We have all heard this a million times: “Relax…be yourself….you’ll be fine.”

But when you are preparing to speak and your heart is pounding against your chest and you can’t breathe, relaxing seems like the last thing you can do.  And when I am in a stressful state, someone telling me to relax often triggers a negative and defensive reaction.  What to do?

First of all, you have to employ your higher intelligence functioning to acknowledge the state you are in. In order to move forward, you need to stop judging the situation and literally note and absorb your physical state.  (“My heart is pounding; I cannot breathe, etc.”) The next step is to shut down all the external stimulation around you and go inward.

For me, this means closing my eyes and concentrating on breathing. Long inhales and exhales, through the nose. Try this breathing exercise:

  • Inhale slowly while you count to six
  • Do the same on the exhale.
  • Focus only on breathing and counting in and out for ten rounds.
  • At round five, start to hold your breath at the top and bottom for one extra second.

This takes just a minute or two. The breath control calms your body which calms your mind. It’s a magical effect.  The word “inspire” is based on the roots “in” and “spire” or literally, to breathe in.  Use your breath to move from a state of adrenalized panic and into a state of self-awareness. And then your best self can step forward.

Charlotte Dietz