How To Stop Being Nervous (3 methods for LASTING calm)

When I first heard what I’m about to share with you – I was shocked.

It didn’t make any sense. Actually, a lot of things human beings do or feel don’t make much sense, but this one took the cake.

A 1973 study at the University of Nebraska asked people to rank their most common fear. And…it wasn’t death. It wasn’t spiders. It wasn’t snakes, or the dentist, or a some sadist combination of all of these.

Actually, it was public speaking. Simply talking in front of a group of people. Something you’ve probably done in some form, your whole life.

But why are people so averse to speaking in public? Why is it the most common fear? Because no one likes to feel nervous.

The etymological root of nervousness is “in the nerves.” Nervousness isn’t something we ‘do’ in the head. It’s not something we can switch on and off with a positive thought. It’s something that happens in the body.

Depending on our psychological make up, it can be caused by seemingly nothing.

Maybe a friend makes a comment that sounds like a criticism, or your boss doesn’t smile back like she usually does. As soon as that feeling or nervous tension is triggered, the monkey mind can spin out of control for hours. Is your friend mad at you? Are you going to get fired? Is your dog sick? Are you sick? Are you going to die? Eventually your nerves calm down and the thoughts subside. But something tells you it’s just a matter of time before there’s something new to worry about.

But why can’t we get over these feelings of nervousness?

You’ve done your research. Maybe you’ve even been to a therapist. Maybe you’re a little anxious, maybe you’re very anxious. The point is, you want to know what you can do to feel better? What can you do to manage this nervousness and not be entirely dependent on medication. Fortunately, there’s good news—there are other ways to feel better. Just because you nervousness is a problem for you now, it doesn’t need to be that way forever.

Why Do We Get Nervous?

Fear is an important survival tool that we inherited from our hunter-gatherer. Importantly, we humans weren’t always the top of the food chain,  we were also, at one point, the hunted.

Historian Yuval Noah Harari explains this in his landmark book, Sapiens;

“This is a key to understanding our history and psychology. Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being hunted by larger predators. It was…only in the last 100,000 years – with the rise of Homo sapiens – that man jumped to the top of the food chain….. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous.”

Being a little on edge and ready to jump and run at the first sudden noise helped our early ancestors survive in a dangerous world.

This feeling of being on edge is also known as the stress response. When something nearby threatens us, we are startled into action by the autonomic nervous system, a system that runs down the spine and connects the brain with our internal organs and circulatory system.

The stress response starts in a part of the brain called the amygdala. When we perceive a threat in the environment, the amygdala sends nerve signals to the hypothalamus, which relays the message to the rest of the body through the branch of the autonomic nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system.

The cascade of physical effects this sparks in the body is sometimes the fight-or-flight response. When your sympathetic nervous system is active, you might:

  • Breathe more rapidly
  • Sweat more than usual
  • Feel your heart beating faster
  • Experience an elevated body temperature
  • Become more energetic and start pacing or shaking

We have this system to thank not only for our ability to run from physical danger, but also for our reactions to social threats like blushing when we feel embarrassed. People who are more nervous than others tend to have a more active sympathetic nervous system. While people with post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder tend to have a permanently hyper-active sympathetic nervous system, nervous people usually experience symptoms that are on the same spectrum. They may be milder, but steadier—a background hum rather than a sudden crescendo.

Why Am I So Nervous?

Some people who feel nervous all the time have anxiety disorders. They experience a range of symptoms related to anxiety that cause significant distress and interfere with their ability to function in everyday life. Some common anxiety disorders are:

  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are now classified differently, but they were originally understood to be anxiety disorders. Each disorder causes different patterns of response to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Some people use the terms “anxious” and “nervous” interchangeably. Generally, however, anxiety refers to something more severe than nervousness. If the reason you’re nervous is that you have an anxiety disorder, genetic factors may be the cause, or you may have experienced one or more traumatic events in your life you haven’t recovered from. In either case, anxiety disorders require treatment to manage and resolve.

