Amy Carroll » Sharing Deeply » Overcoming the Fear Factor in Speaking– Square Breathing

Overcoming the Fear Factor in Speaking– Square Breathing

Fear causes lots of physical reactions, and most of them aren’t good for speakers. The adrenaline rush created by fear can cause a faster heart rate, cold hands, hyperventilation, increased blood pressure, sweating, dry mouth, and trembling or tightening of the muscles, especially in the arms and legs. I’m sure all of us have experienced one or more of these side-effects of fear!

When I get nervous, my heart pounds, and I start to lose my breath. Not only is it an uncomfortable feeling for me, but it’s also uncomfortable for my audience. I want my audience to be at ease as I start, and a shaky voice just doesn’t do it. I struggled for a long time with this problem until one day I heard a radio personality talk about a method called square breathing.

Although my nervousness has lessened with time and practice, I still feel the butterflies start during my introduction.  I’ve learned to embrace a little nervousness as a natural adrenaline rush that will help me open with energy, but I want to have a steady voice. Square breathing has been the answer for me.  Here are the steps:

  • While counting to 4, inhale slowly through your nose.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth while counting to 4.
  • Hold the breath for 4 slow counts.
  • Repeat 2-3 times.

I think this works for several reasons. It makes me slow my breathing down which keeps me from hyperventilating. It floods my body with oxygen which helps clear and sharpen my mind. It also gives my brain something to do (counting) besides thinking about how nervous I am.

Lots of people that I’ve shared square breathing with have thought it was hokey, but I challenge you to practice it now and give it a try the next time you speak! Square breathing is absolutely the best tactic I’ve found for overcoming the physical responses of fear.


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