Take a Deep Breath! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and we’re continuing this month with ways to improve your accent by bringing down your body’s stress level. In last week’s article, I asked you to loosen up the muscles that control your speech with exercises for your shoulders, neck, and jaw. If you haven’t tried those, take a minute to look back at my previous article and stretch out those muscles.

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with some helpful stretches, let’s move on to an important part of your speech you’ve probably overlooked: your breathing.

Take a Deep Breath (1)

I’m sure you don’t notice your breathing until you get into a stressful situation: a presentation at work, a tense moment of disagreement with a co­worker, or an important meeting. You probably become aware of the quicker, more shallow breaths as your heart rate and stress level rise.

Let’s explore what causes this, and work to calm things down!

Try the following exercise, and notice how your chest and stomach both behave:

Hands on Stomach SMALL

If your stomach moved in with your breath, and your chest rose and fell, you are chest breathing.

In a higher stress situation, this creates quick, shallow, less efficient breathing… but perhaps more importantly for you, your voice won’t sound as rich and full as it could if you were relaxing your chest muscles.Chest SMALL

The last thing you need during a presentation is for your body to be working hard just to breathe, especially if you’re trying to project your voice across a room. You also don’t need your lungs working overtime if you’re trying to make a good impression!

Instead, I want you to use your diaphragm muscle to expand the lower part of your lungs. This deeper breathing automatically slows your heart rate and stress level, while reducing tension to the muscles that control your speech.

Try the stomach breathing exercise again, and this time make your hand pop out with your stomach while you expand the lower half of your lungs.

If you’re still having trouble making this happen, here’s a tip!

Lie Flat SMALL

With repetition, you’ll be able to draw on this deep breathing technique when you need it most.

Slow, deep breathing is probably the quickest, most effective way to calm the nervousness before and during a meeting or presentation. And I have some other ways to help you prepare and feel confident for those big work responsibilities. I originally made the following video during Halloween season, but the presentation preparation tips in it for non­native English speakers are still very true. Take a look, reduce your job stress, and be understood!

If this video and article helped you, or if you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.

Relax! Reduce Your Accent by Reducing Your Stress

Improving your speech or reducing your accent takes a lot of self-awareness… it requires listening to yourself and regular practice in order to improve. But today I’m going to ask you to be aware of something other than the sound of your voice.  I’d like you to be aware of your body’s stress.

 

Relax!

Since April is Stress Awareness Month, I’d like you to take time this month to notice where you hold stress and tension in your body, as this greatly affects the muscles that control your speech and pronunciation. Let’s take a look at a few exercises that will help you relieve speech muscle tension.

 

Shoulders and Neck

Controlling your speech begins further down than your tongue and cheek muscles. It starts in the shoulders and neck, a place where many of us carry stress and tension.

 

Roll Shoulders

 

 

Cheek and Jaw

Many of us clench our teeth or tighten our cheek muscles when stressed. Try to be aware of this, and try the following exercise when you notice yourself doing this.

 Fingers

Be sure to follow through by massaging all the way up into your cheekbone.

Now… hopefully I’m not boring you, but I want you to give a big yawn!

 Yawn

These exercises can help you reduce your tension, to help reduce your accent and be understood!

However, no one will be perfectly understood all the time… and missteps with your speech and accent can be a great source of stress if you’ve been trying to improve. In my video below, I’d like to encourage you with some helpful things to remember for the times when you are misunderstood. I made this video a couple of years ago, but the suggestions in it are timeless.

 

If this video and article helped you, or if you’d like more information on accent reduction, take my free accent screening and receive a free pronunciation guide at losemyaccent.com.