“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” – Jodi Picoult
Picture this: Roseline recently got elected as president of her school’s Student Union. In about thirty minutes, she is expected to make her inaugural Thanksgiving speech to an audience of over a thousand.
Consequently, she is backstage studying and carefully rehearsing her lines. However, she is visibly breaking out in a cold sweat. You need no magician to tell you that she is quite nervous.
Oftentimes, we face various life challenges, and some of these challenges bring up the dire issue of nervousness. Not in conventional terms, nervousness is a feeling of worry, fear, or anxiety that can occur when faced with a situation we perceive as challenging or threatening.
Nervousness can have its root causes as physical, psychological, or a combination of both. Physical causes include stress, fatigue, stimulant use, etc. For the psychological causes, one can mention negative thinking patterns, perfectionism, and fear of failure, among many others.
Terms Usually Associated With Nervousness
- Anxiety (of course, you’d expect this to be among the first on the list)
Before we proceed to the helpful tips for conquering nervousness, it would interest you to know that nervousness also has positive or beneficial aspects.
Yes! You read that right. Towards the end of this piece, we will highlight the positive side of nervousness. Therefore, kick back and relax as we examine every aspect of nervousness.
How to Conquer Nervousness
Want to overcome that seemingly giant called “nervousness”? Then, apply the following listed points when the need arises. Note that this list is inexhaustible as there are many more tips available outside the ones covered here.
Deep breathing or box breathing, can efficiently help calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety.
To do box breathing, also known as square breathing, first breathe in while slowly counting to four. Next, hold your breath for about four seconds. Then, exhale slowly with your mouth for another four seconds. Lastly, repeat the process till you feel a sense of balance or calm.
Visualisation and positive self-talk
Did you know that visualisation and positive self-talk can help you reframe negative thoughts and build confidence? These are powerful techniques that are useful in helping individuals effectively manage and reduce nervousness in different situations.
Through proven means of mentally rehearsing success and countering negative thoughts using affirmations and constructive statements, an individual can surmount nerve-wracking situations with confidence and a sense of greater calm, with a higher likelihood of achieving desired positive outcomes.
It would interest you to know that exercise and physical activity release “endorphins“ that can help reduce stress and anxiety.
“Endorphins are natural chemicals your body produces that make you feel good. They can help reduce pain and stress while boosting one’s mood.”
Mindfulness and meditation
These are important in helping you become more aware of your feelings and thoughts, teaching you to cultivate calm and promote well-being.
Public speaking practice helps build confidence, improves skills by allowing you to refine your speech skills and body language, and desensitises you to the anxiety that comes with facing and addressing a crowd.
Exposure therapy helps to normalise nervousness. This technique allows you to understand that nervousness is a natural response to certain situations. It makes you understand that, to some extent, many people have also experienced or faced some level of anxiety/nervousness. This can help you feel less isolated and overwhelmed. In addition, exposure therapy equips you with valuable skills necessary to build long-term resilience.
Getting enough sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene
This reduces stress and anxiety. The benefits include:
- Regulating stress hormones
- Improved cognitive function
- Relaxation and calmness
Always make sure to:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
- Rest and sleep in a conducive environment.
- Limit exposure to screens and artificial light before going to bed.
- Avoid caffeine and quite heavy meals when it’s close to bedtime.
With adequate sleep and excellent sleep hygiene in place, you have significantly made a huge move in reducing stress and anxiety, which becomes a plus to your improved mental and emotional well-being.
Use of distraction mechanism
Distraction can be an effective tool to counter nervousness in the short term, especially when you need to manage acute anxiety or stress. Distracting yourself with appropriate activities you enjoy, like reading, listening to music, counting objects in your surroundings, playing puzzle games, journalling or writing down your thoughts, taking a short walk, colouring or drawing, as well as aromatherapy which involves inhaling soothing scents like lavender, and much more, can help to manage and counter nervousness.
