Public Speaking Anxiety: How To Avoid Panic Attacks In Front Of Crowds
Shianne had always been at the top of her class, a model student that was admired by her peers and appreciated by her educators. She was thoughtful, witty and bright, organized and prepared, and never one to say no.
Except to one thing: public speaking.
It doesnt matter if its a crowd of ten or a crowd of a thousand, says Shianne, who graduated from her local community college with honors. She now works at a non-profit. As soon as I even just think about speaking in front of people, I cant breathe. My hands get all sweaty and I feel like throwing up.
Public speaking anxiety isnt atypical its actually one of the most commonly reported social fears today. Many people tend to feel nervous when giving a speech or presenting to crowds even timeless legends like Barba Streisand have shared their experiences with crippling stage fright but if you already have an existing social anxiety disorder, the anxiety that comes with public speaking could take on a life of its own in your mind.
is definitely something not a lot of people have sympathy for, at least in my experience, she shares. I mean, most people have said, Oh yeah, I totally get it. I hate speaking in public, but they dont really get it they think its something everyone feels and everyone gets over and you just get up and do it.
Most people have no comprehension of how it can totally interfere in your life. It can be depressing. It is depressing.
Change How You Communicate With Your Amygdala
Changing the way you think and behave, changes the way you communicate with your amygdala.
Changing how you communicate with your amygdala has the power to stop a panic attack fast!
Your amygdala will believe whatever you tell it. If you continue to react with thoughts that you are in danger and you believe the myths about panic attacks, then your amygdala will continue to sound the alarm.
Communicating with your amygdala more accurately will help to stop a panic attack fast.
Start responding with more accurate and helpful thoughts about what is happening.
Tell yourself that you know you are not in any danger because you know what a panic attack is.
Label Your Emotions
A brain imaging study at UCLA discovered that when people were shown a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they had increased activity in the amygdala and the left prefrontal cortex .
But when people attached a feeling word such as Afraid, there was decreased activity in the amygdala and increased activity in the right prefrontal cortex. They discovered that only feeling words caused a decrease in the amygdala and an increase in the right prefrontal cortex. Attaching a name like Coffee did not have the same effect.
So Labeling your emotions during a panic attack has the potential to turn on your right prefrontal cortex and shut off your amygdala.
Challenge your inaccurate and unhelpful thoughts. Ask yourself:
What do I think is happening during a panic attack?
What Is The Difference Between Thoracic Breathing And Diaphragmatic Breathing
One way of determining your breathing pattern is by putting your hand on your chest and the other one on your upper abdomen near the waist.
When you breathe, you will notice how one of your hands tends to move while the other stays still.
The proper way of breathing would be when you breathe and you notice how your abdomen expands and contracts which each breath as well as noticing how your hand raises.
Being aware of your breathing pattern becomes important when you are having a panic attack because you can do the same exercise and notice how your chest and shoulders raise while you breathe instead of your abdomen.
The muscle that we tend to ignore but it is crucial if we would like to stop a panic attack, is the diaphragm.
This skeletal muscle is the one that sits at the base of your chest and separates your abdomen from your chest.
When you are breathing properly, it will contract and flatten when you release the air.
Recommended Reading: What Is Pristiq Used For
Deep Breathing Makes Me More Anxious
We tend to hear how deep breathing seems to make people more anxious or their panic attack even worse.
However, most people are not aware of the way they breathe and here we will see the difference between deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing and thoracic or chest breathing.
When we are feeling anxious, we tend to breathe in a shallow and superficial way, meaning thoracic or chest breathing.
Subsequently, our blood is not getting enough oxygen and here is when we feel how our heart rate increases, we feel dizzy or about to faint, muscle tension, chest pain, shortness of breath, among other physical symptoms.
The Army And Combat Soldiers Have Known This Tool For A Long Time
What do you think is the quick aid the USA army trains its soldiers with when they are faced with a life or death situation while in the combat field? Well, you guess it right! a very similar method than the one mentioned previously. They call it Combat Tactical Breathing.
Yes my friends, this same ordinary breathing exercise is the one, among some others I can imagine, the soldiers are trained to do when facing a potential death threat, when you are shaking with fear, because it quickly calms the mind and the body and prepares us to make more reliable decisions even when facing extraordinary dangerous situations.
Combat Tactical Breathing
When youre experiencing extreme fear, nervousness, and anxiety, your body will quickly kick into overdrive to try to solve the problem itself. Youre flooded with adrenaline and your muscles start shaking preparing you for the flight or fight response.
To help counteract this, intentionally slow your breathing by deeply inhaling for four seconds, keeping the air in your lungs for 4 seconds and exhaling for four seconds, and repeating.
