Public speaking is one of the most common fears in the entire world. Many people struggle speaking in public, whether it's a presentation or even with a large group of friends. For some people, this can lead to extreme anxiety and in some cases, panic attacks.
In this article, we'll explore some of the causes and solutions to panic when speaking in public, and explore what it takes to be more confident a speaker.
Types of Panic While Public Speaking
Public speaking panic unfortunately can be a confusing term. That's because the term "panic attacks" means something very different casually than it does as an anxiety disorder. There are two general experiences that people are referring to when they talk about panic episodes and public speaking.
- Panicking In some cases you may be referring to simply panicking as a result of fear of public speaking. In this case, panicking simply means "extreme anxiety," and that you're simply too nervous to speak well in public.
- Panic Attacks Panic attacks, on the other hand, are a term that medically refers to intense physical sensations that mimic a heart attack, that happen to be caused by anxiety.
It's important to clarify between the two as they are often used interchangeably, especially by the general public. Still, both are expressions of anxiety, and that means that they can benefit from some similar treatments.
Methods of Reducing the Anxiety of Public Speaking
In order to reduce panic while public speaking, you need to find ways to decrease your fears that you have going into the event. Here are a few strategies that can work for you:
Systematically Targeting Specific Fears
The first strategy involves systematically targeting some of the specific fears that are standing in your way when it comes to panic and anxiety. First, identify what goes through your mind when you begin to get anxiety. Are you worried about being embarrassed? Worried about making mistakes? Worried about getting attention? It can be hard to figure out what the worries are, but try to explore them.
Then, subject yourself to those specific concerns or experiences. You can purposefully create those same sensations that cause you anxiety. While quite extreme the following are some examples of how you might go about doing this:
- Embarrassed Dress up as a clown and stand in the middle of a public park for hours on end.
- Making Mistakes Purposefully replace a common word, like "the" with a word like "apples" in conversations with people throughout the day.
- Getting Attention Stand in the middle of a busy street and sing songs or play an instrument.
If you commit to these things one at a time, and do them for hours upon hours until they stop causing you anxiety, you'll eventually find that your fear of these feelings goes away. You do need to commit - if you quit because you're nervous, the fears are likely to come back - but as long as you commit you can start to see a big difference.
Another useful strategy is to actually make it harder for yourself to experience anxiety before you speak. Consider going to a jog before any event that you have to do a lot of speaking. Jogging is actually a very powerful anxiety reduction tool. It releases neurotransmitters in your brain that are known to relax the mind and body and improve mood, as well as tires out muscles to reduce the severity of many anxiety symptoms.
By jogging beforehand, your ability to experience profound anxiety decreases, which makes it harder for you to start to panic. It won't prevent all anxiety, but it can give you that extra relaxation that you need to not find speaking as difficult.
Fight Your Anxiety
Finally, the more you reduce your anxiety in all areas of your life, the less likely you are to be affected by something like public speaking. Often public speaking simply exacerbates anxiety, since anxiety is cumulative and the type of condition that can be worse when other things are making you anxious.