Self Expression Center

December 1, 2001 by  
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Ground your Anxiety ? Just Be Yourself

by DJ Thomas

For anyone who has ever suffered anxiety over the thought of speaking before a group ? be it two or 200 people ? Sandra Zimmer has a simple solution: Get grounded, and be your authentic self.

When you’re grounded and authentic, it’s very easy to connect with others and win them over with your newfound charisma and magnetism, says Zimmer, founder of Houston?s Self-Expression Center.

Zimmer, whose background includes theater, voice coaching and psychology, admits that “grounding” and “authenticity” are just words, but she has put words into action and, over the past 25 years, created concrete results for thousands of people.

A former actress, Zimmer uses the terms “stage fright” and “performance anxiety” as they apply to the stage of life, not just the theater stage. As Zimmer sees it, most people develop performance anxiety whenever they become the center of attention. It can happen anytime all eyes are turned on you, whether you’re speaking at a big meeting or just talking one on one.

The root of anxiety, says Zimmer, is fear of being judged. In fact, we already have pre-judged ourselves against an impossible standard of perfection, and we have failed. Therefore, it’s no wonder we fear others also will judge us negatively. In the face of such overwhelming fear, most people experience an automatic reflex in which they temporarily float out of their bodies, leaving them feeling disconnected and disintegrated. If you’re not connected to your true self, how can you possibly connect to anyone else?

Zimmer teaches that the keys to overcoming performance anxiety are allowing yourself to be who you really are (authenticity) and getting back into your body (groundedness).

She defines authenticity as abandoning all fear of judgment and giving yourself permission to show other people your true self, instead of who you think you should be.

“By being authentic, you create a congruence between your inner and outer worlds,” she says. “You give yourself permission to show deeper parts of yourself, your inner thoughts and feelings.”

Being authentic means taking a risk, but the payoff can be tremendous. “Other people are drawn to authenticity, whether they can name it or not. Even difficult people will open up like flowers when you are being your true self,” she says.

Before you can be authentic, it’s essential to repair the anxiety-driven disconnect between mind and body. This is done best by getting grounded, or “coming home to your body,” as Zimmer describes it.

“Grounding is relaxing into your own skin, bringing spirit awareness into the body,” she says.
“Grounding clears your head, energizes your body and allows you to think clearly. Grounding not only makes connection possible but also comfortable.”

The wonderful feeling of being at home in your body may be new for most people, since we live in a culture that encourages us to think, not feel. We are also constantly rushing around, seeking to rev up our output, so even taking 10 minutes to get grounded can be a daunting challenge.

“We’re so used to operating out of our heads, most people don?t have a personal point of reference for being at home in their bodies,”  Zimmer says.

All grounding techniques have two things in common. One: They involve getting in touch with the physical body, whether through breath awareness, exercise, yoga or some other method. Two: You not only need to slow down, but come to a complete stop for five to 10 minutes.

Zimmer has developed a 10-minute grounding tape that has received glowing reviews from students at the Self-Expression Center and people around the world who have ordered it from the center’s Web site. The tape directs listeners to harness all of the frenetic energy swirling inside and around their heads and then to let that energy seep through every part of the body. At the end of the tape, listeners feel calm and in touch with their entire bodies, especially in the all-important solar plexus, a network of nerves located in the stomach.

Like most symptoms, anxiety is actually a signpost pointing to a hidden treasure, Zimmer says. “Those of us who feel anxiety believe there must be something wrong with us. The wonderful part is that there’s really something very right with us,”  she says. “That same anxiety is the sign of an incredible gift, which is sensitivity. We feel called to share our gift, and once we accept the task of feeling the anxiety and processing it, it transforms into passion and charisma.”

Zimmer said it’s crucial to provide a safe, nurturing and non-critical place where people can learn to express their authentic selves and tell their stories. Developing these skills in a group setting is also important, which is why Zimmer’s “Speaking from the Heart” workshops have been one of the Self-Expression Center’s most enduring offerings, along with classes such as “The Power of Your Speaking Voice” and “Communication Soft Skills.”

For more information call the Self-Expression Center at (281) 293-7070, or visit the Web site at www.self-expression.com.


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