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Are you afraid of public speaking?

Does your fear limit you in your professional and personal life, and make you alter your behaviour to compensate or feel safer? Public speaking anxiety is the most common form of social phobia. Most of us have a fear of some kind of public speaking, from speaking at work meetings to talking about ourselves in interviews, or even chatting to a group of our colleagues or peers. However, this fear may make you limit yourself in your personal life with avoidance behaviours to the extent that you often find yourself being prevented from giving your best. This problem is sometimes known as situational anxiety, and is very treatable with the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT is a very fast intervention therapy that will help you to understand and manage your anxiety through learning and putting strategies into action.

Symptoms of public speaking anxiety...

• Shaky voice
• Trembling
• Breathing becomes abnormal
• Your mouth goes dry
• Waves of nausea
• Vision goes blurry
• Dizziness or faint feeling
• Talking too fast
• Your mind goes blank
• You start to panic
• You feel embarrassed
• Blushing
• Sweating
• Feeling muscle tension
• Fear

If you have many of these symptoms, you are a perfect candidate for CBT. This form of therapy focuses on calming extreme emotional upset, fight or flight responses and avoidance behaviour. It can help people get their lives back and enjoy work and social situations in a new and more empowered, liberating way.

What are the mechanisms of social phobia?

Social phobias or anxieties come from a distorted, ‘irrational’ perception of a situation, which to your mind can be seen as a genuine threat, causing a panicky physiological response. This fight or flight response begins because of the threatening perception of the situation, but, very quickly, this response itself becomes the threat and a cycle ensues.

Sufferers believe that the way they are explaining the fear to themselves is completely rational, but they are usually using emotional reasoning and memories of past experiences to piece together false evidence to support that fear. It can be helpful to realise that some of the frightening things you have told yourself are true may not necessarily reflect a balanced assessment of reality.

How does CBT help?

• CBT challenges you to question whether or not fearful feelings are appropriate in the present scenario, and helps you to rewire your thinking and change your fear conditioning.
• Your psychologist will teach you how to use deep breathing when experiencing fight or flight, as many of the symptoms are caused by an overload of oxygen, so breathing and posture exercises will calm the body down.
• CBT supports you to think about public speaking situations calmly, putting your ideas around it into perspective, and helps you to think positively.
• CBT helps you develop greater self confidence and self esteem.
• You will learn to do graduated muscle relaxation exercises to train your body to respond differently.
• Mindfulness and visualisation can be used with CBT to help you to distract and calm down when experiencing anxiety. Relaxation techniques with the use of visual imagery works to regain your confidence in public and social situations.
• You will be supported to develop a routine where you do something you find relaxing regularly. Your body will have a great physical response to this, releasing chemicals that reduce stress hormones.

CBT can really help you handle situational anxiety, either by controlling it or by minimising the strength of your emotional response, ideally eliminating the fear altogether. It also challenges any irrational thinking so that you have a proportional and manageable physiological response, such as having butterflies or experiencing the adrenaline rush many public speakers have.

The outcome...

Through CBT, you will develop new skills in self-management, and your entire view on public speaking will change. It won’t seem as scary or threatening anymore to express yourself socially, publicly, academically or in the workplace. You might even start to see public speaking as an opportunity that is enriching and exciting. With the help of CBT and an experienced psychologist, the goal of being fear free is completely attainable, even if your aim is to just manage speaking situations better through developing coping skills.

If you feel you have public speaking anxiety, and would like to know more about CBT and how it can help you, please get in touch with me.

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