As a cardiologist, I am acutely aware of the harmful effects of stress. After treating cardiac patients with devastat- ing and life-threatening
illnesses for many years, I became
overwhelmed by my own stress when
waiting to treat my next cardiac patient.
I reached a turning point and decided
to refocus my practice from disease to
health and from patients to people.
Stress affects your heart and your
life. It can turn your speaking career
into a horror story. Unless you learn
to control stress, it will overpower
you. The way you handle—or mishandle—stress can lead to burnout,
dissatisfaction and depression.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the way the body and mind
adapt to change. From a medical perspective, stress can be acute (short
term) or chronic (long term). The
reactions that people experience
depend on the kinds of stress to which
they are exposed.
Acute or short-term stress pops up
from an unexpected event, such as an
abrupt shift in plans for a speaking
event or a sudden crisis at the event.
For speakers, this type of event some-
times triggers internal fire alarms,
including fear, anxiety, perspiration
and a rapid heartbeat. Physical symp-
toms are caused by a sudden release of
adrenaline—an “adrenaline rush”—
which draws blood away from the skin
and intestines and toward the muscles,
preparing even confident speakers for
“fight or flight.”
Chronic or long-term stress occurs
when a person perceives a loss of
control over his or her environ-
ment, such as losing a job. With this
type of stress, speakers can experi-
ence a sense of failure and entrapment
created by uncontrollable external
forces. Responses to chronic stress,
Techniques to De-stress
Here are seven positive ways
to help deal with stress:
stress. People tend to identify themselves with their work, but they are much
more than that. Don’t equate your self-worth with your work. The highest form of
recognition is self-recognition. Stop criticizing yourself.
1. Respect your body.
Pay attention to physical symptoms that
signal stress. Periodically check your
weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and
cholesterol levels. If you are over 40, get
an electrocardiogram and, if necessary,
perform a treadmill test to measure how
your body handles work.
Exercise. Live in action. Choose the
form of exercise you like most and enjoy it
on a regular basis. The benefits are lower
blood pressure, a higher level of good
cholesterol, a better conditioned heart
and body and reduced weight. You will
gain the energy needed for facing daily
stress and presenting dynamic speeches.
Diet. Supply your body with healthy
food, even at meetings and on the road.
Increase your intake of high-fiber foods.
Reduce your intake of foods high in fat
and/or sugar. Avoid cigarettes, alcohol and
other drugs for long-term good health.
4. Share your feelings.
Change your repetitive behavior, also
called your “act.” The most common act is
not being “good enough.” Many people
suffer a lifetime in this self-imposed
prison, never realizing that it is impossible to achieve perfection. Speakers spend
a lot of time striving to please others in
their careers, but it is important to “be
yourself” while striving to serve others. Be
spontaneous and natural.
5. Find purpose in life.
Setting goals focuses your energy and
helps you establish priorities. When you
meet your goals, you are confirming that
you are in charge of your life. Choose the
goal that is most important to you—the
one that you absolutely must fulfill before
leaving this planet. Then, make a plan and
act on it. If you start with a single goal,
others will fall into place.
Find your purpose and the answers will
follow. Pinpoint how much speaking fulfills your personal reasons for being. This
may help you fine tune your career and
gain greater satisfaction in your work.
Daily relaxation techniques will lower
your pulse and blood pressure and give
you a greater sense of control, peace
and tranquility. Try Herbert Benson, MD’s
“relaxation response” to deal with the
stress you have accumulated through-
out the day. Sit in a comfortable chair,
close your eyes, choose a word, such
as “peace” or “joy,” that makes you feel
good, concentrate on your breathing and
repeat your word every time you exhale.
Perform this relaxation exercise for 10 to
15 minutes twice a day, preferably before
breakfast and before dinner.
6. Love yourself and others
When you love yourself, you are on the
road to solving any problem. The more
you love yourself, the easier it will be for
you to love others.
3. Accept yourself.
When you look at yourself in the mirror,
what do you see? Do you see yourself
only as a speaker or do you see the whole
person? Narrow self-perception produces
7. Nourish your spiritual self.
You are a physical and a spiritual being.
Nurture your spirit with inspirational
reading, prayer, meditation, music and
other spiritual practices. Forgive yourself
and others. Live with positive expectations.