5 Ways to Calm Your Nerves
Before an Important Event
Maybe it’s an important meeting. Perhaps it’s a presentation you need to deliver. Or, maybe you’re feeling intimidated by walking into a networking event and introducing yourself to strangers.
Regardless of the circumstances, this still holds true: you feel 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 send your stomach dropping 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 nervous. However, it turns out there is real science-backed reasoning here.
When we feel stressed, our bodies naturally take shorter, shallower breaths. Therefore, if you slow down and take a couple of deep breaths, you’ll provide your brain with more oxygen. In turn, breathing 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 deeply will prevent you from needing panicked huffs and puffs into a paper bag and it will also help you feel a little more relaxed.
Have you heard of a “power pose?” It basically means 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 maintaining this sort of pose for two minutes gives you a much-needed confidence boost. Cuddy’s research states this pose increases testosterone (the dominance hormone) and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone).
Some debated over whether or not Cuddy’s conclusions are accurate. But, hey, why not give it a try anyway? If it works well for you, that’s all that matters!
If you’ve ever turned on some classical music to help you power through your to-do list, you know music can impact your emotions. Similarly, listening to the right music can 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 accomplished more and felt more willing to volunteer 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 researchers 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. However, here’s the surprising thing: It can actually boost your confidence level before a big event.
Research shows these self-affirmations provide 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 shake, your shoulders tighten, and your voice quivers. This is why it’s important to take a moment to relax and take control of your body before entering an event.
Mayo Clinic recommends focusing on slowing tensing and relaxing each muscle group. Start with your toes and move all the way up to your head. Using this technique, tense your muscles for five seconds, relax for 30, and then repeat.
What exactly is this? It’s called progressive muscle relaxation. Researchers assert 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 virtual 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.