As science channel DNews explains, your sympathetic nervous system can put your body in a high tension state as soon as youre exposed to a high-stress situation like giving a speech, or a confrontation. While you cant control your bodys natural adrenaline response, you can control your breathing.
Come on! Try it!
Read Also: What Is The Phobia Of Throwing Up
How To Handle A Panic Attack
Professor Paul Salkovskis, Professor of Clinical Psychology and Applied Science at the University of Bath, says it’s important not to let your fear of panic attacks control you.
“Panic attacks always pass and the symptoms are not a sign of anything harmful happening,” he says. “Tell yourself that the symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by anxiety.”
He says don’t look for distractions. “Ride out the attack. Try to keep doing things. If possible, it’s important to try to remain in the situation until the anxiety has subsided.”
“Confront your fear. If you don’t run away from it, you’re giving yourself a chance to discover that nothing’s going to happen.”
As the anxiety begins to pass, start to focus on your surroundings and continue to do what you were doing before.
“If youre having a short, sudden panic attack, it can be helpful to have someone with you, reassuring you that it will pass and the symptoms are nothing to worry about,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
- Heart palpitations or racing heart
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Feeling unreal or detached from your surroundings
- Feeling dizzy, light-headed, or faint
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
Recommended Reading: Three Stages Of Schizophrenia
Is It Panic Disorder
If you feel constantly stressed and anxious, particularly about when your next panic attack may be, you may have panic disorder.
People with panic disorder may avoid situations that might cause a panic attack. They may also fear and avoid public spaces .
“There’s no quick fix, but if your attacks are happening time after time, seek medical help,” says Professor Salkovskis.
Read more about panic attacks, including personal stories, at See Me Scotland.
Engage In Light Exercise
Endorphins keep the blood pumping in exactly the right away. It can help flood our body with endorphins, which can improve our mood. Because youre stressed, choose light exercise thats gentle on the body, like walking or swimming.
The exception to this is if youre hyperventilating or struggling to breathe. Do what you can to catch your breath first.
Don’t Miss: What’s The Phobia Of Long Words
Thank Your Body For Fighting Even If It Was Misled
Its easy to get upset at ourselves when we have a panic attack, even though theyre not our fault. Rather than feeling bad about these episodes, thank your body for the hard work its done after a panic attack.
Be gentle and kind to yourself and dont underestimate your body’s response respect it. Think, Wow my body is strong, it really got ready to fight and now we have to rest a little bit now. A positive attitude can be so helpful to lean in to the anxiety instead of avoiding it. And remember, there are therapists here to help you. This is very treatable and you dont need to suffer.
Panic Attacks In Public Speaking
Even though panic attacks and “anxiety attacks” can happen without any obvious reason or danger, in public speaking they do happen because of the actual fear of speaking in public. They are more common in interviews and presentations, where the victim would be so overwhelmed with terror that he or she may start sweating profusely, stattering and in worst cases, even wetting themselves.
Don’t Miss: How To Get Motivated To Exercise When Depressed
Calming Step : Have A Script Ready
A panic attack can fill your head with racing, negative thoughts, which can keep the panic going and make you feel worse. But you can wield a powerful weapon against them: A script of positive thoughts.
Write down encouraging words you can read to yourself during a panic attack, Dr. Josell says. Your script should answer the negative thoughts. So if you feel like youre going to pass out, tell yourself you wont. If you feel like youre dying, tell yourself you wont die from a panic attack. The words you hear are powerful, and over time, they become your truth.
Ideally, write your script when youre feeling calm. Tuck it in your pocket or purse or type it into your smartphone notes so its easy to access.
If youre in the middle of a panic attack and dont have your script, you can fight negative thoughts on the fly. Try repeating in your mind or out loud phrases like, Im strong, and I can handle this, or This is only temporary, and it will pass.
Your script helps you deal with an attack that arises, but its a preventive measure, too. It can calm your fear of having another panic attack because you know youre in control. The more confident you are that you can manage a panic attack, the less likely you are to have future attacks.
Keep Lavender On Hand
Lavender is known for being soothing and stress-relieving. It can help your body relax. If you know youre prone to panic attacks, keep some lavender essential oil on hand and put some on your forearms when you experience a panic attack. Breathe in the scent.
Lavender should not be combined with benzodiazepines. This combination can cause intense drowsiness.
