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What can I do to remove my nervousness when teaching in class or speaking in front of a crowd? the question was published on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by John Roldan, Body language and Influence instructor at humankinesics.com, on Quora:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to alter our brain so that we could change the way we behave however we want? Especially, when it comes to public speaking?

Well, we can by slowing ourselves down and traveling through time… let me explain.

Since the beginning, we have evolved to automatically employ specific functions under certain situations. Some of these behaviors are reactive and stem from older parts of our brain. These actions are triggered by emotions. For example, fear and anger could trigger the fight, flight or freeze response; just as happiness and tranquility could make us feel a sense of safety and serenity.

Many people are naturally programmed to remain calm under stress but most of us are not. The pressure in social situations can feel like our bodies are trying to jump out of its skin. For those not predisposed with calm, phlegmatic personality tendencies, there is hope.

We can change our body’s response to a stressful situation.

Before we embark on a journey for change, we must identify what it is we need to change.

“What is it about this situation that makes me feel (anxious, fear, upset feelings, etc.)?”

Asking this kind of question will help us identify the following:

  1. Physical Sensations
    Describe what it is that you’re feeling. Write these observations down as soon as possible. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re feeling but that doesn’t mean that we’re not feeling something. This will help identify the core emotions associated with the experience.For example, some signs associated with nervousness might be: butterflies in the stomach, shaking, nausea, feeling light-headed, sweaty palms and brow.
  2. Automatic Thinking
    When we experience stress, our body releases a chemical called cortisol. This stress hormone raises our blood pressure, breathing rate, modulates adrenaline and clouds our ability to make rational assessments.An example of unhealthy automatic thinking might be: “That person is not going to like me.” Or, “Nobody’s going to care about my opinion.” This could lead to negative thinking patterns.
  3. Challenge Judgements
    Cognitive distortions are thoughts or beliefs that are made superficially or without proof. This type of thinking is often inaccurate and can reinforce destructive coping mechanisms. We mustn’t believe everything we think!An example of a faulty belief might be: “This person isn’t inviting me to their function because he wants to hurt my feelings.”An example of challenging this belief might be: “This person usually goes out of their way to make me feel welcome. There must be a reason why I wasn’t invited.”

Slow Stretches and Time Travel

A wonderful thing about the imagination is that we can control it when we want to. We can dream up adventures where we are heroines and heroes or misadventures where we are victims.

There is an immeasurable advantage to taking some time to imagine how an interaction is likely to proceed. Preparing for what is likely to happen could mean the difference between coming across like a nervous wreck and looking as cool as a cucumber.

Changing our behavior is a process, not an event.

The following will take practice and consistency before becoming automatic thinking.

Moderate Speech and Movements

An effective approach to minimizing nervous or anxious fidgeting and hurried speech is bySLOWING EVERYTHING DOWN.

During moments of high stress, we tend to practice a lot of comforting behaviours like face touching, adjusting of clothes, and body shifting. Our speech and movements speed up and can make us look erratic and unstable.

As we get better at becoming aware of our body language, we can anticipate what we are likely to do during moments of high stress.

When we identify the physical sensations that signal we are nervous or anxious, note that it’s time to slow everything down; speech and movements. This might feel awkward at first but it won’t appear that way to the people we’re talking to.

Back To The Future

Planning ahead and having a strategy to help us maneuver through a possible future awkwardness or anxious situation is empowering.

Like a prizefighter shadow boxing with an imaginary opponent, we can travel to the future in our mind and foresee how a pressure situation might play out. We can reflect on what we know about ourselves and the situation and prepare for the expected idiosyncrasies.

With the intent to improve the quality of our relationships and the diligence to work through our true feelings and judgments, accepting change and dealing with pressure gets easier.

Celebrate every attempt to modify behaviour. By stacking the wins we quickly notice our motivation and attitude shifting. Sometimes, we might even crave for these of situations.

Know that the changes which we make give meaning to our actions and affects the way we see ourselves in the world. This is a powerful mindset because the attitude is about achieving an alignment with our core values. This fuels our courage to meet discomfort with a wise mind.

Knowing how to use and read body language and facial expressions elevates and accelerates our communication skills.

This is an excellent free ebook you can download now: The 3 Power Secrets To Reading People.

Take the time to make positive changes. You’re worth it.

The answer was published on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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