This article is about realizing that your reactions are very normal. It is true that the time is now to stop beating yourself up about finding it hard to speak due to anxiety.1 Did you know that the fear of flying is the only fear that is more common than the fear of speaking? More people are afraid of speaking in public than of heights, the dark, or spiders. In other words, to find it difficult to swallow or speak due to anxiety is a common reaction.2
It is an extremely scary event to feel like your throat is too small to allow you to breathe, swallow, or speak. More than likely, your natural reaction is to feel even more threatened, to hold your throat with one hand, or to feel like you may faint. It is important to remember that if you do faint, the first thing that will occur is that your natural refluxes will cause you to breathe. Therefore, that is one thing you do not have to be concerned about.
Many people find that if they like heat, then by placing heat around their neck it is easier to swallow and breathe. If you prefer the feeling of coolness, then wrap a cool item around your neck to make swallowing and speaking easier. However, to make this treatment even more effective, here are some more things to add to the treatment. Find the texture you like in a piece of cloth, like a fuzzy or heavily napped fabric. Then wrap the fabric around the heating pad or icy pack and put both the heat or ice and the texture next to the skin of your throat. If you also lie down and listen to soothing music, calmness is likely to come over you.
It is possible to have the same results, by lying in a hammock out doors. Have the fabric and the heat or cold and go outside. Make sure the hammock is well secured and ask for help if you need it to get into it. You may feel like you are wearing an anxiety wrap like they make for dogs that are fearful. This can occur as the hammock begins to wind around your entire body. As though you are in a safe cocoon, the hammock will cradle your body and gently touch your skin. If there is a slight breeze, the hammock might rock in a gentle manner as though you were an infant in a rocking cradle. The movement may be very soothing.3
As you lie there and listen to the birds sing or watch them fly by, you will notice that your ability to swallow or speak is now not hampered. Your throat is feeling relaxed and calm. It might be helpful to stop right there and work on painting a calm picture in your mind’s eye. Simply, create a vision that is one of rest and relaxation. Set it deeply into your memory so that you can return to that calm place when you are physically elsewhere.
This is a behavior is a form of self-hypnosis.4 It is common for college students to use this technique to overcome test anxiety. The student just closes his or her eyes and recalls a place that was calming. After being a while in that calm place, the student is then able to open his or her eyes and take the test without fear.
1. Waxer, Peter, 1977. Nonverbal cues for anxiety: An examination of emotional leakage. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 86(3), Jun 1977, 306-314.
2. Butler, Gillian and Andrew Matthews, 1983. Cognitive Processes in Anxiety. Advances in Behavior Research and Therapy, Vol. 5, Issue 1, pp. 51- 62.
3. Deng, Gary and Barrie Cassileth, 2009. Integrative Oncology: Complementary Therapies for Pain, Anxiety, and Mood Disturbance. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Vol. 55, Issue 2, pp 109-116.
4. Zeltzer, Lonnie and Samuel LeBaron, 1982. Hypnosis and nonhypnotic techniques for reduction of pain and anxiety during painful procedures in children and adolescents with cancer.The Journal of Pediatrics Volume 101, Issue 6, Pages 1032-1035