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Reframing stress may help overcome stage fright.

Washington, April 15 ( ANI ): Learning to rethink the way we view our shaky hands, pounding heart, and sweaty palms can help us deal with stage fright and perform better both mentally and physically, say experts.

Simply encouraging people to reframe the meaning of these signs of stress as natural and helpful before a stressful speaking task was found to be an effective way of handling stage fright.

For many people, especially those suffering from social anxiety disorder, the natural uneasiness experienced before giving a speech can quickly tip over into panic.

"If we think we can't cope with stress, we will experience threat. When threatened, the body enacts changes to concentrate blood in the core and restricts flow to the arms, legs, and brain," explained Jeremy Jamieson, the lead author on the study and an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.

Lots of current advice for anxious people focus on learning to 'relax,'-deep, even breathing and similar tips, said Jamieson.

Such calming techniques, wrote the authors, may be helpful in situations that do not require peak performance. But when gearing up for a high-stakes exam, a job interview, or, yes, a speaking engagement, reframing how we think about stress may be a better strategy.

To find out how can people reap the benefits of being stressed without being overwhelmed by dread, Jamieson and co-authors Matthew Nock, of Harvard University and Wendy Berry Mendes of the University of California in San Francisco, turned to the Trier Social Stress Test.

In the study, 69 adults were asked to give a five-minute talk about their strengths and weaknesses with only three minutes to prepare. Roughly half of the participants had a history of social anxiety and all participants were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group was presented information about the advantages of the body's stress response and encouraged to "reinterpret your bodily signals during the upcoming public speaking task as beneficial."

That group also was asked to read summaries of three psychology studies that showed the benefits of stress. The second group received no information about reframing stress.

Participants delivered their speech to two judges. On purpose, the judges provided negative nonverbal feedback throughout the entire five-minute presentations, shaking their heads in disapproval, tapping on their clipboards, and staring stone-faced ahead.

Confronted with scowling judges, participants who received no stress preparation experienced a threat response, as captured by cardiovascular measures. But the group that was prepped about the benefits of stress weathered the trial better.

That group reported feeling that they had more resources to cope with the public speaking task and, perhaps more tellingly, their physiological responses confirmed those perceptions. The prepped group pumped more blood through the body per minute compared to the group that did not receive instruction.

Surprisingly, this study also found that individuals who suffer from social anxiety disorder actually experienced no greater increase in physiological arousal while under scrutiny than their non-anxious counterparts, despite reporting more intense feelings of apprehension.

This disconnect, the researchers argued, supports the theory that our experience of acute or short-term stress is shaped by how we interpret physical cues.

The study was published online in Clinical Psychological Science. ( ANI )

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Apr 15, 2013
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