• sarahanncromwell

Nailing it! It’s all in the breath

I’m standing outside the stage door at the Albert Hall. On the other side is a full brass band, backing choir, and an audience of 4000. In the low glow behind the stage door I receive my one minute nod and Diva (my Alter Ego) is pumping so much adrenaline that I could outrun Usain Bolt. A friend asked me once, ‘don’t you ever get nervous?’ and it that moment before I stepped out into Albert Hall spotlights I thought, ‘yup, the second before I step onto the stage.’ I felt Diva’s urge to run in the opposite direction, I took a long, deep breath and an even longer exhale. Diva walked into the spot light and #Slayed.

A good Operatic breath has served me and Diva well throughout my career. I have also seen how it empowers the people I coach to own their space, presentation or interview. There’s an increased investment in academic research to understand the ‘anxiety releasing breath’, possibly in alignment with mounting evidence that Mental Health costs the economy more than Cancer or cardiovascular disease and maybe in preparation for the brain challenging legacy of Covid, Brexit and a new USA President. What ever the motivation, I will shamelessly embrace a bit of science that backs up my theory ‘When your Alter Ego starts raising concerns: BREATH’.

Why does the breath work? Your Alter Ego’s (AE) secondary function is to Speak Fearlessly. In presentations, interviews or confrontations, it’s your Alter Ego who will completely nail it. However your AE can only achieve this if:

(You) Calm Human + Pumped Alter Ego = Speaking Fearlessly.

If you start to feel unsure or out of control your Alter Ego will switch to the primary function of keeping you safe. Your Alter Ego will have their own unique manner of raising concerns. Mine,

Diva, elevates my heart rate, pumps me with adrenalin until my hands start to shake, tightens my throat and lobs in a few intrusive thoughts for good measure. Diva is pumped and I am not calm. I activate the Operatic breath. According to Emma Seppälä Phd Psychologist and Lecturer at the Yale School of Management a low and slow breath makes us feel relaxed and lengthening the exhalation starts to “tap into the parasympathetic nervous system” or as Diva calls it: Network CALM. Neuroscientist Ashish Ranpura says ‘slow down your breathing and you (your Alter Ego) will feel less scared’ and the headspace website (2020s top 10 meditation app created by a Monk no less) suggests ‘intentionally taking a couple of deep breaths initially can help ground the mind’

Calm Human + Pumped Alter Ego = Speaking Fearlessly.

Next time you are presenting and your Alter Ego starts to raise concerns, whether you are taking a virtual interview or presenting unwelcome data, in order to Speak Fearlessly give the Operatic breath a whirl. YOU’ll be feeling Calm in minutes releasing your Alter Ego to steal the show!

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