How to Overcome Nervousness

by Henrik Edberg

Image by Rev Dan Catt.

Image by Rev Dan Catt (license).

So you have a date. Or an important meeting coming up. Or a presentation to do in front of your class.

You can’t really sit still. You fidget with a hand or a foot. Your palms are perhaps starting become a little moist. You don’t feel so good. You feel nervous.

What do you do?

What can you do in advance to prevent nervousness? And what can you do to lessen or remove the nervousness that may rise within you just before or during an event?

Below are a few tips. Some you can use today. Some you can incorporate into your life over a longer time-span.

You may want try a combination of a few of these tips. For example, if you are feeling a lot of nervous energy then don’t go for the positive visualization right away. It may not have that much of an effect if you’re nervous and your mind is already throwing various negative visualizations in your face.

Instead, first take some belly breaths to calm yourself to down and to center yourself in the now rather than some negative vision of a possible future. Then, when your breathing is nice, deep and calm visualize how well an upcoming meeting or presentation will turn out.

Be prepared.

Obviously. If you have a presentation then study your notes and what you are about to say carefully before stepping up on stage. If you have an important meeting, do your homework so you know what will or may come up in meeting. If you have a date, perhaps try to think of a few interesting topics/questions to bring up in case the conversational flow hits an awkward silence. If you have a job interview, think about what they may ask you and figure out some good answers.

Doing this carefully and meticulously can remove a lot of nervousness. It may not always be fun. But being well prepared can be helpful not only to remove nervousness but also to ace the presentation or get the job.

Ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen?

What is really the worst that could happen? How will it affect you in the long run? In many cases you’ll find that the answer boils down to: not really that much. It’s easy to get too wrapped up in what is about to happen and magnify the event and possible consequences in your mind until it seems like it’s a matter of life and death. It seldom is. Asking a few simple questions can put things into a healthier perspective and calm you down.

Take 30 belly breaths.

Belly breathing is a wonderful way to vanquish negative feelings and visualizations and return to the present moment. Just taking a few dozen belly breaths can change nervous and shallow breathing into a calm and strong alternative. It’s quite remarkable how quickly this can change how you feel. Here’s how you go about it:

  • Sit in a relaxing position with your legs apart.
  • Put your hands on your stomach. Using your stomach breathe in slowly through your nose. If you are doing it right your stomach will expand and you’ll feel it with your hands.
  • Breathe out slowly through your nose and do it with some force so you feel your stomach pull slightly inwards towards your spine.
  • Breathe in and out 30 times. Take slow and deep breaths.
  • After you have taken 30 breaths and focused on counting them you should not only feel more relaxed and centred. Your body will also be able to continue breathing in this manner without you focusing on it. And that’s it. Continue with your normal day.

Taking some deeper breaths with your belly can also be useful if you start to feel nervous or unfocused during your interview/presentation/meeting.

Visualize in a positive way.

Much of our time is spent habitually visualizing what may go wrong in a future situation. This can, of course, create a lot of nervousness. It can also give you the results you imagined – or feared – through self-fulfilling prophecies. If you think you’ll fail, then you are making it a whole lot harder for yourself to succeed.

Visualizing in a positive way is definitely a more useful and pleasant way to spend some time with your imagination. Now, you may think that visualizing this way is just unrealistic. But visualizing in a negative way is just as unrealistic. Either way, you are imagining what may happen in a possible future scenario. Doing it in a negative way may just feel more realistic because that’s what people around you are doing or because it’s what you’ve been doing every day for the last few years.

How you imagine things will unfold and what will happen can change a lot about how you behave, what you say and how you feel in this future situation. And that can have a big effect on how things actually go.

Here are some practical instructions for when you, for instance, have an upcoming meeting:

Visualize how great the events will unfold – see and hear it – and also how great will you feel at this meeting.

See yourself smiling, being positive, open and having a great time. See the excellent outcome in your mind. Then release by visualizing that it has already happened, that the meeting is over with the desired result. This is surprisingly effective and will get you into a good and relaxed mood before even stepping into the first, second or twentieth meeting.

The above solutions are the quicker ones. The suggestions below are the ones you need more time to incorporate. It may take weeks, months or even years. Over time you can gradually make these ideas stronger parts of your life. And they can make you feel less and less nervous in any situation.

Practise, practise, practise.

The more you practise, take action and put yourself in situations that may make you nervous the more confident you become. You have been there before, you know pretty much what will happen. So you feel more and more comfortable and less nervous.

Realize that people don’t care that much about what you do.

One big source of nervousness is focusing too much on what people will think of you. And thinking that their criticism is always about you.

