You freeze. Your mind races furiously, as you try to come up with a reply.
Time seems to stretch forever while everyone in the room looks at you for an answer, the silence growing louder every second.
You know the work inside out, but yet, at this crucial moment, your mind seems to have shut down.
And you can’t help thinking:
What is wrong with me? Why does my mind always freeze when I need it most?
I am so embarrassed.
Why can’t I be like other people who are calm and confident?
The truth is, mind freeze is absolutely normal and there’s nothing to feel ashamed of.
It’s simply our body’s way of reacting and protecting us when we are in a stressful situation. Even the most seasoned politicians have frozen during presidential debates.
While this is normal, it’s still extremely painful to go through it. The blow to our confidence can be debilitating, as we start questioning our capabilities and beat ourselves up.
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a little practice, staying confident under pressure can be achieved.
Here are some unusual but effective techniques that help you overcome the freeze and feel confident and composed in a high-stress situation.
Reset Your Mind
When our mind goes blank under high pressure, it’s because our body feels overwhelmed by the situation and shuts down.
To break the freeze cycle, use a distracting image or thought to cut through the overwhelm and reset your mind.
Choose a distracting thought that has nothing to do with the situation. For example, pick an image that makes you laugh, so it eases the tension and relaxes you.
You could decide on an anchor image ahead of time so it’s easy to recall whenever you need it. For example, I use an image of Homer Simpson dreaming of donuts and going “Mmm…donuts.” It’s an unexpected image in the middle of something serious, and it’s funny.
Doing this interrupts your mind from the current stress and anxiety, since it switches its attention to this new thought.
This helps to reset your mind so you can get back on track during the situation.
Relaxed Face Technique
Whenever we feel stress, one of the first areas to tense up are our jaw and facial muscles. This tends to go unnoticed because it happens so quickly and unconsciously that we are unaware that it’s happening.
So when you feel flustered in a high-stress situation, put your attention on the back of your jaw, and consciously let go of the tension. Relaxing the jaw muscles, helps your facial muslces to relax, which also signals to the rest of the body to let go of tension.
This helps you feel calmer, reduces feelings of anxiety flooding your body, and enables you to think more clearly.
Embrace the Elephant in the Room
Fighting the anxiety when you are under pressure takes up an incredible amount energy. It feels like you are repeatedly knocking your head against a massive, blank wall that surrounds you.
In this state, fighting it only serves to heightens your anxiety and makes it worse.
Instead of fighting it, acknowledge its presence. Don’t judge it, just breathe into it, observe it, and let it flow through and out of you.
Letting it pass through you helps you bounce back and into the present quickly, which empowers you to handle the situation with confidence.
Call out Your Fears
When we feel fear, the mind can feel like a runaway train, exaggerating the negative effects on us. It becomes an oppressive dark cloud that threatens to swallow us whole, and skyrockets our panic to stratospheric levels.
However, when we bring the fear out into the open, we often realize that the reality is not as bad as we thought it would be.
So, call out the fear and address it: What is it that you are fearful about? What is the worst that could happen? Is this worst fear likely to occur or is it an exaggerated projection?
This helps us put things into perspective that the outcome of a stressful situation is not as bad as it seems, and cools down the build up of frantic anxiety.
Be The Ball of Light in the Room
Our body language, and how we project our energy has large physiological effects on our confidence and how we feel.
Project confidence by imagining a ball of energy that extends outward from you to about 1 feet from your body. This is your inviolable, sacred space. Carry yourself with this projected confident energy radiating outwards.
When we move with confidence, we feel confident and energized, which others can sense immediately. As they react and reflect back the positive energy towards you, this results in a cumulative positive feedback loop, which creates more confidence within you.
Move Forward Positively
Having your mind go blank during the most crucial moments can crush your confidence.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Just putting into practice some simple techniques can have a dramatic effect on your ability to stay calm and confident in the face of pressure.
Imagine feeling composed and self-assured, as you answer questions with ease and poise in a high stakes meeting.
Knowing that you are able to truly display the wealth and depth of the expertise you possess and articulate it clearly and confidently.
All it takes is just one step. Pick one or two of the techniques that appeal to you and try it out tomorrow.
And you will be on your way to bringing out the composed and confident you that’s been there all along.
Shan is a former Sociologist who writes about different coping strategies for better mental well-being.
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.