If your nervous symptoms are less severe than symptoms of anxiety disorders, but still play a significant role in your life, you may have what psychiatrists used to call a “neurotic” personality type.

Basically, this means you get more stressed out by everyday events than other people do but function relatively normally without treatment. You might worry more, have nervous habits like pacing or babbling nervously when you’re overwhelmed, or constantly play out worst-case scenarios in your mind. The good news when you’re nervous or neurotic is that a lot of the same techniques that help people with anxiety disorders can actually help you thrive.

How to Stop Being Nervous (3 Key Secrets)

Anxiety responses and nervous reactions involve both the body and mind. Sometimes the restless, nervous thoughts seem to come first, and sometimes stress in your body is what clearly triggers your mind to start spinning the wheel of worry. In either case, both physical and mental techniques can help to tame an nervous monkey mind.

Calm Your Body

“The body is nothing but the visible aspect of the soul, and the soul is nothing but the invisible aspect of the body.” – Osho

For people with nervous temperaments, whose genes drive heightened stress responses in their bodies, physical interventions can be the most immediate and effective calming tools.

An old-fashioned way to refer to someone with a nervous disposition is to call them “high-strung.” Think of a thrumming rubber band: it’s vibrating with tension and ready to snap. When you’re wired this way, it can be hard to physically relax, which also keeps your mind spinning. Learning how to calm your body can help you counteract this nervous tension.

Engaging in relaxing physical activities takes your sympathetic nervous system offline and activates its counterpart, the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the system in your body that helps you relax so you can sleep, digest food, and restore your energy. Physical activities that promote the relaxation response include:

  • Walking
  • Breathing deeply
  • Playing with a pet
  • Spending time in nature
  • Using grounding techniques
  • Doing vigorous aerobic exercise
  • Doing yoga or other stretching exercises
  • Practicing progressive relaxation exercises
  • Enjoying baths or other calming everyday activities
  • Soothing your gut with food, herbs, and supplements

High-energy physical activity revs up your sympathetic nervous system at first but then wears it out so it can rest afterward. The rush of endorphins that follows can be an immediate antidote to anxiety. When high-impact cardio is too much, stretching exercises that relax your muscles can help you release corresponding mental tension. Taking a bath has a similar effect, which you can enhance by surrounding yourself with calming scents. Walking can help you gather your thoughts, and walking in nature has additional anxiety-busting benefits.

One of the simplest ways to be carefree and relax is to sit or lie in place and ground yourself in awareness of your immediate surroundings and sensations. In progressive relaxation exercises, you focus your attention on one part of your body after another, releasing tension as you go. Grounding exercises direct your attention to objects in the room or to other simple features of your environment.

The most timeless way to connect with the present moment is to focus on your breathing. As you place your attention on the sensation of the breath in your belly, your breathing naturally slows down. It can sometimes help to count to a certain number as you breathe in and out. Focus on the sensation of your diaphragm rising and falling as you breathe through your nose.

You Live What You Eat

What you eat and drink has a huge effect on your mental health. You might be aware that caffeine and other stimulants can make you feel nervous and jittery, but that’s only the beginning. Spicy food can also activate the sympathetic nervous system. Foods that are hard to digest or high in fat can make you feel sluggish and confused and make it harder for your brain to focus and let go of negative thoughts. Alcohol might temporarily calm you down but can also cause you to feel more anxious after it wears off than you otherwise would have been.

Digestive problems can trigger anxiety, so eating foods that ease digestion can counteract it. Fermented foods and beverages like pickles, yogurt, kefir, and kombucha can be as soothing to the mind as they are to the gut. In addition to promoting gut health, eating high-fiber foods can combat nervousness by helping you feel full, which kicks the parasympathetic nervous system into action. For people who are sensitive to fermented or high-fiber foods, taking probiotic supplements is another great option.

Many herbs and supplements are well known as anti-anxiety aids. Research shows that adaptogens like rhodiola, tulsi, and ashwagandha help the mind cope with stress. Other studies show that l-theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, has anti-stress effects. This means that when you need an energy boost, drinking tea can be a great choice as the calming effects of l-theanine may counteract some of the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine.

