I want to give you (and show below in the video) top ten exercises that were instrumental in my own personal getting free from stuttering.
So these are the exercises that helped me the most. Some of them are speech exercises, some are probably not, but this is the essence of what worked for me.
Speech impediments cause tension in our body. And tension in our body causes speech impediments, and this becomes a never-ending cycle. If you’re tense you will stutter. It’s a clear sign that you are in a stuttering mode. And you know that you will stutter even before you start to speak.
It’s okay to be kind of a bit anxious or excited about speaking, but we don’t want our body to be covered and be held by this tension. We want to break it physically, on a physical level. How do we do that?
There are many ways. I’ll give you a couple of examples.
First, dance. When you dance, you literally break that box of tension that is covering you, holding and pressing on you. Now it’s gone.
Next, imagine you’re moving a very hard object like an old-fashioned piano; you need to put a real effort to move it.
Next one, combine dancing or just moving your body with speaking. Be creative here, and feel that you break the tension and say something at the same time. It shouldn’t be a long sentence necessarily. It can be just a sound. And be free, be stupid, be silly - it’s just your home exercise.
Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/yCXar20qB_0
It’s pretty much the same as tension. Our speech impediments cause our voice to be very shallow coming from the top of the vocal cords, and our breathing is interrupted with blocks and repetitions. And this facilitates speech impediments creating that never-ending cycle, so we want to do something about it as well.
What we can do - we can sing and read out loud using our lower part of the chest rather than the top of it. Belly breathing is also a great thing to practice. There are many apps out there that provide you with the piano so you can kind of play, and you can sing, and you always can feel with your hand, putting it on your stomach and chest, where your voice and breathing is coming from. And you can read out loud using lower voice. It’s not that we want to use that lower voice all the time, but it gives you the feeling of where your breathing and your voice should come from to be round, deep and strong.
Here are two things.
First, preparing our speaking mechanism and preparing out mouth muscles for speaking. It may look funny or stupid, but I usually do like all sorts of manipulating with my mouth to really feel comfortable, to feel that I do open it when I speak. That’s the first thing.
And second, while we speak we often don’t open the mouth enough because it’s, again, covered with tension. By our articulation exercises before speaking and while speaking, we break that tension. Maybe that’s my personal big problem, but if I don’t do these exercises, my speaking quickly turns into mumbling.
There are many exercises to relax before speaking, and that's very important. But what is most important is how we combine speaking with relaxation. As a result of saying a phrase, we should not gather tension; we should not get tense. We should get relaxed. We should enjoy our speaking.
How do we do that? The most efficient way to relax a muscle is to put tension on it and then relax. So we gather tension and then relax, and then we add saying a sound into this breathing out and then saying a word and then saying a phrase. I don’t need any other breathing in the course of saying it. So we produce and model the right way how we say the whole phrase from the beginning till the end in one exhale without any interruptions or impediments.
I believe that getting free from stuttering is more about personal change, personal development, call it whatever, than medical intervention.
There is no cure or medical pill you can swallow or take to stop stuttering. A lot here is about role play and role-modeling. It’s like in programming - you can put a word or symbol which means a whole set of operations, actions, qualities or information. So you insert a word, and it launches a whole algorithm of operations there.
It’s pretty much the same with stuttering. We get into certain settings, and it triggers, it launches the state of anxiety and tension. We’re getting tuned into stuttering. We are ready for it. We lose the battle even before confronting the enemy.
So one of the things we can play with is acting. That is taking different roles and expanding our perception of ourselves as people who stutter. Take a book, any book that you like, and try to role play. Use lower voice, relaxation, articulation, move your body, use all the previous exercises. Try to pass those feelings, those emotions that another person has. Be free to be someone else.
I’m not saying that it’s going to change everything. It’s not like, 'Oh, now I’m James Bond, and I’ve been pressing the wrong button! I’ll click this one this time, and it goes boom!' It’s not that easy, but it’s a great exercise. Please, don’t underestimate it, just do the work, and see how it goes.
