We all know that adrenaline is a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it’s just what we need to achieve peak performance. Other times, it’s simply debilitating. When you give a presentation and feel the adrenaline pumping through your body, how’s it going to affect you? Will it give you a positive energy boost and help you deliver with passion and charisma? Or will it make your heart race, your hands shake and your mind cloud over? If it does the latter, how can you take control? How can calm yourself and refocus on the task at hand?
The mind affects the body. And the body affects the mind. Breathing is something that we can do both automatically and deliberately. It’s also connected to numerous other processes in the body which we have little direct control over, e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, nervous system activity (fight/flight vs. rest/digest) etc. It’s therefore the perfect thing to focus on when you feel overwhelmed. Your breathing is something you can easily take control of. And in doing so, you’ll start a positive chain reaction that helps you compose yourself so you can prepare to perform at your best.
The breathing pattern I’m about to share with you will help you reduce stress, calm your nerves and (thanks to improved blood oxygenation and circulation) think more clearly. The next time you’re feeling anxious before a presentation (or any high stakes situation), find a quiet place and do some “Box Breathing”.
What is Box Breathing?
It’s a simple breathing pattern in which each phase of your breathing cycle is done for equal time. For example:
- Breathe in for 5 seconds
- Hold for 5 seconds
- Breathe out for 5 seconds
- Hold for 5 seconds
You can adjust the times as long as you keep each of the four phases – each side of the box – the same length.
While you do your box breathing, place your hands on your stomach. You want to breathe deep in to your stomach as opposed to just filling up your chest (which we tend to do if we’re not relaxed). You want to feel your stomach expanding as you breathe in.
Continue box breathing for one or two minutes (or longer if you wish) and you’ll notice yourself feeling much calmer and more focussed. Now that you’re composed, you can prepare to give your best presentation!