. This in turn can lead to a healthier view of the future in which you aim to live well without being defined by the past hurts. Yvonne Dolan, a Solution-focused therapist alludes to this by suggesting that we transition from identifying as a victim, then as a survivor, and then moving beyond. She isn’t specifically talking in the context of forgiveness but she suggests a way forward which again is not defined by the problem.

Forgiveness also needs to occur with the ‘self,’ that is when our emotional pain and struggle stems from a lack of forgiveness to ourselves. When this happens we can become stuck in life and start to believe that we don’t deserve happiness, that’s it’s just not possible. This way of thinking is unhelpful and sets you up to look for negativity in your life and to not expect or initiate change that create a better, healthier future. This way of thinking is disempowering.

Forgiveness is rarely easy and as mentioned earlier is a process that can appear as if you take two steps forward and one step back but it has proven to produce positive changes that occur in the brain which are linked to emotional, physical and spiritual health.

 

2008, The Neurochemistry of Forgiving and Forgetting. Science Magazine.

Purdon, Christine & Clark, David. (2005). Overcoming Obsessive Thinking. New Harbinger Publications

Work-Life Balance

‘Work–life’ balance (or ‘life-work’ balance as some prefer to call it) is a concept referring to effective prioritising between ‘work’ (career and ambition) and ‘lifestyle’ (health, pleasure, leisure, family, friends and spiritual development). The expression ‘work–life balance’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s to describe the balance between an individual’s work and personal life.

The idea of work-life balance can be misleading because it seems to imply that work and life are opposites. As work is an important part of life, if it is meaningful and enjoyable it can create a sense of wellbeing and contribute to good mental health. Work creates financial support for the important things, but taken to the extreme can deplete our lives and lead to stress and burnout.

According to a recent study by The Australian Institute, the balance between work and life is deteriorating for four in 10 people. While it’s true that stresses and demands from personal life can interfere with work, in our society work is the main culprit that’s pushing us out of balance.

A good work-life balance means creating harmony between different aspects of life, where benefits gained from each area can support and strengthen the others. Work-life integration is a new concept, where many people are learning to blend their work and personal lives successfully.

Prioritising between our work and personal life can be a challenge. However studies have found many risks linked with an unbalanced work and home life, including: unhappiness, reduced physical and mental health, burn out, unresolved conflict, poor performance and financial loss.

Adding to the pressure, portable electronic devices have obliterated the line between work and home as workers seem to be available to their co-workers, clients and customers around the clock.

The combination of increased workloads with technology that keeps us constantly connected to our jobs leads to an increasing number of workers feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and depleted.

In contrast, numerous studies have shown the most productive employees are well-rounded professionals with full and well-balanced lives, both in and out of the workplace. Likewise, the most successful companies are those that foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance and productivity.

Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires managing our professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep our energy flowing, our minds and bodies healthy and our whole selves happy and content. Benefits of effective work-life balance include: sense of fulfilment, improved physical and mental health, greater productivity, stronger relationships.

Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices. It means giving due attention to all of the things that enrich and fulfil us including work and career, health and fitness, family and relationships, spirituality, community service, hobbies and passions, intellectual stimulation, rest and recreation.

Strategies to Achieving Work-Life Balance

  1. Review your present situation                                                                             Keep a time log of everything you do for one week, including work-related and personal activities. Construct a pie chart by allocating time spent on each component of your life.Ask yourself: What am I doing now? What do I need to: Start doing? Stop doing? Continue doing? Do more of? Do less of? Do differently?
  2. Define your priorities                                                                                         Reflect on what is most important to you, and make a list of your priorities at work and at home.Take your list of priorities and turn them into concrete and specific measurable goals.
  3. Schedule meticulously                                                                                             Set aside 15 minutes at the beginning or end of each day to plan your tasks and events for the next day. Keep a diary to record all your appointments, also including leisure activities.
  4. Establish boundaries                                                                                               Set fair and realistic limits on what you will and will not do both at work and at home. Set aside a time at home during which put away electronic devices and not check or respond to work-related matters.
  5. Monitor what you put in your body                                                                       Your health should always be your No. 1 priority. If you are not in good shape physically, mentally, and emotionally, both your work and your personal life will suffer. Take care of yourself by eating healthy meals and minimizing alcohol and caffeine intake.
  6. Exercise                                                                                                          Exercising helps relieve stress, raises energy levels and increases stamina. Schedule in at least three sessions of exercise per week. Meditation can also be incorporated in your exercise routine.
  7. Sleep                                                                                                                 Sleeping seven to nine hours per night helps reduce stress, strengthens our immune system and improves mental clarity.
  8. Nurture your family and other relationships                                                      Spend more time with individuals who are a positive influence in your life. Healthy personal relationships stimulate our comfort level and sense of belonging, while promoting hope.
  9. Make time for you                                                                                                        It is important to schedule time for your own renewal. Indulge in some daily pleasure. Take at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “me time.”
  10. Spirituality                                                                                                        Connect with your spiritual source. Belief in God, or a higher power, can be a deep well from which to draw inspiration, guidance, and strength.
  11. Leave work at work                                                                                           Develop a mental on-off switch between work and home. It helps to establish a transitional activity between the two realms. This might consist of listening to music or podcasts during your commute, exercising, deep breathing, running errands.
  12. Consider flexible Options                                                                                        Many forward-thinking companies are creating policies and programs that facilitate work-life balance. Find out what options your business offers in terms of flex hours, working from home, a compressed work week, job-sharing, or part-time employment.
  13. Manage time effectively                                                                                          Limit time wasting activities and people who don’t add value to your life. Using time more efficiently can cut stress and save you up to an hour a day.
  14. Learn to say ‘NO’                                                                                                     You have the right to exercise choice.                                                             Remember that ‘NO’ is only a two letter word.
  15. Ask for help                                                                                                                  If you are overwhelmed or stressed, don’t suffer in silence and ask for professional help.
  16. Start with small steps                                                                                            Don’t get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes all at once. Start with implementing a few strategies, they will have a positive and measurable impact in your life.

Keep in mind that work-life balance isn’t an exact science. Each of us must find our own way of combining career, relationships, and personal care into an integrated whole. What is right for you now will likely change as new circumstances arise, so periodically review your situation and adjust accordingly.

The process of achieving a healthy work-life balance takes determined effort to implement positive change and a continued effort to stay that way. However those who commit themselves to this quest reap enormous health and quality-of-life benefits.

It is definitely possible to have a successful professional career and a fulfilling personal life. Take control of your work. Be proactive with your time, hence achieving work-life balance.