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  • Olivia Standbridge

Speak up, for the good of your health!

It’s a New Year. 2021. I know it may not feel like it. It feels like we’re repeating 2020 but it is. And New Year = New You. (Reader, I’m aware it’s February… but it’s been a slow start to the year!)

Finger pointing at you.
Yes, I'm pointing at YOU!

I’ve gotten so unhealthy since this COVID malarkey — my self-care has been to cocoon myself at home and eat a lot of chocolate and drink a lot of wine…. And gin… and rum… I’m sure I’m not the only one here. Readers — it’s 2021, it’s time to get healthy. And in this blog I am going to show you how you can get healthy with public speaking!

We have been told time and again that the healthier we are, the better chance we have against the dreaded lurgy, COVID-19. We’re told lose weight. Move more. The usual stuff. We need to boost our immune systems. And last month I saw a mesmerising program on the BBC about how we can boost our immune systems with stress. Yes, you heard me correctly. Stress is good for your health!

I’m not talking about chronic stress or long-term term stress — we know that is detrimental to your immune system. I have PTSD and have had chronic work-related stress before. I know first-hand how physically ill it made me. I could get through my working week by the skin of my teeth but then my days off would be spent in bed struck down by yet another mystery illness. I still suffer chronic pain related to stress. I cannot stress enough (pardon the pun) long-term stress is very bad for you. 0 stars. Nil points. I do not recommend.

But a short burst of stress, the kind that triggers a flight or fight response has been shown to increase the number of immune cells in your blood, boosting your immune system! If you think about it from an evolutionary point of view it does make sense — if you were a caveman and you were injured reacting to your flight or fight response you would need your body to repair itself quickly — and to do that you need a healthy immune system. The presenter of the show, Dr Ronx Ikharia, was terrified of spiders. And I mean terrified. I thought she was going to pass out when they asked her to hold a tarantula. In the end she managed to touch the tip of its leg with the tip of her finger. They then tested her blood and that experience alone was enough to increase the immune cells in her blood in within 10 minutes!

They concluded that you should initiate your flight or fight response everyday to reap the benefits of a boosted immune system. What can we do to do that? One way is to take a cold shower for 30 seconds every morning. It induces the same response inside your body as being scared. One study showed that participants who did this every morning reduced their sickness rates at work by a staggering 30%. Or you watch a different scary movie everyday — something with jump scares — BOO! Get that heart rate up! Or mix it up, do different things on different days.

Two people wearing white sheets dressed as ghosts
Boo!

Just think, what do you already do that makes your heart beat faster and your legs go wobbly? What else makes you feel the fear?

Does anyone else’s heart race just before they start speaking at an event or leading a big meeting? Or go a bit tense and you struggle to control your breath? Sometimes I am so sweaty after giving a speech at a Toastmasters meeting! I know what you’re thinking… TOO MUCH INFORMATION OLIVIA!!!! But it’s true! As much as I love the sound of my own voice and entertaining an audience, I still get nerves. I get that flight or fight response. That’s right, dear reader, public speaking induces that same stress response. Ergo, speaking at events makes us healthier! This year I implore you, for the good of your health, get up and speak whenever you can — whether it’s a prepared speech for an event, leading a meeting or an impromptu Instagram live video. Speak. Push yourself. And boost that immune system! My next speaking event will be at Anglia Communicators International Speech & Evaluation Club in a couple of weeks — there is nothing like a contest to increase the old stress levels! Contest participation is terrifically fun — literally!

When you’re setting your fitness goals or planning how to get beach body ready in anticipation that we can finally go on sunny holidays again later this year — don’t neglect your immune system. Challenge yourself to get healthy with public speaking!


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