9 Ways to Fight Nerves

Nerves can be a good thing. They keep you on your toes and fine-tune your focus. But, more often than not, they can be overwhelming. Whether you’re anxious about a big presentation before Spring Break, a meeting with potential clients, or a performance review with your boss, there are helpful proven ways to silence your nerves and build up your confidence. Scroll through and learn how to feel confident and communicate confidence, even when your nerves are acting up (adapted from MyDomaine)

Jitters or nerves are just another form of excitement. Acknowledge your nerves and then channel them into excitement for the presentation or experience you are about to have. Loud, upbeat music can help guide your anxious feelings into a more excited tone. It’s all about directing your nervous energy in a positive way.

The old saying “practice makes perfect” always rings true. But even if you practice by yourself 100 times, you’ll be underprepared if you haven’t practiced in front of another human being. Ask a friend or trusted colleague if you can give your pitch or presentation to them before the actual event. Even if you’re nervous about a meeting with your boss or potential client, fight your nerves by role-playing with someone you respect and trust. You want to feel present to another person, and you want feedback on your delivery. This means asking someone unafraid of administering constructive feedback to be your practice audience. One of the most important things to practice is your speaking cadence. Know when you’re going to pause and for how long. When your nerves act up, your voice often gets higher and faster. By practicing pauses, you’ll remember to slow down and convey a calmer tone.

Instead of harping on all that you do wrong, remember what you do right. “One of the best ways to build confidence is to get clear on your strengths and find ways to integrate those strengths into what you do every day,” advises William Arruda, a personal branding expert and author of Ditch, Dare, Do . It’s important to commend yourself for your accomplishments and to identify your strengths before going into an important meeting. You want to be your own best cheerleader—not in an arrogant way, but in a self-assured way.

Focusing on your breathing is one of the best and most immediate ways to calm your nerves. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and breathe out for four seconds. This method of square breathing will help calm your nerves and silence your anxiety.

Psychology Today confirms that self-affirmation reduces threat and improves performance. Try starting your days with a moment of positive self-talk. Take a moment to tell yourself one thing you like about yourself. As NPR correspondent Laura Starecheski says, most of us “mentally berate ourselves or criticize ourselves in ways that undermine our confidence.” Try speaking about yourself in the third person, and instead of saying something like, “I can’t do this,” say, “I can do this and I know I can because I have done something similar or something as impressive before.”

Comparison is the death of self-belief. Sure, a competitive nature fuels excellence, but when you look up from the task at hand (e.g., perfecting your pitch, presentation, or talking points), you lose focus and spend more time and energy comparing yourself to others than preparing. Confidence stems from hard work and dedication. If you devote most of your time to your work and thinking about ways you can better perform, you’ll be in much better shape than if you devoted your time to comparing yourself to others.

According to Harvard psychology professor and TED Talk presenter Amy Cuddy, standing in a power pose is the key to increasing your testosterone levels and lowering your cortisol levels. That means that an empowered posture increases your confidence and boldness while lowering you stress levels. Practicing your preferred power post, especially for a few minutes before a big presentation, is an excellent way to strengthen your core and imbue your stature with an impeccable sense of balance and poise. Others will see you as a confident, self-assured woman, and you will feel like a superwoman version of yourself.

If you can attend a Pilates class the day before an important presentation, interview, or business meeting, it’s definitely worth the burn. Your brain will be fired up, your core will transform your posture into a power pose, and you’ll be ready to exude the confidence needed to impress anyone and everyone you need to. According to a recent study, our opinions can be subconsciously affected by our physical behavior. For instance, when we sit up straight, we are more likely to remember positive memories or think positively about our current situation. Use Pilates as a way to train your body into maintaining a positive posture.

Fear comes from the unknown. If you identify your weaknesses and aim to work on them, you lessen the chance of being scared by them and increase your chances of overcoming them. Sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to admit to what your weaknesses. Instead of thinking about what you’re not so good at, look at what you’re avoiding and try to tackle it first. Reframe your weaknesses: Instead of something to avoid, they become your biggest opportunity for improvement.