The first time I was on national TV I felt my heart pounding as if it were going to burst through my chest. I felt myself sitting in the green room with great anticipation and fear. My muscles were tense and I was breathing heavily. I felt as if I were going into battle. In a way, I suppose I was. I anticipated being attacked and discredited by the host, so naturally my body and mind had to prepare.
I took a few seconds to settle down. I did a quick scan of my body: My pounding heart was likely due to the release of adrenaline, a hormone that prepares the body for action. My dry mouth was due to fluids moving to other parts of my body where they were more needed. I reminded myself that these sensations were normal and my body was doing what it’s supposed to do automatically. I then imagined myself lying on a raft in a calm body of water. I was rocking ever so gently with the waves. This helped to relax me. Then I took the sensations that remained and I used them to my advantage. They became the extra focus and energy I needed to really be “on” when it was my turn to talk.
I share this story with you to illustrate that being aware of how your body reacts to fear and anxiety can make a big difference in how you handle it. Think about your body’s reaction when you are fearful. What happens? What sensations do you notice and what goes through your mind? Does your heart race? Perhaps you blush and sweat, too? Maybe you even feel the need to run to the bathroom before it’s too late.
Think about why your body might be reacting in this way. Could there be any hidden benefit to this reaction — one you could adapt to and use to your advantage? If you aren’t afraid of your fear and anxiety and didn’t feel the need to completely eliminate it, would any of it be useful to you? Does the alertness that comes from the fear response help you to think more clearly and quickly? Perhaps the increased heart rate helps to drive yourself forward.
Next time you feel anxious and as though you have no control over your body’s reaction, think again. Why might your body be reacting the way it is? Think about the edge this reaction gives you. In the face of fear, will you retreat or will you thrive?
Originally published at www.inc.com