Tips to overcome nervousness in English conversations. An often overlooked but major learning obstacle is the feeling of being anxious when learning to engage and speak in a new language. Today we discuss this common problem and offer
ways to overcome it.
People often say they get stressed during the transition from listening to a new language to speaking a new language. Usually, that stress comes from feeling anxious.
We talk about anxiety in several of our English language podcasts. This is something nearly all new language learners need to overcome in their language learning journey.
The good news is I have a lot of experience helping people who struggle with anxiety. So today I’ve got some solid advice at the end of the podcast that will help anyone who is suffering from anxiety, not just language learners.
English conversations are a huge part of the English language and there is no better way to learn them than by listening to native English speakers. Listen in and get used to the speed and cadence of native English speech patterns. You will improve your comprehension, your pronunciation, expand your vocabulary and learn great phrases you can use too.
Psychological Suffering Mental Mental Anxious Insight Defences Compulsive Excessive Obsessive
Do you know anyone who has a problem with anxiety? That’s ANXIETY. Or maybe you are very anxious? Let’s do a podcast today which is largely for interest, but which still helps you with English language learning. You’ll learn new vocabulary perhaps and I’ll spell out any more difficult or unusual words for you and I’ll try and give some interesting insights. An ‘insight’, INSIGHT is a piece of information which makes you think, which causes you to have better understanding.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
So let’s talk today about anxiety and mental health - and what happens for some people with anxiety. And a little bit about how you might help yourself if you have excessive anxiety.
One of the things that is very noticeable in the UK at the moment is the level of distress that people seem to feel. ‘Distress’, DISTRESS means ‘suffering, unpleasant feelings’ - and in this context, I mean in a ‘psychological’ way. Psychological means ‘in the mind’, rather than ‘physical’ or ‘in the body’.
As a psychotherapist, this is very evident in the number of enquiries I have at the moment - the number of people wanting to have therapy is more than it’s ever been before. And this isn’t just for me, it isn’t just my enquiries. All the professionals I know who provide therapy seem to be incredibly busy.
In the UK, the NHS also tries to help people with mental health problems. But the NHS doesn’t have enough funding. It doesn’t have enough money to do this properly. People who are really quite unwell can be turned down, rejected from NHS services because they are ‘not ill enough’.
And the NHS tends to use pharmaceutical medication - drugs like anti-depressants - to treat mental distress. Increasingly, this isn’t the treatment, this isn’t the solution that people want and anti-depressants sometimes cause more problems than they solve. Often there are better alternatives.
So there’s more distress around at the moment than usual. Mental ‘distress’ may mean that you are anxious, ANXIOUS - which would mean that you’re worried, fearful, stressed, frightened much of the time. Or it might mean that your mood is low - you feel unhappy, or ‘depressed’, as we say.
Of course, the pandemic has played a part in some of this feeling of distress for many people. I know a number of people, who were made very anxious by the pandemic. If you’re anxious, that means that you worry, you have a lot of anxiety - that’s the noun - ANXIETY. And often, people have more anxiety than feels appropriate for the situation. Clearly, there is a healthy level of anxiety to have - one that’s related to the situation you’re in. And fear is an emotion which is understandable if you are in a war zone at the moment.
In fact, ‘terror’ and ‘dread’ would be better words for that kind of fear. But when I’m talking about anxiety as a problem here, it’s when the anxiety doesn’t relate to any immediate threat - or the anxiety is much bigger than what’s appropriate for the situation. We’d talk for example about someone ‘being anxious getting the train to London’. Well, most people wouldn’t find getting the train to London to be something which provokes anxiety.
So we use this adjective ‘anxious’ often to indicate someone has ‘too much anxiety’, more than the situation might warrant. Lots more people seem to have a problem with anxiety, since the pandemic. They’re still anxious, they still stay at home a lot, even though in the UK, we tend to think of the pandemic as being largely over - and something we just have to ‘live with’.
More generally, anxiety becomes a problem when there’s just ‘too much’ of it, it’s excessive, EXCESSIVE. Too much. There is more worry, more fear and anxiety than is justified, than ‘makes sense’ for the situation. So people may be overly anxious about travelling or may be anxious about eating in a restaurant or anxious even just leaving their house.
Others may be anxious about their health or about what other people think of them. These are all natural anxieties to have to some degree perhaps - but the problem is the extent, the size of the anxiety. For many people, their anxiety goes beyond a normal level, beyond the understandable level and becomes a much bigger problem. Anxiety can also become a problem when it’s ‘about the wrong thing’.