All the previous exercises are just warming up. Because all the exercises: your lower voice, your relaxation, your acting, your articulation - all fade away usually when we confront our real-life situations, our real-life settings. In an instant, we just forget everything.
So we need a foundation we can put on all those exercises and make them work automatically.
For me, it was using the hand technique. That's the heart of the method that I used.
We put our hand on the thigh and relax. Then we combine all the exercises with pressing fingers on the thigh. We "extract" sounds by pressing fingers on the thigh.
First, we just relax, launching relaxation by pressing a thumb on the thigh. And then we put a sound, and then a word and then a phrase, each finger "extracting" the next sound. We end up saying any phrase that we want to say in one exhale. So at the end of the program, you put several sounds, several syllables on one finger.
If you use any other technique or will use any other technique just think about what is the foundation you can put your exercise on so that they stick together not fall apart when you’re facing a real-life situation.
This is not a speech exercise obviously but I want to emphasize it as a separate exercise.
Basically, it’s the most important, by far the most important and the most difficult of all exercises. Whatever technique or method you're using you want to make sure that you actually use it in your real-life, so it becomes your new automated pattern.
When you have a positive experience in your real-life, it builds up a new muscle memory pretty fast.
It’s not that if I stuttered for ten years now I need ten years of this new positive experience. No! The transition goes pretty fast. It goes probably the same time as it took for stuttering speaking pattern to develop.
It takes some time to outweigh all those stuttering experiences with the new pattern and for it to become your new automated speaking pattern.
This exercise is extremely important, and it’s extremely hard and difficult. I’ll probably make a separate video about how difficult it is and why, going into details and giving practical tips on how to deal with that, how to approach that to better get through it.
The recording is a great thing to do if you’ve done all the previous exercises, if you build your new speaking skills, and if you’re applying or trying to apply them in real-life, and want to see how well you’re doing.
Because we perceive ourselves very differently than the actual thing.
I love recording myself using Photo Booth application on Mac so I can take a video of me making phone calls. When you’re on the street or in some social setting you can use your smartphone; you can use a voice recorder. There are many options, but you really want to see yourself objectively.
Diary is a great thing to analyze your feelings, your emotions especially when we have negative experiences. And for sure you will have negative experiences whatever method you’re using. And you need to see that you did well here and there.
Diary is like a good friend that supports you, who is always positive and who is ready to help.
If you try to remember the latest movies you watched, the books you read where people acted like real heroes you probably can notice that they act like real heroes because they wanted to save somebody, they wanted to defend, protect, help somebody. So they acted like heroes because of someone else.
Let’s call those someone else "accountability partners."
If no one knows, no one cares about your effort to get free from stuttering there’s a big chance that you won’t have enough motivation, enough WHY behind it (why you’re doing it?)
That’s a good reason to look for accountability partners.
A great place to find friends who also stutter is National Stuttering Association Conferences that take place every year.
But you don't have to wait that long to get started. You can join Free From Stutter Facebook Group today. It might seem like not a big move, but in fact, it is.
The biggest enemy of ours is fear.
And fear actually is a good thing; it prevents us from doing dangerous things so we can stay safe.
But in our case we have a lot of fears connected with our speaking: what will they think about me, I'll look stupid, I'll feel bad, I'll feel shame. A lot of fears and they come down to one thing - fear of speech.
This fear of speaking is not just one of our fears. It becomes part of stuttering.
I want to repeat that, fear of speech is part of stuttering for people who stutter, not a separate thing. It facilitates, strengthens and feeds our stuttering.
What we want to do is face that fear.
An excellent way to do it is going for a 30-day challenge where you do something new every day.
It can be a small little thing like asking a new person, asking for a new thing, going to a new coffee shop, asking for a new meal. If something feels scary you put it on the list, and you have that 30-day challenge to do every day something small but something new to expand your land.
Of course, this works best if you already have new speaking skills and you want to apply them in real life. You have a seed that you want to grow. If you don’t have that method or technique to use, you can still use that challenge.
You can start with this challenge because the way to freedom from stuttering begins in our minds. It starts with these small victories expanding our land.