Combat anxiety with the thermometer visualization technique

by David Folkerson on December 20, 2014 , No comments

I’m happy that I get anxious before delivering a big presentation. It means that I’m excited about what I’m about to do. But I don’t like feeling anxious. Too much anxiety can be crippling. I like to use what I call “the thermometer visualization technique” to help manage this kind of anxiety when speaking in public.

Imagine a thermometer. But instead of measuring the temperature, this thermometer measures your anxiety level. The absolute highest level of anxiety you could possibly endure is ten. At ten, your entire body seizes up, your knees give out and you collapse to the floor in a drooling, convulsing mess. At ten, you get wheeled out of the building on a stretcher. Ten is not a good place to be.

On the other hand, imagine your anxiety level at one. You can see yourself peacefully snoozing, or relaxing on a hammock under a beautiful tree, with the sun shining down on a warm day, a gentle caressing breeze rustling the leaves, no bugs, some birds chirping in the distance, a cool drink at your side – not a care in the world.

Obviously, you want to stay as close to one as possible.

When you realize you are getting anxious and straying ever farther from one, visualize the thermometer. Think of that red mercury inching its way upwards as your anxiety builds.

Now, with that image of the thermometer in mind, remember to breath. Inhale deeply – deep into your belly. And exhale, pushing all your breath out. Every single last molecule of it. Every time you exhale, think of that little red line on the thermometer nudging downwards a wee bit. The harder you squeeze the air out, the more the red line goes down. Continue to inhale deeply, and to exhale completely, pushing absolutely all your breath out.     Inhale…      Exhale…     The red line goes down, down, down. The more often you repeat this, the closer that red line will get back to one, and the more relaxed you will become.

Do you have any other tips for coping with public speaking or presentation anxiety? Please share in the comments section below.

Feature image credit: Photo (thermometer) by Ben W / CC BY-SA 2.0, Photo (audience) by Sean Dreilinger / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

David FolkersonCombat anxiety with the thermometer visualization technique

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