The science behind getting nervous and how to combat it

February 13, 2014
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Why do we get so nervous?

Does the thought of going to an interview make you sweat? The very thought of a first date make your stomach flutter? These are natural reactions to stress. When you feel stress, your brain sends a signal from the pituitary gland to the adrenal glands where a release of adrenaline is triggered.

When the adrenaline is released, your body reacts by increasing circulation to your heart and muscles in preparation for “fight or flight.” But, no reaction to stress is universal. Each stress presents a “threat level” ranging from mild to life-threatening. An example of a mild stress might be a date, or the first day at a new job. The stronger the perceived threat, the more intense the reaction to stress may be.

bar The science behind getting nervous and how to combat it
So how do you effectively combat these feelings so that you can effectively manage your stress? Olympic athletes use mental imagery to quiet feeling of intense nervousness before a competition. You can take the same principles and apply it to your own stressful situation.



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One technique termed “cognitive specific imagery,” suggests you imagine yourself competing, interviewing, dating, speaking, presenting, or whatever else may make you nervous beforehand. And science has proven, by imagining yourself doing what makes you nervous neurons in the brain are activated and you become better at your imagined skill.

How athletes are actually getting rid of nerves

Athletes also use motivation specific imagery to recall a time when they succeeded to bring back those same feelings, in order to dissuade the nervousness. And finally, motivational general mastery is commonly used by athletes to feel more confident, but you can tap in to it as well. Simply, imagine yourself focused, prepared, confident, and ready-to-go. This will help you gain confidence and overcome your nerves about upcoming events.

Whether you are training for an Olympic event, or preparing for an interview, nothing can kill confidence faster than nerves. Relax. Take a deep breath. And imagine yourself succeeding. You may be surprised how quickly these seemingly simple techniques can quiet your “fight or flight” response to stress. And when you are relaxed you are more likely to showcase the best version of yourself and succeed.

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