But people don’t think that much about what you do. You keep much of your attention from day to day on your problems, challenges and triumphs. And that’s exactly what the next guy/girl is doing too.

In general, people keep much of their attention on their own challenges and problems. And their criticism is often about something negative in their life rather than about something you did. So don’t worry too much about it. Realizing that what you do isn’t that important to other people can be a bit disappointing. But also liberating.

Now, it’s very easy to fall back into a behaviour where you feel needy and wonder what people may think about you and what you do. But by working on this you can, step by step and over time, become less and less worried or bothered by what people might think. This allows you more inner freedom to do and try what you want since you’re not feeling trapped in box of other people’s opinions.

Stay in the present moment.

This one ties into the one about belly breathing. When you take those deep, powerful breaths and focus on doing that your mind seems to silence. Your projections of what may happen at the meeting or job interview die out. Nervousness comes from these negative projections of what may happen sometime in the future. Or from what happened in the past, perhaps from the last time you had a meeting or an interview. When you instead focus your attention on what’s happening now, now and… now the nervousness dies out too.

Another way to stay in – or return to – the present moment is to just pay attention to what is happening right now. Just focus on the scene and the sounds right in front of you. Don’t think about the reports you have finish before 5 o’clock, the meeting tomorrow or what you want for dinner. Just pay attention to the present moment and nothing else for a few moments. Make it a habit and try to expand the time you can spend in the present moment before your thoughts drift away again.

Staying the present moment can be very beneficial if you want to lessen negative feelings and thought in your life. I highly recommend checking out books like The Power of Now or A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle to deepen your understanding and get better explanations of something that can be so simple and powerful but also so difficult to describe.

If you like this article, please bookmark it on del.icio.us or give it a thumb up in Stumbleupon. Thanks a lot! =)





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{ 95 comments }

Audie March 17, 2009 at 2:45 pm

Hi,

I am a trainer and keynote speaker. I teach presentation skills. I have always said to the participants in my workshops that one way to overcome nervousness and anxiety is to remember the audience doesn’t know what you were supposed to say so if you blow it you are the only one who knows it so just move on.

heart March 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

i always have a hard time dealing with nervousness…i’m aware of what’s happening at first but when unexpected questions arise (that needs to have deep thinking), everything is messed up…after the interview, i realized my answers (out of this world answers.. or wrong answers… or not very right answers…) and i’m sure that the HR speacialist saw my nervousness also… im having a hard time overcoming this fear.. it became a trauma lately to speak with people especially when they speak english very fast. (im a fresh graduate preparing myself to the real world..hayy…)

i’ll try to practice all ur suggestions…
thank you..

Limon May 29, 2009 at 8:02 am

I have exactly the same problem in my life.

carl April 7, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Its my first job now, it needs constant communication, since im a purchaser I need to talk a lot like talking in meetings and talking to our suppliers. My nervousness leads me to stuttering which is so embarrassing when people see it! Even in telephone conversations I stutter! When im with my friends I cant share a story because im afraid that i’ll stutter and i’ll be embarrassed. Also in public speaking my voice always change(like im electrified lol) and I stutter.

Can someone help? and give me an advice?

I tried not to mind other people on what they think of me and i think positive but nothing helps. I also tried meditations but didn’t help. It started when I was 10 and now im 20 yrs old. It doesn’t get better, i think it worsen..

tal June 3, 2009 at 9:10 pm

I suffer from exactly the same problem. So much so that I’ve started thinking I have social anxiety disorder or social phobia.
I only started to have the problem of speaking with friends and family recently, I never used to have it before, I think a recent presentation may have triggered it in which I stuttered a lot. Its like an automatic nervousness trigger that I’ve created after the presentation, that just goes on when its actually in the back of my mind, there have been times where I hadn’t thought about it which obviously went well without much apprehension, just don’t know how to get this off my mind, I hate not being able to speak right even when among friends and family, I just anticipate that I’d stutter and embarrass myself so I opt not to speak.
It gets better at times and then pops up again some other time, thats why I still haven’t gone to see a psychiatrist or counselor yet, though I think I should now before it affects my life in a way I don’t want to.

Riz July 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I have had the same problem since I was a kid and now im 21 and it still affects me in my job and in my relationships with other people. Like mentioned here I anticipate exactly which word i will stutter on and then will just avoid saying whatever that it is. Friends dont make it any easier as they always like to have a laugh but when it comes to that important presentation where you want to give the impression your prepared and confident, and by stuttering it does really affect your delivery.

