What would have been your reaction if you were in my shoes on a day back in 1961 December, a teenage schoolboy pushed by friends onto the stage in a hall full of fellow students and staff? They were yelling “Hamid, give us an Elvis number.” You would know what it’s like having cold feet!
It was our annual school concert, and a four-peace school band was entertaining us. I was shy, though occasionally I sang in the classroom.
My heart was pounding, palms sweating, fingers numb and stomach rumbling, I was ready to throw up!
But wait! For a moment the sight of a mic stand took my focus away from me as well as the audience & I envisioned myself as a rock star. In a heightened state of anxiety, I pulled the mic closer with shaky knees and belted out the song “Baby I don’t care”. I didn’t pay much attention to the beats and rhythm provided by the band.
In my frenzy state, I did my thing and what an overwhelming response followed!
I had established my niche as a pop singer but at a tremendous cost of heightened anxiety, my legs felt very weak and I don’t recall how I made it back to my seat.
It was a self-discovery and I am sure many of you have been in similar situations when called upon for your first impromptu speech at a function.
Background to Fear
In the face of a danger our autonomic nervous system exerts hormonal control that prepares us for either flight or fight response!
Animals have used it for millions of years for survival but even in non-life-threatening situations such as Public Speaking or Singing our response is similar, as though we are facing death and let us take off!
Is there a way to overcome this natural response, an instinct? Since not every situation is a matter of life and death, the answer is Yes!
As they say our actions and responses are generated in our imagination, so why not take the challenge to influence it for a favorable outcome.
The way we process any information has an impact on us! In a day we are fed loads of information, its influence on us is subject to our individual perception. What you tell your brain and how it translates it, makes all the difference. If one is anxious by nature the world around is perceived as a scarier place. Challenges will generate fear, influencing cognition processes. Perpetual anxiety can become a debilitating condition, but the good news is that it can be overcome by training.
Train the mind to appreciate opportunities and expect positive outcomes from your tasks.
My Mantra: Three Ps
I ardently believe progress will be yours when you follow the three Ps: Practice, Practice & Practice.
Be it a speech, Eulogy, a wedding speech, singing at a concert, your level of anxiety will begin to diminish gradually with hard practice. I can vouch from experience your stomach will not rumble as before!
· It finally boils down to regular practices.
· Learning the lyrics of your songs and committing to memory
· Practicing your speech in front of a mirror till you can finally speak it without much reference to a paper.
· Practice your song or speech in the presence of a sympathetic listener.
· Practice deep breathing exercises and before performance, take a few deep breaths with both hands stretched out.
With a relaxed mind and body, you can’t go wrong, believe & hold a strong conviction of your presentation. A good outcome is expected. Believe in yourself!