The time is getting close.
Any minute now, someone will introduce you. You will make your way to the front of the room and speak to a group of people who are anticipating your every word. As you wait for your time to come, your hands start to sweat. Your stomach churns. Your heart pounds fast and hard.
Hey, it’s okay! It’s just your nervous system doing its thing.
I know. You hate those physical sensations of nervousness. You want nothing more than to make them all go away. It’s what you dread the most whenever you speak or perform in public. Those pesky, physical manifestations of nervous energy. If only you could get rid of them.
Listen, the problem is not that your heart is pounding or your stomach is clenching or your knees are knocking. The problem is that you think these physical expressions of energy are a problem. They’re not the problem. They are just energy moving.
The problem is that you resist these sensations of energy. You contract around them, wanting them to go away and leave you alone. You think to yourself, “Oh, no! I don’t want to feel THIS! This feels out of control. I hate it that my heart is pounding. What if everyone sees my whole face trembling? Am I blushing? I’m sure I must be beet red by now…” and on and on.
Now you are not only feeling nervous about your presentation but you’re frightened by what you are feeling inside your own skin.
If only you could have a shot of whiskey, you’re sure you’d feel better. But there is no whiskey and it’s only 9:30 in the morning, so you try breathing deeply in an effort to calm and control these sensations, but this only makes you more nervous and tense. In trying to control these physical symptoms, you’ve only made them more aggressive and persistant.
What to do? How can you allow these sensations to assist you rather than make you feel crazy and out of control?
The first thing is to realize that it’s just energy. It’s just sensation.
Oh, sure, you can call it “nervousness” or “anxiety” or “terror” even, but actually, it’s just energy moving in your body in such a way that you feel physical sensation. Can you let yourself be with these sensations without making them bad or unwanted?
It’s okay that your heart is beating. Hearts do that, hopefully. Let your stomach turn somersaults. It’s not terminal. It’s just energy moving through. Let it move through!
Let’s walk through the following four steps to allowing these physical waves of energy to assist you rather than freak you out.
1. Stay present and breathe deeply.
Often when people feel nervous or anxious they breathe deeply in order to calm that energy and make it go away. Don’t do that. You’re working against yourself if you do.
Yes, you do want to breathe deeply into your belly and ground yourself in the ways that work for you (the “Breathing the Body Deep” process that is offered in all Unconditional Confidence programs is perfect for this). But your intention in breathing and grounding yourself is to stay present with whatever you are feeling, not to make those feelings go away.
Don’t use breathing as a weapon with which to slay these dreaded physical manifestations of nervous energy. Breathe in order to ground yourself in the present moment. This will allow you to move into Step Two.
2. Let that energy move! Let those sensations expand!
That’s right, don’t resist what you are feeling. Allow those sensations to be present without trying to calm or banish them. Allow that energy to move and flow. Allow it even to get bigger and move throughout your body. Allow your whole being to expand with this flowing, moving energy.
Don’t be scared! I know that all this energy and sensation may feel a bit overwhelming at first, but that’s only because you’ve practiced being afraid of it. You’re used to trying to control and contain it, smother and kill it rather than let it move and move through.
Just breathe, ground and allow it to move through you. When you can do so, and not judge or label what is happening, you will discover that these sensations of energy moving can be extremely pleasurable. Really. I know you don’t believe me right now, but as you allow rather then resist this energy, as you let it expand and move, you will realize that it can help you get big in your being, huge in your presence, so you can speak or perform with all of who you are.
3. Move With It.
If you can, let your body move with this energy and expansion. Sway. Dance. Jerk. Let the energy move you. Don’t try to use movement as a way to shake off the energy. You are just allowing your body to move in response to the energy flow.
You may be somewhere, like sitting in the audience, waiting, where you don’t feel comfortable letting your body move in unpredictable ways. That’s okay. See if you can just allow micro-movements through your body. Maybe you can just allow your hand or arm to express this energy movement.
When I am feeling a lot of energy before a performance, I am usually in the green room off-stage so I can stand and just allow the energy to move through my body and allow my body to be moved by it. It feels great, and it allows the energy to move through me without resistance.
Trust that this energy will move, rise, expand and come to its own steady hum within you. If you allow it to flow and move, it will move through. It will become a sweet, gentle rain rather than a raging storm. But if you fight it and try to control it, you will only create more tension and fear within yourself.
Trust that energy. Trust your nervous system. It’s just doing it’s job. That energy is there to serve you, to allow you to get big and stay connected throughout your presentation or performance.
Be easy with this. In the Unconditional Confidence workshops, we start by just imagining a situation that gets those nervy, edgy sensations simmering and working with the energy at that level before we are faced with a anxiety-inducing situation in our external life. Let yourself do the same.
Maybe you have a presentation coming up soon. As you think about it, let whatever sensations and energy arise and allow them to be there. Breathe and allow that energy to expand. Don’t judge it or label it. Just allow it to move through you as you stay present and grounded. Soon, you will discover that what you thought was your worst, most evil obstacle to feeling at ease is greatest ally for feeling confident and magnificently alive when speaking or performing in public.
Let me know how it goes.