The aforementioned distraction techniques’ effectiveness may vary from person to person. In serving its purpose, distraction as a means helps by providing an immediate calming effect, reduces overthinking, provides a mental break, and promotes mindfulness. Having mentioned that distraction can help manage nervousness, it is important to apply it in a balanced way, as over-reliance can eventually hinder personal growth and problem-solving. Combining distraction with strategies like mindfulness, positive self-talk, and relaxation techniques is best.
Generally, it is advised that the key to dealing with nervousness is finding the strategy that work well for you and sticking with it.
Here are a few more viable tactics that might help.
- As stated earlier, accepting that nervousness is normal and natural, and that everyone experiences it can help reduce the seeming pressure to be “perfect” and alleviate some of the anxiety.
- The use of grounding techniques, like focusing on your senses or observing your surroundings, can help you stay calm and maintain composure.
- Practicing gratitude, no matter how small, can help shift your mindset and focus on the positive, which can help reduce nervousness.
- Having a support system of friends or family you can talk to about your anxiety or fear can provide comfort and reassurance. It is no longer news that “you are the company you keep.” The closest of your friends/pals and relations who have great details about you can, in distraught times, play a huge role in overcoming your biggest worries. So, take it seriously when told to have a reliable support system of friends or family.
- Avoid procrastination and always be prepared for approaching and demanding situations or events. This will help to reduce anxiety and greatly boost your confidence.
- The last on our list, but not least, is having a sense of humour. Finding humour in situations can help lighten your mood and reduce nervousness.
Benefits of Nervousness
More often than not, nervousness is associated with uneasiness and fear. However, there is no denying that nervousness can also serve as a valuable emotional and physiological response in certain life matters. Let us examine concisely some potential positive sides to nervousness.
1. Enhanced alertness
Nervousness activates the body’s “flight or fight” response, releasing adrenaline into the body, thereby heightening alertness. You may begin to ask: How is this a positive to nervousness? Well, in clearly described terms, an excited state of awareness comes in handy during a competitive event like a sprint race, a football match, or even when faced with potential danger and the need to avoid injury or harm.
2. Increased focus
Nervousness can allow individuals to concentrate more intensely on a particular task at hand as it allows for narrowing one’s focus. This can be helpful in tasks or presentations requiring full attention.
3. Motivation to prepare
This is one huge positive unnoticed by many, but you would realise that nervousness does prompt individuals to make adequate preparation or readiness ahead of an upcoming event, especially with the intent of not leaving those concerned disappointed.
4. Personal growth
Facing nervousness and moving out of one’s comfort zone can be a great determining factor in realising an individual’s true potential, resulting in an expected increase of self-confidence vis-a-vis personal growth.
5. Empathy and relatability
Nervousness, as often described, is a common human trait. Virtually everyone has a story in a lifetime to tell about their nervous experience. By sharing these stories and how nervousness was conquered through personal one-on-one counselling or large gatherings for motivational speeches and pep talks, we can create valid, relatable connections and, thus, foster empathy among individuals with similar issues.
6. Humility and confidence
Nervousness can help keep individuals in check by reminding them that there is always more to learn and achieve over time. This creates a sense of responsibility and humility, coupled with confidence, which progresses to a healthier self-perception.
Nervousness can manifest in different situations through life stages. At some point in our lives, everyone has experienced it. It could be the first day of school during childhood, public speaking in class, or even participating in competitions. It could be at social events/gatherings or examinations and tests through the teenage years. The adulthood stage could be job interviews, public speaking, performance reviews, weddings, meeting new people, or medical appointments. The list goes on.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to recognize that while nervousness can be seemingly uncomfortable, it is a natural emotion many experience. With that in mind, you can then explore the appropriate coping techniques or strategies that will work for you to reduce and, most likely, eliminate your nervousness in the long run.
Here’s an accompanying quote by Timber Hawkeye, which can proffer insights and perspectives on nervousness, enabling you to understand better and navigate this emotion.:
“You can’t calm the storm, so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass.”
Researched By: Iloh Chioma Sandra