I'm not talking about the lying-awake-wondering-about-the-future kind of stress. I'm talking the moment before you go on stage to address an audience, the minutes before he picks you up for your first date, the seconds before you dial that person and ask for a job.
In those moments, you could be a 100-metre sprinter in the starting blocks waiting to hear "Set," an impala running from a leopard, or a person making a deposit when someone decides to rob the bank. Your body doesn't know the difference.
Your body can't distinguish between real or imagined fear, which is why running away from a predator feels the same as walking on stage to give a speech.
This morning, my classmates and I were put into this type of situation. It was live-hit derby day, where we have 10 minutes to read a story before we have to go live on camera and tell the story in 30 seconds–no more, no less.
In these situations, my chest feels like it might bust open because of the force of adrenaline moving through it. I worry that my heart can't take it. I worry that I won't be able to breathe when my time comes, or worse–I'll blank out completely.
And then it's time, and what happens? Who knows. Autopilot happens. Your body takes over for you, and somehow your brain gets overridden by something you can't control. Whatever snippets of information you're able to retain come flowing from your mouth, and you don't even know how it's happening.
I love my autopilot. It takes some of the pressure off, because I know when the time comes, autopilot will take care of business. And then after, when people say, "Good job," I take the credit.
You open your arms wide. And your legs too if you can. Just stand like that. Make yourself as big as possible. It changes your body chemistry and helps you feel more confident. Try it, it feels good.