6 Minutes a Day & You’re Away
The first few days of a silent meditation retreat, I want to run. I feel twitchy. How can something as simple as sitting still cause so much agitation? My mind goes into hyper drive. I need a cup of coffee. And a cupcake to go with it. Then what about that gardening idea I had? With the rocks? Mmm. I better make a couple of dozen cupcakes to fuel the landscaping empire taking shape inside me.
And once again I have successfully distracted myself from the discipline of sitting in silence and observing my busy mind.
This racing mind and internal turmoil gives the nervous system a work out. It is tiring. Sometimes we have to wade through this mucky process before we finally stop working so hard. Eventually, we get to a point of “just being”. I’ve learned the quicker you stop struggling and start to surrender to the process, the easier it is to hear your inner voice. It’s the only short cut I’ve found. Weirdly, when you give up control, you gain it back.
And that’s the story with handling jitters, anxiety and a nervousness, like public speaking fear.
When I stop trying to construct, analyse and plan to the nth degree, some other part of my mind kicks into the void and presents some brilliant ideas! Of course, sometimes it’s a bit like those midnight brainwaves you scribble on a notepad beside your bed in the dark. Next morning, you try to decipher something in Chinese about a cabbage or your insight is so mundane it was not worth breaking sleep for. On other revered occasions, you truly do come up with something useful and beautiful.
My 6-minute Inner Calm exercise for moderately nervous speakers, was one of those special occasions.
Inner Calm is a short relaxation practise which allows speakers to communicate with greater clarity, presence and authenticity without getting tripped up by nervous jitter.
Fear Background Facts
Many people who avoid public speaking are fearful of their physical response to fear, not the act of public speaking itself. In reaction to any kind of fear, threat, anxiety or stress, bodies may respond with:
- A pounding heart and pulse, sweating or trembling, scattered or racing thoughts, unable to think logically,
- nausea or a feeling of passing out, desire to sleep or, run away, racing thoughts, often negative or anxious,
- feeling surreal, disconnected or a blank mind, anger, agitation, aggression or panic and overwhelm.
These are some of the commonly reported reactions of nervous speakers who prefer to avoid or get speaking over with as quickly as possible. They are also the same generic reactions to panic, fear, stress and anxiety and not anything to do with the act of speaking in public.
Relaxation is a Must-Have Skill
A good speaking coach or therapist can show you how to change your fear response (activated flight, fight or flee) into a relaxation response by switching on your parasympathetic nervous system.
Learning to change your mental, emotional and physical habitual responses requires practise. A good way to begin, is to learn how to restore calm to your nervous system. Once you feel calm, perspective, rational thinking and a greater sense of control return. Restoring calm is the purpose of my Inner Calm Exercise. For some nervous speakers it will be all you need, for others, you may need more assistance.
If you feel nervous or prefer to avoid speaking in public when asked, please play with this exercise below. I created it specifically for you! But first, a list of extra incentives should you need them:
What Inner Calm Will Give You
To take control of speaking nerves and restore calm and clarity, simply practise the 6-minute mindfulness exercise, “Inner Calm” every day to build a habit of inner calm. It will help you to:
- Manage nerves when you are about to speak or present
- Gain an accurate insight of your current stress level
- Get “out of your head and into your body”
- Ground and centre yourself in your purpose
- Think and articulate clearly with a coherent flow
- Be focused, present and connected for the “big moments” in your life.
Here’s How to Begin
Begin by reading through the Inner Calm Exercise script below. You may find it helpful to have a friend read it out loud or you could record your own voice taking you through the exercise while you learn it. Alternatively, you may like to listen to my MP3 recording of a short sample of the Inner Calm Exercise.
This exercise simply involves counting the breath evenly from “1 to 10” for 3 rounds. Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and won’t be disturbed.
The Inner Calm Exercise Script
“Close your eyes, rest your hands in your lap, put your feet on the floor and let your body sink down into the chair. Take a light, even breath from your chest. Release gently. Notice how your body feels right now, the pace of your breath, your pulse, and the kinds of thoughts you are having. Take another light, even breath in and release it slowly on the out breath. Feel your body sink deeper into the chair, knowing it supports you. Know there is nothing else you need to do right now and nowhere else you need to go.
Now we begin the Inner Calm exercise by counting the breath evenly from 1 to 10… and we’ll do that 3 times…
Mindfully breathing in, 1, Mindfully breathing out, 1.
Mindfully breathing in, 2, Mindfully breathing out, 2.
Mindfully breathing in, 3, Mindfully breathing out, 3.
Mindfully breathing in, 4, Mindfully breathing out, 4.
Mindfully breathing in, 5, Mindfully breathing out, 5.
Mindfully breathing in, 6, Mindfully breathing out, 6.
Mindfully breathing in, 7, Mindfully breathing out, 7.
Mindfully breathing in, 8, Mindfully breathing out, 8.
Mindfully breathing in, 9, Mindfully breathing out, 9.
Mindfully breathing in, 10, Mindfully breathing out, 10.
And now, take a natural breath in and out, no need to count it, and acknowledge you have completed “1 round.”
Repeat counting the breath from “1 to 10”, twice more…
And To Finish
And finally to finish, I invite you to take a light, even, uncounted breath to complete the Inner Calm exercise. Next become aware of your body sitting in the chair. Feel your feet on the floor and stretch out your toes. Notice how your body feels right now, the pace of your breath, your pulse, and the kinds of thoughts you are having. Notice any changes from when you began… Bring your awareness to the present moment, take a light breath in and out, open your eyes, stretch your body, and know you can carry Inner Calm inside you wherever you go. “
Inner Calm Troubleshooting
While you are doing this exercise silently in your mind, you may find your mind wanders. This is perfectly normal. Just gently bring your mind back to “1” and begin again. Don’t make a guess and start at “5” to get through the exercise faster! The more your mind wanders, the more scattered you are feeling. The more you are able to count your breaths from “1 to 10” in a complete round, the more inner calm you are feeling. Please know you cannot fail this exercise. You can only learn more about yourself, your current state of calm and how much control you have over changing it.
What Was Your Experience of the Inner Calm Exercise?
When you are still and deeply relaxed within yourself, you will hear your intuitive authentic voice. It’s the one voice you can always trust and the one that others truly want to hear whenever you speak in a public space.
Practise every day for long term results, insights and personal growth. And keep a notepad by your bed.