My tips are to focus on the present which has helped me quite a bit, and also about slowing down as much as you can so the words come out clearly and your not rushing to get the sentence over and done with. I think if you enjoy the process of speaking you will automatically become slower and smoother, most of the times speaking fast is what causes stutter. Some scientific research came to light some time ago mentioning about how the voice box or the tongue or whatever it is that you use to speak reacts slowly to the speed it takes the message to get from your head to your mouth. So key is speak slowly, and as i read somewhere…the wise man thinks quick but talks slow ;)

anonymous. May 6, 2009 at 3:38 am

It’s a bad habit that causes you to act that way. It’s the anticipation up to an event that your body is conditioned to feel nervous because this is the normal thing to do.

How do you feel AFTER the meeting or AFTER the event? Not so bad, right? even relieved that it’s over. Thank God it’s over, you say.
So what is different then?
Your mind no longer feels anxious.

What you feel are only sensations , that you create in your own mind. It’s you being scared of nothing.
Because there is nothing to be afraid of, like a wild dog threatening your life. But you still react this way.
This is crazy.

When there is no real danger, the normal response is to feel no anxiety and no fear.
I’m not going to edit this post so there might be some grammar problems and mispellings. but you get the idea.
It’s all in your mind.

YOU are causing yourself to feel this way and only YOU can stop it. :) Have a nice day!

arriane February 24, 2010 at 3:49 am

very nice….you’re right….it’s all in our mind….and it’s only us can treat ourselves.

sophie May 6, 2009 at 8:43 pm

i have problems reading out loud in class nd i av orals coming up..i need help!

Anonymous September 17, 2009 at 4:57 am

Read loudly to yourself when you are by yourself

Sunflower May 10, 2009 at 1:56 am

In my attempt to research for this article, your blog was the first one to come out from the google.

I am a very outgoing person, confident, articulate, and can deal with any kind of people due to my work background and experiences. But for a reason that I dont know, there are times that I am nervous during our staff meeting, when its time for me to talk. The last staff meeting we’ve had, I was nervous and didnt express my thoughts very well. This is the wake up call for me. I told myself that i really have to overcome this nervousness so i can be as natural as I am like when I am not in a meeting.

This article is indeed very helpful for me. Somehow, i know some of the tips you have, but it is still good to read and be reminded with positive thoughts like this. I will keep this in mind and practice it. Thank you so much for your insights.

jakeb May 28, 2009 at 4:41 pm

well I am having some problems talking to this one certian girl she wants me to open up to her but i just dont know how i can with any other girl but when i get around her its like i have to be perfect or somthing but she wants me to open up i just need somthing to talk about or some tips?? can any one help

Sima May 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm

It is the first time that i really liked the article in Google. Maybe for that simple reason that i feel all above described feelings.I have a family, baby , I feel responsable for many things & consequently I should be confident ,strong. I have good professional skills,capabilities but all over my life THE NERVOUSNESS put obstacles to me & in many cases I couldn’t express what I really think upon this or that matter (cutting my ideas short).When I flash back ,with all my body I can remember that heart beating,muffled,trembling voice,frigid hands…
After this article one thing conforts me-that I am not alone>That there are a lot of people to share the same problem.

Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 1:13 pm

think of someone YOU LOVE and think that your the most handsome people in the world And that’s it

NA June 7, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Finally I found something which could help. Thanks.

Anrg June 9, 2009 at 9:17 am

I also have this kind of problem. But the nervousness I feel, varies with situations and my state of mind. It often creeps up when there are a lot of people around me, or when I become the center of attraction. I am not able to convey my thoughts properly. I am not even able to focus properly. The nervousness and anxiety eats out my brain voraciously. I am not able to be natural. If the situation gets out of control, I get eager to flee from the situation. I think some of this is associated with my personality traits, such as trying to be perfect, setting goals and standards, comparing others, etc. When I feel there is no motive or target, I am able to be more relaxed, focused and happy while i achieve the target. Its more kind of living in the present moment, witout much anticipation of future. But that is seldom possible for me. I am in dilemma, whether to get professional help or not, because I have read many self help articles on the net, but have not found good results(in me). Sometimes, reading such kind of things also increses my problem. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. The only great thing I have noticed that, when I am alone I am at my best.

Anonymous June 20, 2009 at 1:21 pm

I think that each of us try to reach perfection in all fields of this life either personal or professional(I mean wise peapole).One thing is for sure you don’t have to avoid of setting goals or targets ’cause you may end up with isolating you from people to feel more relaxed & safe.That is perfect that you know yourself, your fears & at the same time your wishes.Try to go against your fears,don’t run away from parties,meetings..No one but you should take control of it.Gradually you will notice to have pressed those “negative” emotions. You can do it.Just believe it.

