Understanding the neurobiology of presentation nerves
helps keep you calm on stage
by Peter Watts
The hormone we associate with presentation stress is adrenalin, and it’s a great little hormone. It boosts our performance, sustained for just long enough by its buddy-hormone, epinephrin.
Think of epinephrine as a garden centre grow-bag for adrenalin. It delivers optimal nutrients to extend your adrenalin spike. Whereas adrenalin is short-lived, epinephrin is sturdy. Its designed to stay in our bodies until the stressor has passed, and shifting it from your system requires aerobic activity. Without this, it hangs around, and here’s where things can go wrong?
When something stresses us, the body releases adrenalin and follows it up with a slug of epinephrin. Imagine that you have just finished a presentation. You are, at that moment fully topped-up on epinephrin which, without aerobic activity, will hang around your system all the way home and beyond.
If something else stresses you, say someone in their car cuts you at the lights, then bang goes another shot of adrenalin, followed by yet another slug of epinephrin. That slug joins the epinephrin pool already present in your body and tops the system up to a new higher level.
Every subsequent stressor does the same thing, until rather than finding itself being followed by a controlled shot of epinephrin, adrenalin finds itself being fired into a pre-existing epinephrine lake?
This is where chronic stress syndrome starts. If not managed, the epinephrin lake never adequately discharges, producing stress-related health issues?
Aerobic activity is the solution, and this doesn’t require a gym. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever you can. With each step, you lower the lake. Dog walkers seem to be universally chilled people. Why? All that walking discharges epinephrine, and you don’t necessarily need a dog to do it. Much of my own life involves airports, and as a practical measure I avoid the moving walkways. Walking to the gate helps walk-off the epinephrin?
When presenting we often stretching our limits. It’s important afterwards to remember to stretch our limbs.