You May Like: What Are The Three Stages Of Schizophrenia
Tips To Help You Recover From A Panic Attack In A Public Place
Star Wars is about to start. I am in the eighth seat in the very back of one of the largest theaters in New York City. I am also about to have a massive, public panic attack. Unhelpfully, my friend sees me wildly scanning the rows ahead of us and volunteers the following: âThere are 3000 seats and most of them are filled!â
Great! 3,000 people in New York City, the most caring city in the world, would love to have the most anticipated movie in the galaxy interrupted by me, a tiny girl breathing loudly into a popcorn bag. All I can see are the people in the seats next to me, barriers between me and the aisle. They are munching snacks. They have put their backpacks and suitcases in the spaces in front them. They will audibly scrunch and sigh and reposition themselves if I stand up. I need to get past these mountains, but instead, I am glued to the seat, wishing I had a different brain.
How To Monitor And Control Your ‘panic Indicators’
The fact that key physiological changes linked with a panic attack could be measured beforehand was, apparently, the critical finding in this study. Yet, aside from skin conductance level, the physical changes mentioned should not be a surprise for trained speech coaches helping people overcome speech anxiety.
They know all about increased heart rate and rapid shallow breathing.
These are, in fact, the two areas I work with clients in to help them recognize the physical forms of stage fright, and to calm themselves in the face of speech anxiety. Here, for instance, is a 5-minute technique to calm your fear of public speaking.
That’s a helpful exercise to generally put you in a calmer state and to reach a greater level of mindfulness. But what about heading off those panic attacksthe ultimate form of anxiety that can actually force you from the stage? Given the study mentioned here that offers nearly an hour’s warning concerning what’s coming, it makes sense to develop a more acute sensitivity to your breathing and heart rate.
To begin: Measure your normal respiration rate. That’s the number of times you complete the cycle of inhalation + exhalation in one minute. Whatever your number is, treat that as your baseline. That gives you the information you need to pay attention if you’re starting to breathe more rapidly . Similarly, your resting pulse rate versus a sudden speeding up or galloping is another indication that you’re now much more activated.
Also Check: Medical Definition Of Phobia
Do Some Deep Breathing
The feeling of shortness of breath often stems from shallow breathing during a panic attack. You can combat this by purposely breathing slowly and deeplyinhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts. Focus on taking deep breaths in and out, feeling the air slowly fill your stomach and then slowly empty air from your stomach. Deep breaths will send more oxygen to your brain and your organs and help you relax. Close your eyes to help you focus on your breathing.
Keep A Calm Down Kit In Your Bag Or Car
If you know youre prone to panic attacks that take place outside of your home, come prepared with a small, mobile kit.
Dr. Bianchi recommends including items that can help you slow your breathing and connect with the present. These items may include:
- smooth stones
- a beaded bracelet or necklace to touch
- a small bottle of bubbles to blow
- coping statements written on index cards
Recommended Reading: Definition Of Phobia
Who Gets Panic Attacks
At least 6 million Americans suffer from panic attacks and panic disorder both conditions classified as anxiety disorders. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America , about 2-3% of Americans experience panic disorder in a given year and it is twice as common in women as in men. Panic disorder typically affects individuals when theyre in their 20s but is also seen in young children, adolescents, and older adults.
Mental Health Treatment Program Locator
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides this online resource for locating mental health treatment facilities and programs. The Mental Health Treatment Locator section of the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator lists facilities providing mental health services to persons with mental illness. Find a facility in your state at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp.
Read Also: How To Cure Schizophrenia Permanently
Reach Out With Your Senses
Take in sensory information around you. Pay attention to what you see, smell, taste and feel. What is going on inside will start to get better when you look outward and realize there is no danger.
When you really sense what is going on in the here and now, you will realize that in most nows, there isnt much going on, Dr. Bea says.
How To Prevent Anxiety Attack In Public Place Follow These 4 Tips
If a panic attack hits the public place, these five tips will help you in it tackling immediately.
How to stop an anxiety attack at public places? Do you know that it is difficult to socialize for people struggling with mental troubles? Moreover, it becomes more complicated when such people face anxiety attacks. Have you ever seen someone getting such attack at a public place? People often get panic attacks due to crowds or noise. In such a situation, people begin to breathe heavily, get nauseous, choke their throat and sweat profusely. In such a case, the responsibility of those people who have such sick people around them increases. Let’s know about some such measures, with the help of which you can efficiently deal with public place panic attacks.
- Get help from family and friends: Trust your friends and family whenever you are in a crowded or a public place. Do not hesitate to share whenever you feel nervous or have slight signs of an anxiety attack. You must seek the help of your relatives and friends without feeling anxious and fearful of those situations. This is also because talking to someone and sharing your experiences with them can make you feel comforted.
Also Read: Also Read:
You May Like: What Are The Three Stages Of Schizophrenia