Laura June 11, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Very great article. Thank you so much for posting it. I have lost good moments in my life because of my nervouness. I think, after reading this article I will feel more relaxed in situations where my nervouness tries to step on my way

rahul July 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

I suffer from exactly the same problem.. I have good professional skills,capabilities but all over my life THE NERVOUSNESS put obstacles to me & in many cases I couldn’t express what I really think upon this or that matter (cutting my ideas short).When I flash back ,with all my body I can remember that heart beating,muffled,trembling voice,… This site give us confidence to over come on nervous in presentation.

nate August 2, 2009 at 10:52 pm

i’m in a band with a few friends so can someone tell me how to maybe relax or loosen tension so i don’t get nervous before doing shows with my band? i play guitar so i’m thinking since i don’t say anything like our singer (i fear public speaking too) that i won’t get as nervous as him…if anyone who has done gigs or performed in front of people before can tell me what they did or how they felt it would really be appreciated!

Matt January 22, 2010 at 5:40 am

Hey, I can totally relate to you in this area. I play drums and have been in a couple of different bands, nothing too big, but have done some shows here and there. For me I had trouble not being able to relax. Drummers need to be relaxed! You tense up and your mobility and speed go out the door. I imagine the same with guitarists for sure. You guys need your wrists and fingers haha. What I found worked for me was just cutting off everything out of your mind and just focus strictly on the music. Forget what others may think, totally just soak it in. Also having good communication with your band members is great too. Let them know where you’re at and hopefully they can support you. Stretching really helps to loosen up as well.

hari August 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm

really it was a great article……
i am also facing the problems with nervousnes..evevthough i am very good in my educatinal qualifications,i am unable to express my views properly due to this nervousness..so i feel that these suggestions rreally help my growth

wee October 9, 2009 at 5:34 am

i have the same problem, actually in not more than an hour i’ll be having my report and it’s killing me i’d rather have declamation and stuff but not reporting, i don’t know why maybe because i’m not that confident with what the content is all about i mean i’m not sure of what the report is all about i keep on reading it a lot of times but i’m getting more confused. And also because i’m not so comfortable with the people around who will listen and try to understand, some of them are okay but some of them also give me this feeling of being embarrassed and yeah i’m bothered, so i can’t focus on my report and i start to stutter and forgot what i am supposed to say..i know that sucks right? oh well i wish i can overcome this problem as soon as i graduate and start to work, i mean this is not a good thing when i’m going to work. actually the breathing for me kinda works a little bit and at the middle of my reporting starts to get okay but i’m still bothered when i’m done reporting cause i really feel that my classmates thinks that i sucked at reporting :(

janice l. basilio October 28, 2009 at 2:33 am

I really thanks those persons who shared their experiences and I realize that i am not alone with this kind of feeling. There are a lot of things which i did not perform because of this nervousness. Whenever i feel that way I always pray and entrust it to God coz for Him there is no such thing impossible. Godbless to all!

[U]nbeleivable October 30, 2009 at 4:55 am

Very Helpful. I really was.

WOW November 12, 2009 at 6:51 pm

You spelled pratice wrong. you spelled it practise…..probably shouldn’t take the advice of someone who doesn’t know how to spell.

Matt January 22, 2010 at 5:31 am

Yeah. I’m 18 and this is my first year of college so I’m adjusting to allot of big changes in my life. I’ve had struggles with anxiety breakdowns and depression before, but now I find myself feeling jittery all the time. Like butterflies in my stomach. It seems I can’t relax. I’ve also found I’m becoming socially nervous. I was never like that at all during high school and it seems really weird. I have allot of female friends and I avoid going for lunch n stuff cause I can’t eat around them. It comes on and off all the time, also triggering lack of confidence in different situations. I’m not sure if I should go on meds for my nerves or what, but I really don’t want it to take control of my life. Open for any suggestions.

Thanks

stroke January 27, 2010 at 11:50 pm

”every body gets nervous” its normal and we should accept that fact ! but if nervousness and anxiety becomes so severe which leads to rapid heart beats and high blood pressure due to excessive adrenaline rush, then ”Propranolol” or ”inderal 10mg” twice per day is recommended and can greatly help, but of course after the doctor’s consultation.

Help Wanted! February 3, 2010 at 3:38 am

My english is a second language, but i don’t have a problem speak directly to my friends, people around my ages and there is no pressure at all. BUT when i have an upcoming discussion with my boss, managers and the elders about the job related. I m very nernous, stutter, a lot pressure and clueless about everything which is very disappointing and embarassing. I read a lot of GOOD comments from you guys and I think it is very helpful. How can i overcome this kinda nervousness?????