Reprogram Your Mind

Another way to overcome anxiety or nervousness is to tackle your worried thoughts head-on. Whether your anxiety begins in your thoughts or your body, it tends to be your mind that keeps it going. Several activities and cognitive techniques can distract you from your thoughts, change how you interpret them, or deprive them of their power:

  • Journaling
  • Meditating
  • Being creative
  • Practicing inquiry
  • Distracting yourself
  • Setting calm anchors
  • Engaging in anxious reappraisal
  • Using cognitive behavioural techniques
  • Practicing mindfulness for nervousness
  • Doing exposure therapy for specific situations

Thoughts only have power when you believe in them, and many therapeutic methods for anxiety work by undermining stressful thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and inquiry techniques like Byron Katie’s Work and The Sedona Method use different strategies, but they all work by disrupting the link between thinking and emotion. In CBT, you uncover the way distorted thoughts drive fear and anxiety. In The Work, you ask whether something you’re thinking is true. In The Sedona Method, you learn how to let feelings go.

Another neat way to counteract anxiety is to trick your brain into thinking you’re excited instead of anxious. This is called anxious reappraisal. Both excitement and anxiety are triggered by the same cues from the sympathetic nervous system. The only difference is that we like how it feels to be excited but don’t like how it feels to be anxious. It’s amazing how different it feels to say, “I’m excited about my interview” instead of “I’m nervous about my interview.”

Another way to trick your brain is to create calm anchors, or physical gestures that evoke soothing memories of how you felt when good things happened to you. This technique helps you reset responses to events or circumstances you experience as negative because of what happened in the past. Similarly, exposure therapy, or reframing and gradually exposing yourself to situations that make you anxious, can help re-wire your brain’s response to anxiety triggers.

There are other ways to deprive your nervous thoughts of their power. In meditation and mindfulness, you learn how to let thoughts come and go without grasping on to them or feeding them. As you stop engaging with your thoughts, they start to slow down. It’s also harder to get hooked by a worried thought when you see it as something your brain is doing rather than a truth you must believe.

Doing something creative can counter anxiety on two different levels. The creative activity can serve as a distraction, but it can also turn negative thoughts and feelings into fuel, transmuting them into beautiful or healing images, music, or stories. In either case, the state of gentle focus and engagement you experience in a creative flow state can take you out of anxious thinking, help you feel in control, and even produce endorphins.

Journaling can induce a flow state, as any form of writing can, but it can also be an excellent problem-solving tool. Writing freely, without concern that anyone will see or judge what you write, can help you organise your thoughts and see them more clearly. As you form thoughts into a linear narrative, you can follow them to a solution or to a new point of view.

Master Your Monkey Mind and Master Your Nervousness

Any of the tools mentioned in this article can help you feel less nervous. Sometimes, however, people find the right approach that always does the trick for them, but this isn’t always what happens. It can feel exhausting when you’re constantly trying new techniques to tame your anxiety.

For a deeper dive into why you might be nervous all the time, check out the Project Monkey Mind Mastery Course. In it, I go over many of the techniques touched on here, and put them under the Monkey Mind framework. You’ll understand how to use the three pillars of self-control, self-knowledge, and self-transcendence to achieve long-lasting calm. With deeper insight into the different aspects of mind, you can change your brain’s patterns on a more fundamental level and enjoy a more lasting peace.

Click HERE to Learn More!

Why Following Your Passion is Terrible Advice and What You Should do Instead

Do you ever feel like your work life could be more rewarding?

I mean, it’s paying the bills, and you’re grateful to have it. And it’s certainly not the worst job in the world.

Like many of us, you probably have good days and bad days, but when all is said and done, there is still something missing.

The truth is the problem isn’t with the job. And it’s not even with the type of work.

The problem is where you’ve been looking for rewards.

American novelist Charles Bukowski famously said: “My dear, find what you love and let it kill you.”

