DR. WALLACE: For graduation speeches at my school, everyone is invited to submit a speech, and the teachers anonymously choose a few to be spoken at the commencement ceremony.
I decided to spend time and write one a few weeks ago because I didn’t want to regret not submitting one even though I never seriously expected to be selected to speak.
Then to my amazement, after a few weeks went by, I received an email from my principal saying that my speech was one of the ones selected! I am so excited and grateful that I was chosen to speak — but I have a fear of public speaking.
Whenever I speak in class or give presentations, I get shaky and have trouble speaking. If I have trouble in a class of 20 people, I have no idea how I will be able to get in front of all of the teachers, staff, my classmates and their families and many more people. What should I do? — Excited but nervous, via email
EXCITED BUT NERVOUS: Rehearse, rehearse and rehearse! The key is to become so familiar with your material that it seems to become second nature to you. Stand in front of a mirror and practice it several times each afternoon or evening.
Wear the clothes you plan to wear that day so you’ll be in full presentation mode as you do this. Your mind, body and voice will then step up and take the practice sessions quite seriously. Remember to take your time and don’t rush your words.
Another idea some speakers find helpful is to look out at the audience but instead of looking anyone directly in the eyes, look at just about the tops of their heads, as this will help you to keep calm and concentrate better.
Finally, once you know your speech really well, don’t plan to read it word for word. Instead, make a set of notecards by topic and put bullet points only on them. This way, you won’t stumble over words. You’ll be more comfortable since you’ll know your material so well!
I DON’T SLEEP A LOT
DR. WALLACE: I’m a good student at my school and I also participate in many other activities, like on campus clubs and even two sports teams at different times of the year. My problem is that I’m so busy that I often have to study late at night to keep up with all of the assignments in my classes. And when it comes time to take big tests, I am often up past 2 a.m. studying! My mother always tells me that she feels that I am not getting enough sleep.
I am of course tired sometimes in the mornings, as I still have to be up early to be at school. On a good night I might get six and a half to seven hours of sleep, but on some nights it’s between five and six hours only. I can still function pretty well, but I’m worried that I’m not getting enough sleep. I do get really tired each afternoon, but I manage to power right through that and can keep going with my busy day. Can I stay healthy with this current sleeping schedule? — Busy girl, via email
BUSY GIRL: You are indeed cutting things very close, and I’d say you would truly benefit from both more sleep each night and a more regular and consistent sleeping schedule. It’s always best to go to sleep and to wake up at roughly the same times each evening and each morning.
It is true, however, that no two people require the exact same amount of sleep, given the physical, emotional and psychological differences everyone has.
Over the years, I’ve read many studies from the National Sleep Foundation in which they suggest a sleeping duration per night of over nine hours for young teens and over eight hours for older teens. You are nowhere near this right now, but you state that you can still function fairly well. I’d recommend that you consider cutting back on one of your activities and using that time saved to complete your studies earlier each evening. I trust you’ll still have plenty to do and you’ll still enjoy many fun activities, but you will benefit overall by setting yourself up on a regular sleeping schedule. If you can do this, you’ll likely have more energy each day and you may find that you’ll be more productive, too.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.