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  • Palms sweaty, heart racing, stomach in knots.

  • You can't cry for help.

  • Not only is your throat too tight to breathe, but it'd be so embarrassing.

  • No, you aren't being stalked by a monster.

  • You're speaking in public, a fate some deem worse than death.

  • See, when you're dead, you feel nothing.

  • At a podium, you feel stage fright.

  • But at some point we've all had to communicate in front of people, so you have to try and overcome it.

  • To start, understand what stage fright is.

  • Humans, social animals that we are, are wired to worry about reputation.

  • Public speaking can threaten it.

  • Before a speech, you fret, "What if people think I'm awful and I'm an idiot?"

  • That fear of being seen as an awful idiot is a threat reaction from a primitive part of your brain that's very hard to control.

  • It's the fight or flight response, a self-protective process seen in a range of animals, most of which don't give speeches.

  • But we have a wise partner in the study of freaking out.

  • Charles Darwin tested fight or flight at the London Zoo snake exhibit.

  • He wrote in his diary, "My will and reason were powerless against the imagination of a danger which had never been experienced."

  • He concluded that his response was an ancient reaction unaffected by the nuances of modern civilization.

  • So, to your conscious modern mind, it's a speech.

  • To the rest of your brain, built up to code with the law of the jungle, when you perceive the possible consequences of blowing a speech, it's time to run for your life or fight to the death.

  • Your hypothalamus, common to all vertebrates, triggers your pituitary gland to secrete the hormone ACTH, making your adrenal gland shoot adrenaline into your blood.

  • Your neck and back tense up, you slouch.

  • Your legs and hand shake as your muscles prepare for attack.

  • You sweat.

  • Your blood pressure jumps.

  • Your digestion shuts down to maximize the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to muscles and vital organs, so you get dry mouth, butterflies.

  • Your pupils dilate, it's hard to read anything up close, like your notes, but long range is easy.

  • That's how stage fright works.

  • How do we fight it?

  • First, perspective.

  • This isn't all in your head.

  • It's a natural, hormonal, full body reaction by an autonomic nervous system on autopilot.

  • And genetics play a huge role in social anxiety.

  • John Lennon played live thousands of times.

  • Each time he vomited beforehand.

  • Some people are just wired to feel more scared performing in public.

  • Since stage fright is natural and inevitable, focus on what you can control.

  • Practice a lot.

  • Starting long before in an environment similar to the real performance.

  • Practicing any task increases your familiarity and reduces anxiety, so when it's time to speak in public, you're confident in yourself and the task at hand.

  • Steve Jobs rehearsed his epic speeches for hundreds of hours, starting weeks in advance.

  • If you know what you're saying, you'll feed off the crowd's energy instead of letting your hypothalamus convince your body it's about to be lunch for a pack of predators.

  • But hey, the vertebrate hypothalamus has had millions of years more practice than you.

  • Just before you go on stage, it's time to fight dirty and trick your brain.

  • Stretch your arms up and breath deeply.

  • This makes your hypothalamus trigger a relaxation response.

  • Stage fright usually hits hardest right before a presentation, so take that last minute to stretch and breathe.

  • You approach the mic, voice clear, body relaxed.

  • Your well-prepared speech convinces the wild crowd you're a charismatic genius.

  • How?

  • You didn't overcome stage fright, you adapted to it.

  • And to the fact that no matter how civilized you may seem, in part of your brain, you're still a wild animal, a profound, well-spoken wild animal.

Palms sweaty, heart racing, stomach in knots.

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B1 TED-Ed fright stage hypothalamus speech overcome

【TED-Ed】The science of stage fright (and how to overcome it) - Mikael Cho

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    Sofi posted on 2021/11/23
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