Which, by the way, is terrible advice.

Don’t follow your passion blindly until it kills you. That will never get you out of a mental rut.

The saying should be: “Find what you love and let it fuel you.”

Why you’ve been chasing fool’s gold

Let’s get something clear.

You don’t work just for money, you work for gold.

More specifically, you work for psychological gold.

What I mean is that what you want to get out of your work is a fulfilling experience. We’re all pursuing a deeper meaning. The only reason anyone ever wants to profit is so they can have mental wealth in their life.

Part of it is the stability that comes with consistent income; being able to put food on the table, pay medical bills, go on holiday every year. But a lot of it is also the other feelings that come with the job.

“There’s a well-known gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps who explains to his young Marines when they complain about pay, that they get two kinds of salary – a financial salary and a psychological salary. The financial salary is indeed meager. But the psychological salary? Pride, honor, integrity, the chance to part of a corps with a history of service, valor, glory; to have friends who would sacrifice their lives for you, as you would for them – and to know that you remain a part of this brotherhood as long as you live. How much is that worth?” – Steven Pressfield, The Warrior Ethos

You have a psychological salary that is far more important than your financial one. The psychological salary is your experience. But even figuring out what that is can be difficult. And I expect that most of the advice you’ve had is flawed.

We’re all mining our own minds for this gold. But while some signs point to where we might find it, they don’t always lead us in the right direction.

And the one bit of advice that we’ve heard over and over in the last 20 years…

Follow your Passion!

We hear it all the time.

I like to call it The Passion Fallacy.

It goes a little something like this:

Figure out what you are passionate about. Find a career that allows you to pursue whatever the thing is. Follow that career path. Make money, kick ass, live happily ever after, etc., etc.

Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.

Passion is just one ingredient that will lead you to a fulfilling work life. And it’s also somewhat misleading.

As we’ll see, there are a number of reasons that following your passion can be a problem:

Passion means different things to different people

To some people, passion may mean “pursuing an area in which you are most interested in the content of the work.” To others, it may mean “the feeling that gets you up in the morning”, or “the idea that occupies most of your mental time.”

These can all be very different things. What gets you up in the morning may be playing basketball, but most of us can’t play in the NBA.

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The idea that occupies most of your mental time may be writing horror novels, but most of us aren’t Steven King.

Follow your passion is inherently confusing because of this incongruence. And now, because the phrase has been so overused in recent years, it’s loaded with preconceptions.

All of this makes ‘following your passion’ very limiting when it comes to work opportunities and living out your dream.

Many of us don’t have a tangible passion

If we look at the definition of passion as a strong emotion, what we realize is that a lot of us just don’t have a solid and well-defined passion.

You might be most passionate about socializing with your friends or board games or listening to classical music – but how are you going to turn that into a profession?

Passions change

What you’re passionate about one day, you may not be passionate about the next.

Typically people are not chasing things; they’re chasing feelings.

Because the nature of feelings is so transient, it’s inevitable that they’ll change over time. Creating a work-life around a passion is therefore financially unstable as that passion will change and you may decide you no longer want to do it as work.

Seeking your passion can make you depressed

Passion is like happiness. The more time you spend seeking it, the more time you will spend ruminating, and the more depressed you’ll be when you don’t spend every minute of your day experiencing it.

…which leads us to a hugely important point:

Passion is unsustainable

Passion is a strong emotion, and the nature of emotions means that they’ll ebb and flow and rise and fall. To expect to be fueled by passion alone is not only unrealistic, it’s pretty damn irresponsible.

You need to find a way to get rewards from your work irrespective of your emotional state.

Likewise, if you don’t know the job first hand you may be confusing the idea with the real-world experience.

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It may be obvious to hear aloud, but many people overlook the fact that to be passionate about a job you need to have experienced it!

A lot of people can be passionate about the idea of being an actor; far fewer are passionate about the actual day-to-day grind.

We don’t always want our hobby to become our job

Sometimes the best thing about our hobby is the inherent lack of structure, responsibility, and need to achieve specific goals.

