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How to Minimize Nervousness

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“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
Benjamin Franklin

“If I don’t train enough, of course I’m nervous.“
Haile Gebrselassie

You start to tremble just a bit. Your palms become moist. A hand or foot starts to fidget. The inner calmness you felt has flown out the window. You don’t feel so good anymore.

Nervousness is back, like an old friend you didn’t want to see.

Just in time for your date, important meeting at work or your presentation in school.

So what can you do?

Back down and cancel? Plow through the date or meeting while being not quite your best self?

Sure. I have done both. But a better approach that I have learned throughout recent years is to establish habits that minimize or sometimes even get rid of the nervousness.

Here’s what I do.

Prepare if possible.

A bit obvious. But doing your preparation in time and not at the last minute and doing it well – without trying to do it perfectly – rather than sloppily make a big difference.

You’ll feel more sure of yourself and relaxed about what you are about to do.

  • If you have an important meeting, do your homework so you know what will or may come up in the meeting.
  • If you have a date, perhaps try to think of 2-3 interesting topics/questions to bring up in case the conversational flow hits a stop.
  • If you have a job interview, think about what they may ask you and figure out some good answers.

Slow down and breathe with your belly.

A few minutes before you step into the situation that makes you nervous slow down. Walk slower to the meeting place. Move slower. Even stop for a minute if you like and stand still.

Then breathe. Take a little deeper breaths than usual. Make sure you breathe with your belly. Not with your chest (a common problem when people get stressed or nervous).

Focus on just your slow in- and out-breaths for a minute or two. This will calm you down, make it easier to think normally again and that singular focus can draw you back into this moment again rather than past failures or future worries.

Assume rapport in social situations.

After you have slowed down and focused on your breathing I have another good habit if you still feel a bit nervous and you are going into some kind of social situation. This one worked especially well for me when I was single and was dating. And it is also very useful just before any other kind of meeting.

The habit is to assume rapport.

This means that just before you met someone you pretend and think to yourself that you are meeting one of your best friends.

Then you’ll naturally slip into a much more relaxed, comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind. In this state of mind the conversation tends to flow more naturally too, without much thinking. Just like with your friends.

This is one of the very best and helpful habits I have adopted in the past 7 years or so.

Tell yourself that you are excited.

Harness the nervous energy into something that will help you.

If you cannot minimize the nervousness in some situations by using the tips above then take a different approach.

When the nervousness bubbles up, tell yourself that you are excited about the meeting, presentation etc. This helps you to change perspective on what is happening inside of you and I have found that it helps me to get a boost of enthusiasm and openness for a short while.

So I can go into that meeting with that more helpful mindset and emotional state. And a few minutes into the meeting the energy has usually been used in a useful way and I go back to feeling more relaxed and centered again.

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  • Kev, write me a song! September 27, 2012, 5:56 pm

    Love it!!!!!!! Fantastic little, easy to implement suggestions!

  • Good Guy Robert September 27, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Good advice! Nervousness can be near impossible to defeat, but reminding yourself to not be a downer about your own situation can help in many scenarios!

    • Henrik Edberg September 28, 2012, 1:23 pm

      Thanks! I agree, optimism certainly helps a whole lot.

  • DB September 27, 2012, 7:30 pm

    A truly great article!

    But I want to ask you and the readers of positivity blog here one question unrelated…. What is your take on the ‘evil eye’? Do u believe in it? If yes then why? If no then why not? Its something I really want to know about.

    • Henrik Edberg September 28, 2012, 12:49 pm

      Thank you! I am guessing you mean evil eye as described on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_eye

      If that is the evil eye you are describing then I don’t know much about it. And it is not something I have encountered in my life so I don’t have much to say about that really.

  • ZenPresence.com September 27, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Great list. I like assume rapport. I’m going to try that one.
    Another ideal that I find works for me is that I enter each situation with full sincerity and clarify my intention ( to myselft ) ahead of time. The confidence of being sincere and geniune helps a lot.

