A recent study sheds light on an important aspect of the speaker’s life – the post-speech end of the adrenaline cycle. A great deal has been written about the front end of that cycle. I’ve posted many times about adrenaline and how to manage it, but, like my fellows in the world of communication studies, less often about how to manage it as it leaves your body.
The study looked at one’s emotional response to a stressful situation. Basically, the study found that if you can change the situation, you’ll feel empowered and be able to handle it emotionally. If you can’t change the situation, it’s better to focus on managing your emotional response.
In short, flexibility is the key to smoothing out the roller-coaster ride of life, and particularly the adrenaline cycle.
In this case, in the long run, you can develop strategies for managing the ups and downs of the adrenaline cycle. And in the short run, you can manage your emotional response to the adrenaline.
What do I mean by that? Pick your long run strategies and stick with them, practice them diligently, and they’ll start to pay dividends. So a regular exercise routine, mindfulness, daily breathing exercises, positive mantras, imaging success – some cocktail mix of these will be effective for you over time. They will not, repeat not, be effective tomorrow, on a one-time basis, when you’re suddenly panicking about a presentation and google “adrenaline’ and find this blog post or others like it.
And of course, the single best form of adrenaline management is regular rehearsal and practice. If you’ve done something many, many times, it’s typically less terrifying than if you’ve done something only once.
But in the short run, you’ll need to practice mood management. And that means finding something that reliably calms you down after the high of a presentation. A long walk, a nap or meditation session, or a couple of stiff drinks at the bar – find something that’s going to be immediately helpful given your particular history, psychology, and physiology.
The point is to do something to protect yourself against obsessively reliving a catastrophe, which is particularly dangerous only if you ever plan to speak again. One of the wonders of the human mind is its ability to recognize and establish patterns based on very little evidence. That’s a big part of what makes us such smart animals, able to figure out complicated planning sequences and to make huge changes in our personal lives, and the planet’s.
But that very pattern ability will do you a huge disservice if you have, say, a negative speaking experience for some reason, and then, lacking any effort in mood management after the event, you start to think to yourself, “every time I do this thing called speaking, terrible results occur.” That’s human pattern recognition gone wrong, and it can quickly become a nightmare for otherwise competent executives who have to speak as part of their job description. I’ve worked many times over the years with executives who were convinced, based on a bad experience as a kid, that all their adult speaking occasions were doomed to fail. That’s the power of pattern recognition.
Start the short and long-term work now, and you’ll thank me later.