When I was in college I was petrified of public speaking. I mean, weren’t we all back then? I was in this class my senior year and it was all about Abraham Lincoln. The whole class, the whole semester was about “Abe the Babe”, as my friend Betsy and I called him. Our professor was totally into it and knew everything there was to know about ol’ Abe. I don’t recall for the life of me why I took that class except I am sure it fulfilled a political science requirement and I have a feeling it was one of those classes that you hear about as being an “easy A”.
Our big assignment for the end of the semester was to do a presentation to the class about Abe the Babe and I remember that I was so anxious I could barely stand the thought of getting up in front of all those people. And talking. For a long time. Just me. They’d be looking at me. Standing there. Sweating. Nervous. My voice shaking. I just didn’t know how I was going to get through it.
One day, as I was lamenting about my fears, Betsy said: “Just do bag of sand, hole in toe.”
“What?” I asked.
She explained, “You breathe in deeply and pretend your body is a huge bag of sand, but you have a hole in your big toe and as you exhale, the sand flows slowly and steadily out of your toe.”
“Huh?” I wondered aloud.
She went on, “The sand symbolizes all your butterflies–those nervous thoughts and feelings. As you visualize the sand seeping out of your body, so too goes your anxiety, and you magically begin to relax.”
“Uh, OK, I’ll try anything.” I remarked.
And guess what? It worked!
I won’t date myself but this conversation happened a long. time. ago. And over the years I have used this visualization technique many, many times. In college, in law school, as a professional, in social situations, and most recently as a mom.
Yup, to this day I still use that mantra when I am nervous.
Bag of sand, hole in toe. Bag of sand, hole in toe…
I close my eyes and repeat the words a few times while imagining the tension melting away. Right out of my big toe (on my left foot to be exact….for some reason, I always imagine it from the big toe on my left foot). The sand flows and lets gravity take its course. I can actually feel my shoulders lower, my neck relax, and my breathing slow. And then whatever it was that seemed so daunting, so impossible, so frustrating, doesn’t look so scary anymore.