We have often written about public speaking being a source of stress for the majority of us, and how this stress is expressed differently according to each person, and influences our thought process. We suddenly have the feeling of not being up to the task though we know perfectly well that we are properly prepared. Or we may think that the whole exercise is unnecessary though we were extremely motivated beforehand. From an operational point of view, this state of mind doesn’t help in accomplishing the task. It is therefore very effective to take a few seconds to conjure up a more reassuring picture of yourself, surer of your capabilities, clearer on your commitment and more serene.
A technique from behavioral therapies is to revive the memory of a situation where you were successful and to associate the feeling it procured to a stimulus you can activate “on command,” especially when you’re faced with the “stressor” element of public speaking. Try to remember the time when you were praised for a particular action, where you had everyone’s attention and were recognized for your legitimacy. The memory of this situation should be a source of immediate well-being, like the all-powerful feeling of being the right person at the right place. It is this feeling we need to have to ease the effects of stress.
The emotional anchor is to associate this memory to a sensory stimulus: a gesture, an object, a picture or a sound. This association may seem simpler to implement with the help of a therapist, but it is quite possible to do it alone. Put yourself in a calm place and take the time to relive the memories you have chosen. Linger over all the sensory information you can get to use as an anchor: what you saw, heard and felt. Each time the feeling of well-being linked to the memory overcomes you, activate the anchor you chose. By repeating these sessions over several days, you’ll create an association between your anchor and your memory. The next time stress disturbs your thought process, activating the anchor will enable faster access to a more comforting and reassuring feeling.
What anchor to choose? Any sensory stimulation: sight, sound or touch. Two anchor examples are of particular interest when doing this work alone. The first is the smile. Combining a soothing memory with a smile will lead you to smile more often when under stress. Thus, you’ll receive all the benefits of the smile and more precisely the effect it has on stress… Another anchor, often used in theater, is the “magic object.” Generally it’s a small object that only you know about, and it remains in your pocket at all times. In stressful situations, you can squeeze the object in your hand to activate the memory of a positive thought, allowing you to return to a calmer state more effectively.