Everyone feels nervous at certain times in life. Nervousness is natural, especially when confronted with potentially unpleasant events. However, if nervousness takes over, it can start interfering with your ability to succeed. In this article, we will explore why nerves can take over and impede your success. We will also take a close look at the distinction between regular nervousness and anxiety. We will also give some effective tips on how to manage your nervousness so you can be your best self.
Nervousness is a natural evolutionary response wired in our brains. Triggered by the fight-or-flight system, it is a common reaction to stress.
Nervousness is a fleeting emotional state, unlike anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders involve complex factors like genetics and brain chemistry, often requiring clinical attention.
The 5 P's of preparation — proper preparation prevents poor performance — instill confidence and readiness, reducing nervousness. Being well prepared cuts down on surprises, making it easier to cope with difficult situations.
Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation are powerful techniques to alleviate nervousness. Meditation soothes the mind, while muscle relaxation eases tension, providing effective means of finding calm.
Why do we get nervous?
The reassuring truth is that experiencing nervousness is entirely normal. In fact, it is a response wired into our brains through evolution. Whether you are facing a menacing, unleashed dog or a significant job interview, your body triggers the same biological response, albeit at varying intensities.
This response is due to your body's nervous system, which activates the well-known fight-or-flight reaction. As a result, adrenaline is unleashed, priming your body for sudden, vigorous actions. This shift in focus redirects both blood and energy toward your heart and muscles, gearing them up to respond to the perceived "threat." This explains the tangible physical sensations that accompany our moments of nervousness.
Is nervousness an anxiety disorder?
Nervousness itself is not characterized as an anxiety disorder. Nervousness is a transient emotional state that most people experience from time to time, especially in response to difficult situations. It is considered a normal emotional response and does not usually require therapy.
Anxiety disorders are psychiatric conditions caused by a combination of factors such as heredity, brain chemistry, and life experiences. They involve more persistent and intense feelings of anxiety that can have major consequences on a person's life. These disorders include conditions like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and others. Unlike the temporary nature of nervousness, anxiety disorders tend to persist over time and may not always have an obvious trigger. They often require professional assessment and treatment to manage effectively.
Strategies to overcome nervousness
If you constantly struggle with nervousness, rest assured there are numerous effective ways to address and manage it.
The following are some effective techniques for calming your nerves:
Use positive self-talk
Counter negative thoughts by intentionally substituting them with positive statements. Acknowledge your strengths, past achievements, and capabilities. Remind yourself that nervousness is a natural response to new situations and that you possess the skills to overcome challenges. This cognitive shift helps build self-confidence and reduces the intensity of nervous feelings.
Tell yourself, "Yes, I'm nervous. Yes, my heart is thumping, but I'm pushing forward. I can do this!" Talk back to your inner critic. This active choice to embrace courage can trigger a favorable mind-body reaction and empower you to engage more effectively. This proactive approach paves the way for a constructive psychological and physiological response, facilitating a stronger presence at the moment.
Deep breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, trigger the body's relaxation response.
- Inhale slowly through your nose
- Expand your abdomen
- Exhale gradually through your mouth
This technique calms the nervous system by reducing the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Practicing deep breathing for a few minutes can restore a sense of calm and mental clarity, helping you regain control over nervousness.
Practice meditation and mindfulness
There are numerous meditation techniques available. One stands out for its simplicity and effectiveness: a focused breathing approach. To begin, sit up in bed before starting your day. Close your eyes to disconnect from the outside world. Shift your attention to your breath's rhythm. Bring your attention to your nostrils, watching the breath naturally come in and go out.
Follow each inhale and exhale. As thoughts intrude, don't fight them. Just acknowledge them and gently bring your focus back to your breath. Understand that thoughts will keep coming — it's the nature of the mind, so don't get frustrated. Each time you notice thoughts, redirect your attention to your breath, in and out. Dedicate 20 minutes each morning to this practice. Over time, you will notice a consistent sense of calmness that accompanies you throughout the day.
Visualizing success can have a remarkable impact on both your physiology and mental state. It's akin to daydreaming but with a purpose. When you visualize success, you are essentially creating a detailed mental movie of yourself triumphing over a challenging situation that makes you nervous. By vividly picturing yourself excelling in a nerve-racking situation, your brain simulates real-life reactions, releasing positive neurotransmitters that counter stress.
This repeated imagery familiarizes your brain with success, diminishing anxiety tied to the event. Essentially, you are mentally rehearsing achievement, nurturing confidence, and training your mind and body to react positively, effectively reducing nervousness.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is another meditation technique. It involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing various muscle groups in your body. Start with your feet and move your way up, paying attention to the sensations of tension and relaxation. This practice reduces physical tension associated with nervousness, promoting a feeling of relaxation throughout your body.
As the old saying goes, "Proper preparation prevents poor performance" - the 5 P's that are instrumental in personal and professional success. This timeless saying underscores the significance of thorough preparation in achieving favorable outcomes and minimizing the impact of nervousness. Just like a well-tuned instrument produces beautiful music, being well-prepared sets the stage for confident and successful endeavors. These 5 P's serve as a guiding compass, reminding us that investing effort and time in preparation is a key ingredient for success while keeping nervousness at bay.
Regular physical exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. Engaging in activities like jogging, yoga, or even a brisk walk can help alleviate tension and reduce nervousness by promoting relaxation and a positive emotional state.
Pay attention to nutrition
High caffeine and sugar intake can amplify nervousness by triggering rapid heart rate, restlessness, and irritability. Choose a balanced diet that includes whole foods and plenty of water. Reducing or moderating caffeine and sugar consumption can contribute to a more stable mood.
Mental health apps offer tools like guided meditation and breathing exercises, providing accessible support for calming your mind. Incorporating mental health apps into your routine can help you navigate challenges that trigger nervousness, fostering a more balanced state of mind throughout the day.
Talking to friends, family, or a mental health professional about your feelings of nervousness can provide valuable insights and support. Sharing your thoughts and concerns not only relieves emotional burden but also offers an external perspective and potential coping strategies.
Nervousness is a universal human experience that can be managed effectively through various strategies. By acknowledging its normalcy, harnessing techniques like visualization, mindfulness, and preparation, and seeking support from tools like mental health apps, you can confidently navigate challenges and foster a sense of tranquility in your daily life. Remember, facing nervousness head-on with the right tools empowers you to shine in moments that matter.
- Journal of Youth and adolescence. Nervousness and performance characteristics as predictors of peer behavior towards socially anxious adolescents.
- Journal of Neural Transmission. Recent developments in stress and anxiety research.
- Frontiers in Psychology. The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults.