Mondays with Meg: Stressful Speaking

Happy Monday everyone! I’m glad to say it’s a beautiful day in Ithaca (which is very unusual for Central New York, especially this time of year) and I’m enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. Days like these make me so happy to be alive: beautiful weather, sunshine, spending time with friends and enjoying all that mother nature has to offer (lots of spring time blooms and butterflies all over the place today…I’m feeling like a bit of a Disney Princess wherever I go!). But, reality soon strikes: I look at my growing to do list and the daunting tasks ahead of me. Bleck.

As you’ve heard from all of our wonderful bloggers, April is National Stress Awareness Month. Stress affects all of us from time to time and sometimes, it can create big problems in our lives–making us angry, cranky, tired, anxious and just out of balance. I’ve definitely been feeling that way lately. My stomach is also very sensitive when I’m stressed out, causing lots of pain and discomfort for me. I can feel stress affecting my body: exhaustion, irritability, sluggishness, tension, cramping…not fun. Yet, how do we handle these situations that make us stressed? How do we prevent our bodies from going through so much destruction?

I was at a history conference this weekend, presenting a paper of mine from my history seminar last semester. The thought of reading my paper aloud to an entire group of students and professors across Central and Western New York–and getting it critiqued after–sent chills down my spine. My heart was racing and I was sweating terribly (sorry, that’s a bit too much info!) before I had my turn. Most of the time, I don’t mind public speaking. I’m fairly outgoing and have led many meetings and classes, so it’s nothing new. I just tend to be a goofball–I like showing off my fun and easy going personality–when I present. Being serious and professional during a presentation in front of strangers? Not one of my easiest tasks.

But I took the time to recognize these signs of stress–the racing heart, the sweating, the obsessive and negative thoughts–and do something about them. I focused on my breathing, taking deep breaths through my belly. I focused on a spot on the ceiling, letting everything else around me slip away. I fought my negative thoughts with positive ones: You can do this. This isn’t a life-or-death situation. Even if you mess up, it’s still ok. Once I did that, I was able to calm myself down and present my paper. There’s also a little motto I go by to help me do my best: HALT. If you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, you need to stop what you’re doing and take care of yourself first.

Even though I made a few silly mistakes here and there, I corrected myself using humor–and I found that I was more approachable as a presenter that way. I stayed true to myself, slipping in bits of my personality, which made me feel so much more at ease up at the podium. I think people appreciate it when they find you’re relatable, that you’re human and make mistakes just like them. Being serious and stoic just isn’t me, and frankly, I find it tiring. I like to laugh and smile, just like everyone else.

How do you overcome stressful situations? Do you have any tips for overcoming stress? Share them below!

-Meg :)

Meg Rindfleisch
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm
Learn more about Meg here.

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