5 Realistic Ways to Calm Your Nerves
Before an Important Event
Maybe it’s an important meeting. Perhaps it’s a presentation that you need to deliver. Or, maybe you’re feeling intimidated by the thought of needing to walk into that networking event and introduce yourself to strangers.
Regardless of the specific circumstances, this still holds true: You’re feeling nervous. Your palms are sweating and your stomach feels like it’s tied into knots, yet you know you need to pull yourself together and make a professional impression.
It’s tough, right? Seeming, calm and confident is challenging—particularly when your nerves keep sending your stomach skyrocketing to your shoes.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to quiet those anxious feelings and still knock that important event out of the park. Here’s how.
This is probably advice you’ve heard before—it’s a common response when someone is obviously nervous. But, it turns out that there is some real science-backed reasoning here.
When we feel stressed, our bodies naturally take shorter, shallower breaths. By forcing yourself to slow down and take a couple of deep breaths, you’ll provide your brain with more oxygen which in turn stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system.
That particular system? It’s responsible for things like slowing your heart rate and relaxing certain stomach muscles.
So, breathing deep will not only prevent you from needing to take panicked huffs and puffs into a paper bag, but it will also help you feel a little more relaxed.
Have you heard of a “power pose?” It basically entails standing with your chest and head up and your hands on your hips—you know, like a superhero.
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist and a professor at Harvard Business School, conducted research that concluded that maintaining this sort of pose for two minutes can give you a much-needed confidence boost. Cuddy’s research states that this pose increases testosterone (the dominance hormone) and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone).
There’s been some debate over whether or not Cuddy’s conclusions are actually accurate. But, hey, why not give it a try anyway? If it works well for you, you don’t need to care what science says!
If you’ve ever turned on some classical music to help you power through your to-do list, you know that music can have a big impact on your emotions. And, listening to the right music can help to pump up your self-esteem before an important event.
The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University asked participants to sort selected songs into “high-power” and “low-power” playlists, depending on how powerful and dominant the songs made them feel.
One group of participants listened to the “high-power” songs, while the others listened to the “low-power” songs. Those who listened to the “high-power” playlist not only got more tasks accomplished, but they were also more willing to volunteer to go first in a debate.
So, when you’re feeling anxious, turn on a song that makes you feel ready to take charge. Looking for recommendations? Queen’s “We Will Rock You” performed well in the study, which the researcher’s attribute to the song’s heavier bass level.
Sure, looking at yourself in the bathroom mirror and reciting positive affirmations about how great you are might feel a little cheesy. But, here’s the surprising thing: It can actually help boost your confidence level and your performance before a big event.
Research shows that these self-affirmations have a calming effect, which in turn increases your confidence. Study participants who took a moment to think over their positive qualities or job strengths operated with a higher level of self-assuredness when placed in high stakes situations.
Go ahead and tell yourself how wonderful you are! It might feel corny, but it’s effective!
It can often feel like your body is betraying you when you’re nervous. Your knees start shaking, your shoulders get tight, and your voice quivers. This is why it’s important to take a moment to relax and take control of your body before entering that event.
Mayo Clinic recommends focusing on slowing tensing and relaxing each muscle group—starting with your toes and moving all the way up to your head. Using this technique, you tense your muscles for five seconds, relax for 30 seconds, and then repeat.
What exactly is this? It’s called progressive muscle relaxation, and researchers assert that it increases your awareness of the physical sensations associated with relaxation, and thus makes you feel a little less frazzled and anxious.
Whether you’re about to step out onto a stage or into a networking event, it’s perfectly normal to get nervous. But, just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that you want to enter into that room shaking and sweating profusely.
Luckily, there are a few quick, actionable, and research-backed things you can do to quiet your nerves and conquer that event with poise and confidence. Give them a try for yourself, and you’re sure to come off as calm, cool, and collected. Also read up on why you should use video conferencing for better job interviews.