1. Bring a photo of your significant other or close friend.
A minute or two spent looking at the photo before you are "on" can reset your nervous system. You'll then feel more relaxed and confident because you'll feel more grounded and at home, even in an uncomfortable or unusual setting.
2. Play with a squeeze ball.
The process of squeezing and tensing muscles and then letting go--even if just using fine motor movements--drops your heart rate and makes you less nervous. You can also play with beads or roll stones in your hand; that's why playing with a pen helps many people focus.
The effect is based on proprioperception, the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation (and a word really hard to say three times quickly.) "You can eliminate fear by 'knowing where you are,'" Dolan says.
Playing with a squeeze ball is perfect for phone calls or webinars. In person, make sure whatever you use to ground yourself isn't distracting to others.
3. Sit on a very large yoga ball and bounce away.
While any amount of bouncing is good, Dolan recommends 15 minutes. "It's really fun, it makes you laugh, and it causes changes to the chemicals in your brain," she says. "You can't release cortisol and adrenaline when you're having fun. You release endorphins instead. That eliminates the fight or flight response and makes you feel more relaxed and confident. The effect can often last for a couple hours."
Sound crazy? Here's some of the underlying science:
- Bouncing promotes vestibuluar integration. The vestibular system provides the body with information about space, balance, movement, and triggers balance receptors. Vestibular input acts to "prime" your nervous system to function effectively.
- Bouncing stimulates proprioperception, increasing alertness and decreasing anxiety and making you feel more safe and secure.
- Bouncing stimulates the speech and language centers of your brain, making you speak more easily and fluently when you're done.
- Bouncing stimulates the reticular activating system, a neural mechanism that produces alertness and focused attention.
Told you it works.
Mental rehearsal is a tool used by successful athletes, performers, astronauts--pretty much everyone.
"Before you walk in the room, visualize a time when you did something and really nailed it, even if what you did doesn't apply to the current situation," Dolan says. "That will cause your brain to secrete serotonin and oxytocin, two chemicals that boost confidence, enthusiasm, and motivation."
You'll be thinking about what you're about to do anyway, so why not visualize exactly how you want it to go and how you'll feel afterward?
Worrying about failure won't help, but visualizing success can.
5. Breathe deep.
Deep abdominal breathing cuts adrenaline and is the scientific basis for the old saw, "Take a deep breath." Adrenaline can trigger fight or flight and also shuts down your frontal cortex, which causes you to be less rational and reasonable.
Two minutes of deep breathing--picture expanding your chest and your stomach, or what Dolan calls belly button deep breathing--will make you a lot less nervous.
Try one. Try two. If what you're about to do is incredibly important--and you're incredibly nervous--try them all.
The impact on your performance will be worth it.
Who would have thought that bouncing on an exercise ball could keep you from pulling your hair out? Now that you've been filled in on the secrets for beating stress, get back to knocking out your work so you can relax this year and enjoy your time off work over Christmas and New Years. You know you deserve it.
Once again, thanks for reading! I'll be taking the next few weeks off the blog to enjoy my holiday festivities. I apologize in advance to those of you clinging to your seat for the weekly update. Perhaps I can squeak out a small post from my phone if I can figure it out.
Have a great Christmas and a tremendous New Year!
ServiceMaster by Bell, Inc.