Friday, October 16, 2015

Use R.U.M. to control your nerves!

Left unmanaged, nerves will always come between you and what you want to achieve. 

In a public speaking scenario, this means that your brain and your body will present big challenges that are difficult to overcome if you haven't learned how.

So, how do I help clients to control these nerves? I use R.U.M.

No, not rum, R.U.M!

When you're feeling nervous, you need to take 3 steps:

Recognise ... what's happening to your thinking, your body and your mood.
Understand ... why this is happening.
Manage ... the symptoms using solutions that work (that's where I come in!).

Step 1: Recognise

When nervous, we all experience a range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms. Unfortunately, many people (especially us men; sorry lads!) don't fully notice or pay attention to these symptoms, let alone question what's causing them.

And if you don't spot that something's wrong, you can't take steps to fix it.

Actions you can take:
When you are about to do something important (speech, interview, presentation, etc.), do a quick check-up by asking yourself these questions and writing down the answers: 
  • What am I noticing about my body?
    (Tension, headache, fast or shallow breathing, heart racing, mouth dry, shaky hands, etc.)
  • What am I noticing about my brain?
    (Can't remember my lines, finding it difficult to solve small problems, being creative is really difficult, etc.)
  • What am I noticing about my thoughts, mood & emotions?
    (Negative, cranky, panicked, depressed, being hard on myself, etc.)
These symptoms are usually worst immediately before the event, but they are often there in the days and weeks running up to the event, so pay attention to your body then too, e.g. is it difficult to sleep? Is your mood or sleep affected?  

Once you've completed this, you can move to Step 2...

Step 2: Understand

Ok, so now you've identified that, for example, your mouth is dry, you have tension in your shoulders and neck and are starting to feel panicky about how you'll perform and what people will think.

At this stage, there's a huge power to knowing WHY you are experiencing these things. The most important turning point for my clients is the moment they uncover the why behind their nerves.

They learn that they're not weirdos. They're not broken.  They haven't gone mad.

What's happening to them is the body's natural response to a threat. And it happens to you and me too. In fact, it's been happening humans for thousands of generations, since ancient times when life was much more dangerous.

When you're in danger, your body releases adrenaline (and a couple of other hormones). Its job is to prepare your body to defend itself (fight!), escape (flight!), or, with a bit of luck, to go un-noticed (freeze!).

The thing is, all the stuff you listed above as negative and unhelpful symptoms are actually VERY helpful - they're just happening to you at the wrong time. 

When making a speech, you're not in real danger - unfortunately, your brain just doesn't know the difference between a real threat that's happening in front of you ("Yikes! That bear has spotted me!") and an imagined threat that hasn;t happened at all yet ("I'm going to suck at this speech!").

there's a bit more to it, but for now, suffice to say that adrenaline is actually your friend. You just don't want your friends barging in and taking control of things when you have something important to do. 

Actions you can take:
  • Learn about the effects of adrenaline.
    (Both Google and I can help you here!)
  • Return to your list of symptoms above and try to link the symptom to the explanation: this will help you feel much better.
    (e.g. Feeling tense: my muscles are preparing to fight. Heart is racing: my muscles need more blood and oxygen so they can fight. Dry mouth: my digestive system is temporarily shutting down. And so on...)
So, you know you're normal. Yes, you understand the "why", but truth is, you're still feeling nervous! What can you do? Keep reading, that's what!

Step 3: Manage

At this stage, you've paid attention and labelled what's happening to your body and brain. Thankfully, you now also know why this is happening to you, which is a major step. Now, you need to actually make things better.

In truth, you're probably experiencing several of the symptoms mentioned above. But, luckily, if you focus on a couple of the main ones, the others will quickly subside or disappear when your body realises it's not actually in danger.

To manage the effects of nerves (i.e. adrenaline), I teach clients a range of physical and mental tricks, but to keep this post as brief as possible, these 2 physical solutions alone will work wonders for you:

  1. Lower, and relax your shoulders. I guarantee that, if you're under the influence of adrenaline, you are carrying tension in your shoulders.  By consciously relaxing them and dropping them as far as they go, your body is telling your brain: "Hey, it's cool ... see? I'm relaxed, so you can relax too!". 
  2. Exhale fully. Everyone tells you to take deep breaths, but forget that. Breathing in too fully, (especially the wrong way, i.e. into your chest and not your stomach) makes you more tense. So, don't worry about breathing in - that'll look after itself!  Instead, concentrate on fully emptying your lungs a few times. This also sends a message to your brain that you are in control and that there's nothing to fear. You'll notice that you start to relax and that your heart rate is starting to slow down.
Actions you can take:
  • If possible, practice the above, regularly, well in advance of your speech or event. Every once in a while, check whether your shoulders are raised up in a tense position: putting on the kettle? Check your shoulders. Typing at your computer? Check your shoulders. Go on, check them now ... I bet you can drop them at least a couple of inches!

Closing Thought

This has been just a short introduction to managing your nerves using my R.U.M. method. Although the insights above are a great start and will be enough for most people in most situations, you may need a bit more help.  That's why I designed the NoMoreNerves coaching programme. 

You can learn more about it by clicking here. Like my recent client, Tom, I can help you learn to manage your nerves and perform brilliantly :-)

p.s. If this has been useful for you, please share this post with your friends and spread the word that nerves CAN be fixed!