How Can I Overcome Panic Attacks?

Frank Lee had recently been promoted to VP of Greater China in The Thompson Enterprises. He had always been nervous about speaking in front of groups but, after the promotion, that nervousness grew into panic attacks. His heart pounded in his chest and his voice shook for the first five minutes of every presentation. After a day in which he had to interrupt his speech to the regional leaders and step out of the room to calm himself, he called his Thinking Partner.

Frank knew that public speaking is rated as something many people fear, sometimes more than death. But with his Thinking Partner, he talked also about personal experiences. He remembered that in elementary school when he was learning to read, the teacher asked students to come to the front of the room and read aloud. Frank remembered scrambling the words and being scolded by the teacher. He felt humiliated. Now he knows that he scrambles words because he has a mild form of dyslexia.

After recognizing some episodes in the past that had taught him to fear public speaking, Frank explored various options for changing his experience in the present and his Thinking Partner encouraged him with insightful questions. He found himself laughing with his Thinking Partner about some of his old fears and talked about how he could shift his attention away from fear during presentations. He considered his skills as a speaker, recognizing what he did well that had earned him the promotion. He also realized that he needed to think more about his audience. What did his audiences need to know? Why was he asked to speak? What did he appreciate about the audiences, and how could he connect more with these people?

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