Thank you very much!

jhgfd February 22, 2010 at 3:28 am

heeh u spell funny

anonymos February 24, 2010 at 12:48 am

this is great help I get so nervous before I preasent and when I’m preasenting I start to shake and its so noticable and I cant stop it.

arriane February 24, 2010 at 3:41 am

this article helped me a lot..and im thankful for this. i hope you guys continue helping people in such way or another….

Mia April 22, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Problem is the same with me….
Only I basically stop breathing and my face gets bright red…
My tear glands go crazy.
I have tried the breathing thing but it still won’t stop me from freaking out :(

sanju May 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm

I think i have the biggest problem of nerveousness and i dont know how to handle it .I have tried a most techniques of breathing and whatever but i didnot feel better.i am pakistani so i am not so much good in english ..if some one rode my comments so please reply on e mail adress a simple and good techniquess in normal english i am in big trouble.

sanju May 8, 2010 at 5:56 pm

its good

Eddie May 12, 2010 at 5:51 am

I have a phobia for interviews.. i have one today!! :(

annette May 28, 2010 at 1:42 am

hey all…..I have the same problem! I’m nervous everyday of my life even when I have to go to work and put up with people since I am a Cashier. Idk what to do? I always been this way around my family friends… I don’t think it will ever continue to stop!

Anonymous May 30, 2010 at 2:22 am

well its good to feel that im not the only one lol…im at the point where im so tired of being nervess around people that im about to lose my mined lol….its sucks but its like im starting to hate people cause they make me feel this way. How am i sapose to have a conversation when my heart is pounding and i can’t breath tabernack

Tom July 6, 2010 at 7:06 am

I have always had problems speaking infront of large crowd. some days are worse than others. When you start to feel that quiver in your throat, and that shaky feeling, take some deap breathe and speak slowly. This nervousness seems to be better when I prepare myself for the event or meetings. Its a therapy for me to read threads like this. I have been a manager for over 19 years and constantly have to give presentations, conference calls, and attend regional meetings. Its tough and I fear this will stay with me for rest of my life. Thanks everyone for your thoughts

mr nervous July 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

u knw wat guys, i thought i was alone bt 2 my suprise we are many. I thought maybe its a goblin that z using me bt i realised its e real me.
I wasnt lk this bt t jst started some yrs ago. Bt 1 thng i lk abt this fear z t draws u closer 2 God.
The best solution is 2 teach yr mind 2 thnk posetivly, hw? 1 u shud not fight alon, tel yr partener, who z spnt e most tym wth u. Tat person has 2 gv u e u can do t wen u get 2 e situation. 2nd tel yr parents wat u ar gng through bt they must b chrstns so tat u dnt go 2 traditional healers. Lastly do thosd that cause u 2 fear wth sm1 u dnt fear. Any mo help comment nd 4 wil try my best.
I thng u dnt hv 2 do is giving up. Be strong, put e u can do t n yr mind, dnt thnk o trembling wen u get 2 e situation. And dnt rush 2 fnsh do t slowly calmly bcz u can do t.

D-wade July 22, 2010 at 10:19 am

got the same problem too!! :( like every-time when my teacher ask me to read/say something in class i just start shaking like lol everything in my body literally starts shaking ..and my face and ears start burning too!! lol don’t know why but i was never like this before only started a few months ago and its getting worse everyday(it now got to a point were i sometimes skip class because i’m scared that my teacher will ask me to read or something… so yea i’d appreciate it if somebody would help me!!! thnxx love ya’ll

Kayytie August 4, 2010 at 2:30 am

Thank you greatly for posting this article! It made me feel much better about myself, knowing that I’m not the only one who get’s nervous and worried about silly things.
I’m fourteen and I recently got a boyfriend and It’s brilliant and I love him to bits. But when It comes to going round to his house, I get incredibly nervous and I’m always thinking of the worse case scenario. I’ve been a few times now and It’s definitely getting better, but what can I do to calm down before I go? Surely I can’t carry on like this?
Many thanks,
Kaytie<3

timm August 17, 2010 at 2:45 am

thnx for the tips they helped me alot

Jason September 1, 2010 at 3:39 am

I have the same problem all of you are dealing with except when i get nervious i have a stomach ache and it doesnt go way and im afraid to get one on the bus or in class again because its happened before and not ended well so i kind of need somehelp!

Ann September 1, 2010 at 9:23 pm

I get nervous when I have to drive, and I’ve been driving for two years. It happens everyday, several times a day. I thought it would go away after I got my license, but it hasn’t. I want to move up north and take the subway. That way this anxiety or fear I have will go away.

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