Nervousness: How To Manage and Overcome
If you feel nervous now and then, understand it’s completely normal. It might feel like anxiety, excitement, and dread all rolled into one package. Feelings of nervousness are revealed through butterflies in the stomach, and other times it results in an increased heart rate or one of many other symptoms.
While not always harmful, nervousness is not something you want to be controlling your performance at work. If left unchecked and allowed to pervade your speaking engagements, interviews, and meetings, it can significantly hinder you from reaching your goals (and getting through daily life).
That’s why Poised wants to explain nervousness in more detail and help you manage and overcome it.
Why Do We Feel Nervous?
Nervousness happens because of your body’s stress response in the nervous system. It’s a natural feeling in situations that your mind perceives as stressful. It involves many physiological and psychological responses that work together to help you manage the perceived or imagined threat.
When experiencing the “fight-or-flight” response in a stressful situation, your body increases its production of adrenaline, your heart rate rises, and you have shortness of breath. Often, it also leads to heightened blood pressure, rapid breathing, and boosted energy and alertness. In severe situations, this can lead to panic attacks, especially if you already have a generalized anxiety disorder.
Therefore, if you are approaching a job interview, a significant work presentation, or a large social gathering, it’s understandable that your nerves would kick in a bit. But if you are unable to move through your nervousness, it can turn into anxiety and, in some cases, full-fledged panic. That’s why it’s so critical to learn coping techniques for managing your nervousness and calming your body and mind.
What Are Some Symptoms of Anxiety?
Anxiety is also normal and can be healthy under the right circumstances. But if you feel heightened levels of anxiety and side effects on a regular basis, it can morph into a mental health disorder or a panic disorder. Such a diagnosis can eventually lead to disproportionate worry, apprehension, nervousness, and fear.
An anxiety disorder can change how you experience emotions and even your behavior, which can spark physical symptoms. The mildest forms of anxiety can be unsettling and hard to define. Anxiety that is more severe can significantly impact your quality of life. Less than 37% of the 40 million U.S. adults impacted by anxiety disorders receive treatment.
Anxiety symptoms vary by the specific diagnosis, but here are a few general symptoms that show up across the board:
- Increased irritability
- Difficulties concentrating
- Irrational and uncontrollable worry
- Difficulties falling or staying asleep
People without an anxiety disorder can experience some or even all of these symptoms on occasion. But if you have anxiety, you will likely experience them regularly and to extreme levels.
Examples of Common Fears
As with anxiety, there are many different fears that affect people every day. Fear of public speaking, job interviews, and various social situations are common.
The intense fear of public speaking is known in psychiatry as glossophobia. Those who suffer from this social anxiety often experience the fight-or-flight response before or while speaking in front of a gathering. In many cases, glossophobia sets in even if there are only a few people present.
Common symptoms include trembling, freezing, sweating, and a racing heartbeat. If you are experiencing this fear, your brain releases steroids and adrenaline, and your blood sugar level and heart rate rise.
It may feel as though you are having a heart attack. It typically doesn't matter if a glossophobic individual understands they are dealing with an irrational fear; they are still unable to control their feelings.
It is unkonwn what causes fear of public speaking, though researchers have found convincing evidence that genetic factors are at play. Dramatic events are also believed to contribute to glossophobia, such as being rejected, judged, or embarrassed at some point in life. This makes it especially challenging to communicate at all during presentations and meetings, much less communicate well.
It would be fair to say that most people experience some level of stress or anxiety before or during a job interview. However, if you suffer from a crippling fear of interviewing, it's something you should address. With that said, it's also a natural reaction considering the human desire for validation and approval.
Therefore, the first step to overcoming your job interview fear is to accept that it is normal and to view yourself compassionately when you feel the fear cropping up. Moreover, keep in mind that it is entirely possible to reduce or even eliminate your fear.
Focusing your attention on the needs and goals of the interviewer and organization can do wonders for lessening your fear. Also, teaching yourself to abandon an approval-seeking mindset can help, as can embracing the possibility of experiencing rejection.
As with any career move, doing an interview involves an aspect of risk, which also means it is a meaningful act that can lead to personal and professional growth. The next time you feel stifled by fear during a job interview, consider taking a pause, gathering your thoughts, and breathing deeply.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, 7% of U.S. adults live with a social anxiety disorder. This mental health condition is defined as the fear of being judged by others in various social situations. "Social phobia" is another term used for social anxiety disorder. Anxiety is the fear of an approaching event, whereas a phobia is the irrational and uncontrollable fear of specific events, situations, or objects.
The good news is that social anxiety is treatable through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, counseling, medications, and other methods. It is common to experience some anxiety in social situations, especially in high-steak circumstances such as conducting a presentation or going on a first date. Social anxiety disorder involves anxiety that is more extreme and negatively impacts someone's work or personal life for six months or longer.
How Do You Decrease Feelings of Anxiety?
There are practical steps you can take to reduce your feelings and symptoms of anxiety?
Try these proven tips:
Different Types of Breathing Exercises
Many breathing exercises can help you tame your anxiety. For example, deep breathing helps you to learn how to take deeper and longer breaths to where you feel it in your stomach.
To practice deep breathing, you simply get comfortable, breathe in for a few counts through your nose, and then breathe out for a few more counts through your nose. Place a hand on your stomach and the other on your chest to feel how your body responds as you inhale and exhale.
Focusing on your breath can also help you feel more relaxed, especially if you reflect on an image, word, or phrase in your mind during the process. Simply close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
Imagine the air you are breathing in is peaceful and calm; try to feel it from head to toe. When you breathe out, picture the air leaving as a release of your tension and stress. You can repeat this exercise for up to 20 minutes until you feel calm and collected.
Push Your Comfort Zone Little by Little
You will not grow in your professional or personal life without leaving your comfort zone from time to time. But there's nothing wrong with taking baby steps. Instead of pushing yourself to the limit and risking an anxiety attack or burning out, think of ways that you can gradually stretch your abilities.
For instance, maybe you could agree to speak up at a small group meeting, then lead a team meeting once you get that under your belt. As you become a more confident and competent communicator, you can up the ante and perhaps one day give a big presentation!
Reframe Negative Thoughts
So much of our anxiety and lack of confidence comes from negative thoughts that aren't true. Learn how to reframe those thoughts in a positive light. Right self-affirmations that you can repeat throughout the day, every day. And use positive self-talk regularly to battle the negativity waging war in your mind.
Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is critical for your overall health and well-being, and that extends to the workplace. You will not be able to perform at full potential unless you are getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Your mind and body must get adequate rest in order to process the events of the day and recharge for the next day.
Establish a firm bedtime and find relaxing activities that can help you decompress and wind down for sleep. Many people find yoga, meditation, reading, or taking long baths to help their mind and body prepare for sleep. You will not only become a better worker, but your physical, mental, and emotional well-being will reap some serious benefits.
Quit the Jitters
If you deal with nervousness, anxiety, or fear in the workplace, your first step to managing or overcoming your condition is to remember that it's normal. These problems are nothing to be ashamed of, and you can come out on top if you recognize the calls of your anxiety and take steps to reduce it. If it gets really bad, you can also go to a support group.
Keep the information and advice above in mind as you develop a plan for quitting the jitters and paving a path to success. You will notice many aspects of your professional and personal life-improving, and you will start crushing goals left and right!
Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America | ADAA
What Are Anxiety Disorders? | American Psychiatric Association
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? | Sleep Foundation.