I just wrapped up work with a client who’s about to give a big presentation. And my final, most important advice was to focus on chill thoughts until he gets onstage.
What’s a Chill Thought?
A chill thought helps you calm down, avoid anxiety, and—best of all—crowd out the ugly, self-demeaning thoughts that so often come up when we’re faced with a daunting task like public speaking.
Mine sound like this:
- “You’re OK. You’ve got this.”
- “Everything is gonna be fine…”
- “There’s nothing to be anxious about.”
Contrast those self-affirming thoughts with the negative ones that your Nasty Little Voice is busily concocting, such as:
- “Don’t screw this up!”
- “You know you’re going to fail!”
- “You are such a loser!!”
Your nasty little voice comes from the most ancient, fear-driven part of your brain—and the thoughts it generates can range from hostile to vicious.
Yes, they seem persuasive (or at least, familiar). But just because your mind is cooking up a mix of lies, self-blame and paranoia doesn’t mean you have to swallow it.
To Strengthen Chill Thoughts, Breathe Out
When’s the last time you consciously breathed out?
Breathing out—letting the air flow steadily out of your lungs, while letting your shoulder and chest muscles relax—is one of the most calming and centering things you can do with your body. (This is why long exhales are so important in yoga and other meditative practices.)
If you choose a chill thought and repeat it silently to yourself while breathing out, it will change the way you think and feel.
Try it, and repeat as necessary.
Positive or Negative Thoughts: You Can Choose
Lots of my clients hope that, someday, they’ll overcome the negative thoughts that pop into their minds (i.e., make those thoughts disappear forever).
Maybe this goal is possible, but since I don’t know anyone who’s ever reached it—I certainly haven’t—I always suggest a simpler aspiration: When negative thoughts crowd into your mind, repeat a positive thought to yourself and let the chill thought drive out the ugly one.
We can’t control everything that happens in our minds.
But we can decide to strengthen the good stuff by consciously chilling out the bad.