It happens to the best of us. The butterflies, the nausea and the dizzy nervousness that hits before a job interview, first date or dreaded dentist appointment. Nerves are rarely welcome, but totally normal. And surprisingly, they don't have to get the best of you.
"Anxiety seems to live with us daily," says Michael Reina, a marriage and family therapist with Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. "People tend to ruminate on things they have no control over, anticipate worst-case scenarios or compare themselves unfavorably to others."
When faced with a difficult situation, the nervous system releases cortisol and adrenaline. Stress puts your body in a heightened state, and if experienced frequently, could have an overall negative affect on your body. But in general, the physical symptoms of nerves — such as sweating, elevated heart rate and indigestion — are natural responses to life's challenges. Experienced in small doses, they can help you perform tasks more efficiently and provide a sense of accomplishment.
But looking at the positive side of nerves isn't always easy. Especially when you're in the thick of it. So Reina has five simple suggestions to help you ditch the jitters:
Shallow, rapid breaths prevent your lungs from offering their full calming potential. Breathe deeply and slowly, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Take inventory of your body. Where is all the tension building? Focus on releasing it through slow body movements or stretching.
Tap and distract.
Use an energy-based intervention by rapidly tapping on the "karate chop point" of either hand — between the top of the wrist and the base of the pinkie finger — for 6 to 10 seconds. Think to yourself "I have this [fear or problem], but I accept myself." This alternative acupressure therapy treatment can restore balance to your disrupted energy.
Shift your mindset.
Train your brain to focus on the task at hand, and not on possible outcomes. Analyzing what may happen can only fog your mind and negatively affect your performance.
Drink water (and skip caffeine).
Increased heart rate, sweating and heavy breathing can cause dehydration. Because your brain needs water to work properly, set it for success by drinking lots of water.
Once you've fought the nerve war, no matter what the outcome is, don't forget to reward yourself for it. Eat ice cream, take a walk or pamper yourself somehow. Give your mind and body some downtime. And most importantly, give yourself a break from your phone or TV.
"Decompressing is so important," says Reina. "Finding a meditative state gives your whole body a break, and allows you to acknowledge yourself for a job well-done."