The Foundation of a Holistic Approach
It should be obvious that the body affects the functioning of the brain and, therefore, the mind. How well you take care of your health can also determine how calm you remain in stressful situations and how much energy you can muster to give an enthusiastic presentation. Treat yourself like an athlete in training and you will help yourself win the game of public speaking. A holistic approach means using every possible means to provide the best result for mind and body.
Fuel for Stamina and Health
Would you put a bad grade of gasoline in your car on purpose? Judging by the sales of junk food and the dramatic increase in obesity, few Americans understand much about what fuel to put into their bodies. Doctors are often not equipped to guide their patients because they barely study nutrition in medical school. Take responsibility and learn the basics about nutrition so that you can improve the odds of staying healthy.
Robert Haas's Eat to Win in the 21st Century is a sensible, balanced source of information on why to add more complex carbohydrates (whole grains, nuts, legumes, beans, fruits, and vegetables) to your diet. As important as adding more fiber and nutrients is excluding the three whites: white sugar, white flour, and white rice. They all are used by the body in a way that causes your blood sugar to gyrate. When blood sugar is low, so will be your energy level, you will become confused, and your mood will go up and down. There are substitutes that taste just as good and are healthier.
Do not eat a big, fat-rich meal the day you are making a speech or else your body's need to put energy into the digestive process will slow down your mind. Try a light meal, like fruit or salad, a few hours before. Do not try to give yourself a boost by drinking coffee — you will speak too fast and need a bathroom break!
With modest changes in diet, a good multivitamin-mineral supplement (calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins help keep the body calm), and plenty of pure water, you will be astounded at how much better you will feel, how much physical energy you can bring to bear for a speech, and how clearly you will be able to think. You will also be less likely to be sick when the big day to speak arrives.
A lot of books about public speaking stress particular exercises that can be done to help lower anxiety (which will be discussed in a moment). What is generally not mentioned, though, is that regular exercise will lower your overall anxiety level, making you less susceptible to the biological aspects of fear of failure in public. If you have experienced the “runner's high,” then you have some appreciation for the mind-body relationship.
If you do not already have an exercise program, start doing some modest exercise for at least 30 minutes three times a week: get on a treadmill, go to the gym to lift weights, run, or do some fast walking. Swimming can be especially good for improving whole-body conditioning and to help the body to relax afterward.
Getting enough rest is clearly important to being able to speak in a vigorous style. Nothing will bore the audience quicker than someone who is too exhausted to speak with enthusiasm, no matter how well a speech is written and how much practicing has been done.
Studies show that most people need eight hours of sleep every day to be at their physical and mental peak. You may not think so because you are in such a constant state of tension and so revved up by caffeine that you believe you are doing fine. If you have a hard time falling or staying asleep, try different kinds of over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies. If these do not work for you, consult a doctor.
If you can take a 15- to 20-minute nap in the afternoon — or even just close your eyes and relax in a chair somewhere quiet — you will definitely feel invigorated.
Take Care of Your Voice
It should go without saying that if you smoke, you need to quit if you want to be a regular speaker. Smoking can leave you breathless at inappropriate times, not to mention making you vulnerable to horrible hacking coughs magnified by the microphone. A smoker's voice is also not considered pleasant to listen to by most people. You should even avoid being in smoky environments right before a speech.
It should also be obvious that you do not want to scream at a sports event or otherwise abuse your vocal cords in the days before a speech. If you need to talk a lot, do it in a moderate tone to avoid strain. Also, make sure you have adequate humidity at home to avoid getting a dry throat.