The Two Types of "Brain Freezes" We All Experience (and a Few Quick Tips on How to Cure Them)

August 10, 2017    |    Bob Sherwin

Ugh, another brain freeze coming on.There are two kinds of brain freezes that we’ve all experienced, both probably more often than we’d like. If you despise them like I do, here’s my take on both types, their causes, and a few quick tips on how to cure them.  


The first type of brain freeze?
We’ve all endured this one and probably remember the experience from an early age. It’s formally known as Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia (or, “SG”), but we tend to refer to it by its more common name: an “ice cream headache”.  

The cause?  
Yep, we’ve all been guilty. It’s brought on by drinking or eating something very quickly that’s very cold.  

Ever sucked down that ice cold Slurpee® a little too fast on a hot day? Or taken too many big bites of that frosty ice cream with barely a breath in between? Then you know what it’s like to suffer from SG.

The cure?  
Fortunately, our medical community has been all over how to fix this type of brain freeze. Their advice?

Simple—slow down and stop gulping.

In most cases, the brain freeze will resolve itself within a minute or two as the affected nerves between the roof of your mouth and your brain warm back to normal. There’s also some secondary research suggesting that pressing your warmer tongue to the colder roof of your mouth will speed up the process.


Now, what about the second type of brain freeze?
We’ve all endured this type as well, though maybe not as early in our lives as the ice cream headache.

This one is commonly described as public speaking anxiety or, more simply, stage fright.

The cause?
Stage fright occurs when we’re faced with having to present or perform in front of others but lack confidence—either in our ability to deliver the message or in the message itself (or both).  

Some people can get so fearful and anxious they’d rather be in the back of the room wolfing down a Slurpee and enduring a hearty case of SG than be up front making the presentation.

A lack of confidence in delivery skills is often the result of not knowing how to handle common presenter challenges.

These include:

  • Where should I stand when I’m speaking?
  • Should I stay in one place or move around?
  • What should I do with my hands—and where do I put them when I’m not talking?
  • How can I stop myself from saying “um” and “uh” all the time, diminishing my credibility? 

We often brush these challenges aside before we present.

But—let’s admit it—once we stand up and begin speaking, these insecurities have a way of rushing back, hijacking our thoughts, and freezing our brains while we’re trying to speak.

A lack of confidence in what we want to say—in our message—can be just as paralyzing.

It’s hard to feel confident as you deliver your presentation if it hasn’t been structured in a way that will make it simple, clear, and compelling to the audience. 

It’s easy to panic in the middle of speaking if you’re beginning to doubt what you’ve put together and start to wonder:

  • Do my listeners even care about what I’m presenting? Is it relevant to them?
  • Is my message making sense?
  • Do they trust what I’m saying?
  • Will my proposal be supported as the best way forward?

The cure?  
At Mandel we can’t help much with your Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuralgia brain freezes, other than to remind you to slow down and stop gulping. 

But we can give presenters tips on how to avoid those brain freezes that result from public speaking anxiety.

If your delivery or public speaking skills need brushing up:

  • Incorporate coaching and feedback into your deliberate practice, getting help from a trusted mentor or communication skills vendor.
  • Look for opportunities to employ the skills you’ve been practicing and challenge yourself to present in a range of new situations. 

If you need help in crafting messages and knowing WHAT to say before you have to say it:

  • Learn to use a structured, proven, presentation framework like Mandel’s SCIPAB®.
  • Start using that kind of critical thinking framework while you’re constructing your messages.
  • Getting your message content just right will help you confidently deliver it and make it easy for your listeners to understand, value, and trust what you’re saying.


Presenters who think well and speak well get their ideas heard.If you want to cure stage fright—and avoid the kind of brain freezes that happen when public speaking anxiety overwhelms you—prep for both what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.

How you say it usually gets the headlines, but structuring what you’re going to say is often overlooked.

That’s why Mandel has created training programs and tools that help professionals develop the critical thinking skills—not just the delivery skills—they need to communicate effectively to groups large and small.   


Want to learn more?
Check out our Think and Speak for Results™ communication training—a series of three courses focused on developing the critical thinking, presentation, influencing, and teaming skills vital to individual and organizational performance.