We all know about fight or flight… our instinctual response that’s designed to protect us from the proverbial saber tooth tigers skulking in the bushes tends to crop up at the worst of times. And because this is the 21st century, both running and/or fighting are completely socially unacceptable. Don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules. If it were up to me and what’s comfortable, I’d flee at the first sign of difficulty and engage in extreme retail therapy. No judging. Take for example a presentation I had to give in class the other day – I was petrified. For whatever reason, I have no problem making a fool of myself or being the center of attention in social settings (who doesn’t?). The minute it has to do with some kind of prepared presentation, exam or speech, I freeze. I forget that breathing is essential, I get clammy, and I can hear the blood roaring in my ears, and not so conveniently, my mind goes blank. So for this presentation I had to give, I actually showed up early, just to get my panic attack out of the way. Thankfully, for me, it becomes a personal challenge to put my mind over matter and force my stage fright away for just long enough to take care of business, but here are some tips for anyone else dealing with the same problem.
First, understand that being singled out sparks your fight or flight because you are innately terrified of being eaten. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. If our human ancestors strayed too far from the group, they were at serious risk of being devoured or killed by some predator. So when you feel that anxiety creeping up, remind yourself that no one will eat you. :)
Second, have some confidence in yourself! Preparation is vital to being sure you’re confident going into that exam or presentation. If you’re well-prepared, well-studied, and well-practiced, you should have much less cause to be nervous and panicked. If this is a speech, think about it – if you’re prepared… will anyone know your topic more than you do?
Finally, go in early! Get acclimated to where you will be speaking or taking that test and get those nerves out of the way early. Breathe and relax and go over what you need to do.