How to stop being nervous

Clammy hands? Racing heart? Shaky voice? We’ve all been nervous at one point or another, but it can get pretty annoying when it's a common occurrence. Find out why we get nervous, how to know when it’s become a problem, and ways to get relief.

This can help if:

  • you can’t control your nerves

  • your nerves prevent you from doing the things you want and need to do

  • you want practical strategies for stopping being nervous.

Guy and girl with book on her head

Why do we get nervous?

The good news is that feeling nervous is completely normal. In fact, it’s an evolutionary reaction that’s programmed into our brains!

When you’re confronted with a stressful situation (whether it’s a growling unchained dog or a job interview) you have the same biological reaction, just to different degrees. Your body’s nervous system (your fight-or-flight response) takes over, adrenaline (the hormone that prepares the body for sudden, physical activity) is released, and blood and energy are redirected to your heart and muscles to prepare them to react to the ‘threat’. This is why we feel physical symptoms when we’re nervous.

To find out more about what it's like when your nerves get out of control, and what you can do to feel in control, listen to this audio story: A Day in the Life: Social Anxiety.

Nerve-busting strategies

There are lots of reasons why we might feel nervous; but if your nerves are stopping you from doing the things you want or need to do, it’s time to try out some nerve-busting strategies.

1. Breeeeathe

When you focus on slowing your breathing, you can actually short-circuit your nervous system – meaning, you’ll start to feel calmer and less agitated.

2. Think positive

When you feel your nerves creeping up on you, a handy question to ask yourself is: What’s the best thing that can happen? Thinking positively about the bigger picture and visualising it, instead of assuming the worst, helps give you courage and perspective.

3. Practise, practise, practise

Rehearsing as much as possible, whether it’s in front of a mirror or with a friend, is one of the best things you can do to avoid feeling nervous about a particular activity. When you practise something, you strengthen the connections in your brain. The stronger those connections are, the more skilled you become at doing it. Not to mention, the more confident you feel about doing something, the easier it will be to do.

4. Look after yourself

If a big event is coming up, it’s easy to forget that you’re an actual human with basic needs such as food and sleep. Sometimes eating a full meal might seem like the last thing you want to do before an event that’s making you feel nervous. If this is the case, just eat a banana instead. It’s a great snack food that will give your brain a good boost of energy. Getting enough sleep is also important for feeling super-fresh and on the ball.

If your nerves are getting the better of you

Nerves can sometimes be hard to shake. If you’ve tried out all these methods but you’re still finding it difficult to deal with certain situations, there might be something bigger going on. If this is the case, get in touch with a GP or talk to a trusted friend or family member about it. Feeling nervous shouldn't stop you from living your life.

What can I do now?

  • Download the ReachOut Breathe app and learn some effective breathing exercises.

  • Learn how mindfulness can help you cope with nervousness.

  • Check out these easy ways to relax.