When you are under a great deal of stress, such as when you know you won’t meet a deadline, or you’re nervous or anxious about making an important speech, the steroid hormone cortisol is released by your adrenal gland into your bloodstream, causing that unpleasant, stressful feeling.
High levels of cortisol limit your creativity and your ability to process complex information; when you’re buzzed on cortisol, it’s almost impossible to read and react to the room. The easiest way to burn off cortisol, according to CEO, author, and strategist Nilofer Merchant, is to exercise before work or during lunch, or hit the gym before a speaking engagement. Exercise literally burns off excess cortisol, so you’ll feel more focused and relaxed after a workout. Elevated cortisol levels also dehydrate the body, so ease up on caffeine consumption and drink plenty of water. Listen to your body, and don’t let cortisol derail your speech.