This is my story.
I don’t like giving presentations, I just don’t like it. The day of the presentation, few hours before the event, I get grumpy, intolerant and moody. Of course, due to Murphy’s law, the more I want to avoid it, the more I have to give presentations.
When I worked for Schering AG, every month, every single damn month of the year I had to take a plane, land in Berlin, meet with people from other countries and give presentations about our best business practices.
“You should be used to it, by now”.
“No, I am not”.
“Well, once you start then it is done, you relax…”
“Well, no, I don’t. My adrenaline goes on until the very last slide of the presentation, then stays up to the very last question and finally leaves me exhausted. Any other useful comment?”
Since then, my professional career has progressed and I found myself in the position of delegating and having someone from my team to give presentations instead of me. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it”…No, you won’t, that is a lie.
My presentation-free zone lasted until I started my MBA program. An MBA is about spending lots of money, working hard doing papers and presentations, a lot of presentations, truly a lot. “If this is my destiny, thy will be done” that said by an atheist like I am, it sounds almost blasphemous.
During my MBA I met with Bena, my life coach and professor at the MBA program. From her, I learned the technique of diaphragmatic breathing. Getting to know such technique changed my life. All of a sudden, I had something with me that could make me lower my cortisol level almost immediately. Then I listened a speech by Amy Cuddy: “Your body language shapes who you are”, it was about power poses and how the body can change your mind. As someone says: don’t believe me, try it yourself. So I did. Few minutes before the presentation, I went to the restroom and started my power pose. I felt quite an idiot and to overcome the uncomfortable feeling, I focused on my diaphragmatic breathing and made it through. As a result, during my presentation, there was no fear, no confusion, no panic and no sweat. Instead, a clear and relaxed mind and the desire of sharing my knowledge and own the world. I was there to share an interesting story that could help someone else from the audience. I finished my presentation feeling like I expressed who I was and what I cared for. It was an amazing experience and I would like everybody to experience the same.
And this is what happened.
Our cells and their energy pattern are effected by their immediate surroundings, so is the biochemical condition of the body that is affected by outside forces such as what we eat, drink, take, hear, our emotions or even gestures and posture. How many times have we experienced feelings in our stomach when we are nervous or scared or in love? The physiological response to an emotional state is caused by the production of epinephrine (aka adrenalin), a hormone secreted into the blood stream by the medullas of the adrenal glands. In order for the cells of the medullas to release adrenalin, they must receive a signal from the brain. The signal causes electrochemical changes in the bio-system, which then manifest themselves as physical conditions.
As a matter of facts, the connection Mind-Body which can also reveal itself as Body-Mind is one of the basic principle of homeopathy. Hahnemann (the father of homeopathy) believed that a physical condition would affect the mental and emotional character of a patient, as well as the emotional and mental condition of a patient manifested physical ailments. So the connection Mind-Body-Mind and/or Body-Mind-Body is not new. New are the approaches to such axiom.
According to associate professor Amy Cuddy, also our body has the power to change our mind. As a consequence, our mind would have the ability to change our behaviour which, in turn, will change the final result. In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, it is showed that holding a power position for as little as two minutes stimulates an higher level of testosterone (the dominance hormone) and lowers the level of cortisol (the stress hormone). When an alpha male dies the testosterone level of the animal replacing him goes up. Same happens for powerful and effective leaders: they have high testosterone and low cortisol. This means that Nature predisposes powerful animals (in the broad meaning of “provided with soul”) to be not only dominant and assertive but also able to cope with stress.
In addition to causing the desired hormonal shift, power poses make us feel better about ourselves. Power poses led to increased feelings of self-confidence and a greater tolerance for risk.
Amy Cuddy’ study shows that 86% of people in the high-power pose condition group would gamble because of the increase of self-confidence. On the other hand, only 60% of people in the low-power pose condition group would have gambled and the different is significant.
High-power people also experienced about a 25% decrease in cortisol, and the low-power people experienced about a 15% increase of the stress hormone.
Just two minutes of power positions may become key for people who suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and powerlessness. The hormonal shifts can be influenced independent of role, situation, or any consciously focused thoughts about power. The physical poses are enough.
According to Amy Cuddy, it is very possible that when you pretend to be powerful, you are more likely to feel powerful. It is the same mechanism studied for the smile. We smile when we feel happy, but also, when we are forced to smile by holding a pen in our teeth, this makes us feel happy. For power, it works the same way and the suggestion is to do it and repeat it until it becomes a habit and we actually become it: “And so I want to say to you, don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it.”
As per the power of breathing, I would suggest for you to watch this video by Bena Long.