    Dan Garner

    • Henrik Edberg September 28, 2012, 1:24 pm

      Good added tip, thanks Dan! Hope you’ll find assuming rapport helpful.

  • Lucy September 27, 2012, 10:41 pm

    Thanks Henrik, I just can’t seem to shake a constant feeling of anxiety or nervousness lately (in any situation). I’ll give these techniques a try.

  • GSTS September 28, 2012, 4:02 am

    Awesome tips! I’ve found the first one to be the most effective for me. For example, when I have a job interview, if I know I’m fully prepared, I get less nervous. For me, many times nervousness comes from lack of preparation.

    I take the 2nd point as a mini meditation. Focus on your breath and clear your mind. The 3rd and the 4th are more like pretending until you’re feeling it. I haven’t done these two much. But if it has worked for you for 7 years, it must be working really well. :) Thank you for the tips.

    • Henrik Edberg September 28, 2012, 1:27 pm

      Thank you for your kind words and for adding your own experience, I appreciate all of that.

      Yes, they have been really useful for me. Although nowadays I don’t get nervous as often I used to in social situations for example. And so I don’t use these techniques as often as I used to either.

  • Kola September 29, 2012, 6:05 am

    assuming rapport is definitely one of the biggest things that has helped me grow my network. people just like being around friendly people. fantastic list, Henrik. thanks for sharing it with us : )

  • Mads Singers September 30, 2012, 11:26 am

    Some great suggestions, I have had huge use of “Toastmasters” myself, it’s a public speaking organization, that have really helped my boost my self confidence in front of an audience, which have made me a lot more comfortable.

    Kind Regards

  • Andrea Nordstrom October 1, 2012, 8:08 am

    Great post Henrik! A beautifully simple “hack” to combating nervousness.

    I love the part about assuming rapport. I find that it also helps to to be unashamedly authentic and own your nervousness, rather than fighting it. If I feel it, I like to throw it out there – “Hey, I’m feeling pretty nervous…” Most people warm to others who are genuinely themselves. Everyone has felt nervous at some point in their lifetime.

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Brandi October 2, 2012, 3:07 am

    Great advice. I’ve had to try the belly breathing many times when driving, the feat that makes me the most nervous.

  • Sustainable Earth October 5, 2012, 2:52 am

    The more I tell myself that I am getting excited/nervous the more self aware I become and it gets worse. The best I am able to do is work to display confidence.

  • Robert K. October 9, 2012, 6:33 am

    Due to some family circumstances, my mind becomes unstable sometimes. I become so unhappy that I don’t like to speak to people. Don’t like to go to public places. I always try stay lonely. I want to advance in my career. However, due to the fact I am unable to communicate properly. I scare go for job interviews. Also, I am not able to make decisions. I would appreciate if you could help me with the solution. Thanks and regards

    • Henrik Edberg October 9, 2012, 10:54 am


      I don’t have personal experience with the issues you bring up so I don’t have much advice to give. I would recommend looking into getting on-going support and expert help from a professional such a local therapist.

  • Leopold October 9, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Becoming nervous is a perfectly human reaction that virtually everybody experiences from time to time (except psycopaths…).

    In my experience, giving it too much attention or trying to defeat it only makes it worse.

    My advise is to live with it, accept that you are human and you will automatically find ways that help YOU deal with the situation.

  • Karthikh Venkat October 9, 2012, 2:59 pm

    Think its a Great one! Easy to follow and Handy Advice !
    Thanks for this useful METHOD :)

  • Amanda October 9, 2012, 5:04 pm

    I am a very nervous person and I found this blog to be very related and helpful thank you!

  • David Nikolic October 12, 2012, 11:10 am

    Great Tips! Thanks a lot for sharing these interesting points. Facing the world with utmost confidence without any nervousness is the key to success. I feel little bit of nervousness is quiet a natural thing in human beings, but nervousness should be checked at the right time so that it doesn’t become a hindrance for the growth of the individual.

  • Omar October 14, 2012, 8:38 pm

    Much thanks for your great articles! By the way you look like Mesut Ozil!! :)