Our bodies are designed to show physical signs of stress when our stress levels are high, such as when we are in FIGHT-or-FLIGHT mode. This can happen when we’re in traffic and have to slam on our brakes to avoid hitting someone in front of us, when we have to swerve out of the way to avoid an accident, when we are faced with a scary or intimidating situation, and even when we’re stressed at work. Sometimes we can be stressed at work, such as when we have to give a presentation in front of colleagues or the Board, when we’re pitching a product/service to clients (with the hopes that they will buy from us), when we are speaking in public, or when we have high-priority project we are working on that has strict (and tight deadlines).
Some of the physical characteristics that are noticeable in situations like these include:
- Hunched Posture
- High-Pitched Voice
- Locked Knees
- Rushed or Fumbled Speaking
- Scattered Thinking
- Tight-Throat – Can’t get your words out
- Clenched Jaw
- Flushed Face or Sweaty/Shaky Hands
- Fidgeting or Clumsy Movements
Not everyone will have the same noticeable physical characteristics, so think about what your signs are that you are super stressed or nervous about the situation. Working to overcome these visible signs will increase your confidence and that will be clear to your coworkers. You’ll also feel much better about your performance and you won’t feel like you were just hit by a semi-truck.
Some things you can do to help reduce these visible signs , especially when speaking in public or to a large audience, include:
1. Stand tall, let your shoulders be wide, and slightly bend your knees – be conscious about your body posture.
2. Open your eyes and look directly at whomever you are interacting with – this will show that you are confident and prepared.
3. Slow down – this one’s a big one. Many times when we’re nervous, we’ll speed up our speaking to try to get through it faster. Don’t do this. Instead, consciously slow down your speaking.
4. Pay attention to your breathing – if you’re breathing too fast you’ll likely start sweating, and maybe even pass out – not a good thing. And let your ribs move when you breathe. You’re not a manikin.
5. Pay attention to your eye movements – not everyone is comfortable looking executives in the eye, but when they do they are generally gaining the trust and respect of those executives. To get to that position in life you have to gain their respect. Make sure you aren’t staring off in space or staring blankly at a wall. Make eye contact, even if it is brief.
Paying attention to your physical movements (i.e. breathing, posture, speaking, eye movements, hand gestures, etc.) and correcting them throughout your presentation or project can help your colleagues see a much more confident and competent person. Now, this is a good thing!
This post, along with others, has been featured on Clear Your Stress.