Sometimes people have a much a deeper anxiety, related either to bad things that have happened in their past that aren’t resolved, aren’t processed - or perhaps to some situation in the present. But there may be all sorts of psychological rules or blocks in the mind which stop the person from acknowledging this, from seeing this - these causes of their anxiety. The person doesn’t recognise them or can’t take ownership of these anxieties.
Now we all have ‘psychological defences’ - that’s DEFENCES - they’re needed for all of us. But for some people, their defences are like high, prison walls. With these defences in place, but with the big anxiety still sitting underneath, that person may start to worry about things which to most people would seem unimportant. These worries about things which most people would consider unimportant can start to get ‘out of hand’, out of proportion. These relatively unimportant ‘surface-level’ worries, start to become massively important, massively worrying. So certain activities or situations cause ‘over the top’ anxiety that’s - that’s clearly not right.
The person may also develop over the top repetitive behaviours which are also clearly not right. At this extreme end, this is what we would call OCD - or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The word ‘obsessive’, OBSESSIVE is an adjective - and that describes people’s thoughts. Something is ‘obsessive’ if we ‘can’t stop thinking about it’. And ‘compulsive’, COMPULSIVE - well that’s when your actions are driven by your thoughts - and it feels like you’ve no choice but to do it. So you’re likely to behave a particular way because of the thoughts.
A person with OCD may become anxious about things which other people wouldn’t see as important. They may become anxious about checking that the doors are locked, checking the electrical switches in their house, organising their cupboards. Or it could be about cleaning or about germs or bacteria.
A photo of a person with obsessive compulsions. Learn to become an effective English speaker by overcoming your anxiety and finding confidence in conversing with native speakers.
In these cases, the anxiety has lost its logical connection with the real world. But this type of anxiety is very compelling, very intense for the person. It ‘owns’ them, it directs everything. But despite how it seems and feels, this anxiety isn’t really about the obsession. It’s about whatever loss, trauma or distress sits underneath, unprocessed, undealt with. But the person with the OCD may not be aware of this and may not be able to make the connection - and often they will resist making that connection. So sometimes people will have the same obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours for years and years.
It’s interesting - sometimes OCD seems to be triggered by a virus - there seems sometimes to be a physical or even a genetic part to it. But we usually find that there is a psychological element to it underneath - and it’ll not be cured until that’s found. The OCD behaviour is a kind of ‘defence’, if you like, but not one anyone ever consciously chooses.
The word ‘defence’, DEFENCE means ‘a way of protecting yourself’. Psychologically, we all have ‘defences’ - and just as a football team needs its defenders, we all have defences, because they’re necessary, they’re needed. It’s just that sometimes our psychological defences take on a form that itself becomes a problem.
So OCD is an extreme - if you have anxiety at that level, then it’s good to get professional help. But if you have anxiety which is just a little more than most people, a little more than what other people might experience - you can probably do quite a lot to help yourself. Here are three things to work on, if you’re anxious.
Reality test what you are worried about. That means check out your worries with other people. Often other people can give you a different perspective, a different viewpoint - and you may realise that your viewpoint is just one way of seeing things, amongst many. If you have a partner or close family member, especially one who doesn’t have a problem with anxiety - talk to them! What do they think? What’s it like then they’re in the situation that makes you anxious? How do they deal with it? What are their internal thoughts and how do they differ from yours?
Watch the amount of time that you spending thinking negative thoughts. Often people who are given to anxiety spend a lot of time thinking about all the bad things which are going to go wrong. They use their imagination to picture all the bad things that can happen in the future. Of course, this leads to more and more and more anxiety. So learn to catch yourself doing this - and learn how to stop it. There are ways. If you think of yourself telling these stories to a small child and doing it the way that you talk to yourself, talking about all the negative possibilities, that are going to happen, all day long - well, you’d see that as cruel, wouldn’t you, saying it to a child? And you wouldn’t be surprised when that child became anxious. It’s no different if you’re using that voice on yourself. Try to stop doing it!
Stop avoiding the things that you’re scared of. If you’re anxious and there are things that you find difficult, if you manage by avoiding them, then the problem can grow bigger. Facing what makes you anxious - and conquering it - that means ‘beating it’ - is the best way. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway! Sometimes it’s good to think of a set of steps which can lead all the way up to conquering your anxiety. Think about what each step might look like - and what actions you might take to conquer your particular anxiety in stages. And don’t forget to be pleased with yourself, when you have some success and you make some progress.
There are plenty more things you can do to start conquering your anxiety. But these three that I’ve mentioned are very important.
Let me know whether that’s helpful to you. And if you are just not an anxious person, I hope that at least this podcast gives you a little insight into why anxiety is difficult for some people.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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