We can pick it up and put it down when we want; we don’t have the stress of having it be related to money; it’s not being judged by other people, and we don’t feel like we have to do it every day.

Turning a passionate hobby into a job may just take the passion out of the hobby!

And most important of all:

What if your passion doesn’t pay (or is really expensive)

Want to know one hobby I’m really passionate about?

Scuba diving.

And no, I don’t want to become a scuba diving instructor.

What I like about scuba diving is the tranquility. Being relaxed underwater without other people around, not having to think about anything apart from what is right in front of you. I also enjoy the diversity of the dives, the different countries, reefs, fish, and coral.

I can’t think of anything that would put out the fire I have for scuba diving more than if I had to take groups of (often nervous) people to the same dive sites over and over again.

I like that I can only do it a couple of times a year and how it gives me something to look forward to.

Reverse engineering the Passion Fallacy

There is a way to be passionate about your work, and it’s not by following your passions.

It’s by creating them.

Have you ever met someone you’d call a passionate person? They just seem to be enthusiastic about everything they do? They probably looked to be pretty talented as well.

This isn’t a coincidence, what these people do is pretty simple:

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They grow new passions.

“Follow your passion is a nice slogan, but we need more than slogans; we need systems, supported by evidence, that actually work.” – Cal Newport

So here’s what I propose:

If you want to be passionate, don’t make your passion into a job. Instead, create a lifestyle that you can passionately engage with.

Here’s an alternative four-step roadmap towards fulfillment in your life.

Decide on a lifestyle that will make you happy

This is important; most people never ask the question to themselves, although really it should be the first one you ask.

Unfortunately answering this question requires a level a self-awareness that most people don’t have. It’s not uncommon for many of us to never know what makes us happy.

For example, consider these questions.

What time of day do you want to do the majority of your work?

Do you want to be sitting, standing or moving?

How much money do you need to support your lifestyle and your hobbies?

Example:

You love to surf more than anything in the world. And you want a lifestyle that allows you to go to the beach at least once a day, preferably in the morning.

In this case, surfing is your Psychological Gold!

Choose a job that supports the lifestyle

Depending on what part of the world you’re in, a yoga instructor may make less than an IT specialist. But if your personal goal is to spend less than four hours a day sitting, you’ll be better off teaching in a yoga studio than being hunched over a desk.

Example:

Though banking may not be your passion, you see that a small surf town near your city is growing quickly, banks are increasing their number of branches, and they’re hiring. This job would allow you to go to the beach once or even twice a day.

Cultivate a skill that will bring you success in the job

Again, this is pretty straightforward. Once you determine the job you want, you need to figure out what skill is going to bring you success and help you to support that lifestyle.

Example:

You’ve always been pretty good with people, so you decide to learn the ins and outs of professional networking and apply for an Account Manager position.

Leverage this skill to create the lifestyle you want

When you find the lifestyle you want and are fortunate enough to be in a position to live it, you’ll find you’ll have far more focus and motivation than you’ve had before. You’ll naturally have more energy than you usually do, and you’ll develop a more positive attitude towards your work and begin to see it as an active challenge, rather than a drain on your wellbeing.

Example:

You land the job and are able to work from 9 to 5 while surfing once or twice a day.

Conclusion

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The first step in creating a lifestyle that gives you energy and vitality is to truly understand what kind of life you want.

It requires a level of self-awareness and introspection that you may not be accustomed to yet, or that you’ve felt you’ve had little time to engage in recently.

Take a little time to cultivate this skill, and you’ll soon figure out what sort of lifestyle is going to make you feel good.

What’s your Psychological Gold? Let us know in the comments!

 

P.S. Don’t forget to download your free eBooks over at NoiseTrade.com

Morning Mastery: The Simple 20 Minute Routine for Long-Lasting Energy, Laser-Sharp Focus and Stress Free Living

The Mindful Workplace: 27 Ways to Declutter Your Mind, Defeat Distraction, and Find Your Focus at Work