Dry mouth, sweat, chills, stuttering, hesitation, Stools … all of these phenomena are familiar to most people when faced with a situation that causes them high emotional stress.
And it is that almost all of us have had an exam in which we have performed something important, a public exhibition, a date with someone we are interested in or a medical examination. When it’s important to us and we worry about the end result, the nerves make us uncomfortable and tense and can even play tricks on us like being empty.
How to control the nerves? In this article you will find a series of recommendations that allow you to either reduce the level of nervousness or not to affect our execution too much.
Nervousness: a clumsy but useful phenomenon
Nervousness and stress are phenomena and reactions that they tend to be annoying and unpleasant. It makes sense to ask why something that is so aversive to us can serve and can escalate into pathological reactions.
The truth is that nervousness is a reaction to stimuli that we believe will occur in the future and it’s a very adaptive advantage that allows us to survive. The autonomic nervous system, especially the sympathetic system, is responsible for this. This causes the body to activate and prepare to react to the situation that an emotional activation represents for us. Thanks to this we can, for example, be prepared and attentive to the exam in which we are playing in order to pass the course.
The problem arises when this nervousness is excessive, does not give in or prevent us or limits correct action (such as being white). On these occasions, we may find it unsuitable. This is why faced with high voltage levels pot be helpful in knowing how to disconnect and control the nerves. Let’s see how this can be done.
Controlling the nerves: some strategies
Below are a number of ways and aspects to consider in managing or controlling nerves. However, one thing should be clear: these different recommendations can be used to reduce nervousness or its effects, but they do not uproot it.
1. Relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques are among the earliest and most well-known recommendations for combating and controlling nervousness. They generally recommend the techniques focused on controlling breathing and muscle tension and distension, Like Jacobson’s well-known progressive muscle relaxation. Additionally, some types of techniques only take a few minutes and can be performed anywhere.
2. Mindfulness or meditation
Mindfulness or meditation helps us connect with the present, put things in perspective and focus on the important. The level of tension can be greatly reduced and we can manifest a higher level of self-control. Meditation with evocation of relaxing images it is also generally very useful.
3. Self-learning technique
“I’m not able to do this” or “I’m going to be empty” are thoughts some people have when they feel nervous. This is completely detrimental, as our expectations regarding our own performance can change both our final behavior in the direction we thought (remember the Galatea effect and the self-fulfilling prophecy).
Instead, keep positive thoughts and believing in our own possibilities can foster our ultimate self-fulfillment. Plus, giving ourselves self-instructions on what to do next helps us remember key aspects.
4. Rehearse and prepare for the situation
Often times, we are extremely nervous about not knowing what to do in a situation. While this is obviously not the same, a good way to learn about and improve performance is repeat what we are going to do or say. For example in front of a mirror or better yet, with other people other than those who will participate in the dreaded situation.
Although redundant, the rehearsals allow us to practice the actions we are going to take, to better understand our strengths and the things that we should improve before playing and receiving feedback from potential observers. In addition, you get used to the situation, so some of the surprise or novelty won’t affect us as much at the moment of truth.
It is often recommended that these tests be given within hours of the stimulus causing the nervousness. However, there are some people who are generally beneficial and even lead to moments of peak productivity when preparing.
5. Prepare, but make room for improvisation
Rehearsing is a necessary thing but we have to keep in mind that we should not pretend that everything is ready and planned, memorized as if we are going to recite something written on a piece of paper. In addition to the fact that the latter is forced and artificial in most cases, we need to know what we are going to do and get an overview of the general situationBut we must be prepared so that the situation may have unforeseen elements.
We can put ourselves in the worst possible situation that comes to mind and then ask ourselves what would really happen if what we fear happens. It is about putting into perspective the importance of what was feared. We fail an exam, the appointment is fatal, or we are left blank. They laugh at us or we miss a chance. I?
I can show up next year, get another meeting with the person or person in question, or do other work. This is not going to end us. The purpose of this type of action is to give things the importance they have, no more and no less.
7. Expose yourself to the situation and avoid avoiding it.
A mistake that many people make not only in the face of normal nervousness but also in the face of pathological anxiety is to avoid the dreaded situation. It only strengthens fear of what will happen and worsens our ability to cope. It’s not about inducing fear of pleasure, but about learning to cope with it adaptively.
8. Consume drinks that allow you to relax and avoid arousing drinks.
Coffee, energy drinks, or other stimulants will increase the level of activation, leading to even greater nervousness. This is why we must avoid it especially in the moments which precede the situation which causes us nervousness. On the contrary, it can be beneficial take relaxing drinks like lime or chamomile. In some extreme cases, you can also take some type of tranquilizer medication, just for medical purposes.
9. Play sports
Exercise activates our body, but it can also clear our minds and calm us down. Endorphins are generated and other substances which facilitate the decrease of internal tension. It helps to do exercises that leave us relaxed, but they don’t need to be done until we fall asleep. Typical examples of useful exercise are running or swimming.
10. Contact with nature
Noticing the wind and breeze, the touch of grass or sand, the cold of winter or the sunlight can be very pleasant. In addition, being in contact with nature has been shown to be relaxing and significantly reduce our stress levels. This recommendation can go hand in hand with exercise.
- Barlow, DH. (2000). “Unraveling the mysteries of anxiety and its disorders from the point of view of the theory of emotions.” The American psychologist.
- Lorenzo Fernandez et al. (2013). Manual of basic and clinical pharmacology. Panamericana.
- Nuss, P- (2015). “GABA anxiety disorders and neurotransmission: a change in modulation”. Treatment of the neuropsychiatrist.