I am a high school student. Many of our teachers want us to give reports in
class. I am having trouble getting up in front of the class and speaking. I get all nervous, shake, and
can't even read my notes. My mind seems to shut down, and I can't think of what I wanted to say. I don't
know what to do about this.
I am glad you wrote about your anxiety. Feeling overwhelmed by nervousness
before and during a speech is one of the most common forms of performance
anxiety. That doesn't mean it is trivial. But sharing your secret, and
getting support, is an important step in learning how to cope with these
What you are experiencing is not an emotional problem, but a very common
form of painful anxiety--one related to performing in front of an audience.
You identify one of the most interesting factors of this nervous reaction,
that you can talk just fine when speaking from your seat. There you are
just one of the class, and the sense of evaluation is usually fairly modest.
But get up in front, with the spotlight on you, and you suddenly feel as
though you will not only fail, but fail miserably, in front of all those people!
Help for this common response can come from many directions. Discussing
your fears with friends, family, and teachers will probably give you the
support of knowing just how common this form of anxiety is. You can know
you are not alone.
Simple relaxation techniques can be very helpful in preventing the physical
symptoms of anxiety such as shaking, blurred vision,
and blushing. Breathing naturally, deeply from your lower abdomen, while
suggesting to yourself that you can calm your body is helpful.
There are many good self help tapes for relaxation training. Also, self
comments with your mental voice, disputing words that predict failure, that
are catastrophic in their meaning, will probably help.
With exposure to this task, while using calming and clarifying suggestions,
and with the support of others, you will most likely find that you feel not
only more comfortable, but pleased with your performance too. But remember,
performance anxiety is normal and unavoidable in anticipation of any speech.
The trick is in preventing too much anxiety, which interferes with
performance, while recognizing that a moderate amount of what we could term
*arousal* actually can help your performance.
I hope this is helpful to you. We're all in this situation with you, and
support for each other is very helpful. So thanks for giving many others
the benefit of your experience.
Dr. Kenneth Dutro is a licensed psychologist in
California. He is a member of the faculty at Humboldt State University, Arcata,
California. He has been faculty member of a medical school, and worked for years
as a psychologist in university-affiliated teaching hospitals.