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The A to Z of Emotions – N is for Nervous

What happens when you feel nervous, do you have clammy hands, feel a bit sick and faint or do you get excited and can’t sit still?  Being nervous can sometimes make us freeze and not take action, but it can also spur us into doing things and give us the kick we need to move forward.  In this blog, I want to highlight the positive aspects of being nervous and how we can use it to help us achieve more if we just dip our toe in the water.

Very recently, I was ‘leader’ of part of a Zoom training session called Mastermind.  It is something I’d volunteered for and even when I put my name forward for this back in January, it made me nervous thinking of actually doing this.  However, I wanted to push myself, and although it got me out of what I considered my comfort level, I knew that I’d be safe with the people who ran the training.  My role as ‘leader’ was to set out how Mastermind worked and try to energise everyone as it’s held on a Thursday evening when people may be a bit low on energy having worked all day.

My nerves started a few days before so to give myself the best chance of getting all the details right, I wrote a script.  I wrote it how I would say it and over the next few days, I read it back to myself so I knew it off by heart.  Doing the preparation helped me in that I knew what I was going to say so my nervous level in that respect went down.  When it came to the actual event, I just reminded myself that I was in a safe environment, both physically by being at home, and virtually, having a friendly faces on the zoom.  So I used the nerves that I felt to get excited about this opportunity I’d been given and just went for it!  I ended up thoroughly enjoying the experience and was pleased that I’d done it – it was something I would never have dreamed of doing a year ago and I’m proud of that achievement.  Next time you get an opportunity to do something that you might not have considered doing before or feel you ‘can’t’ do, take a leap of faith and jump in, let your nerves create excitement and adrenaline to try new things, you never know where this may take you and life may become more exciting.

So what can happen when nerves get the better of us?  It can mean missing out on an experience, a job, an event, even a relationship.  I can think of a time a few years ago when my nervousness cost me a job I’d really wanted.  I’d landed an interview at a very famous establishment and went through rigorous screening to get through the door.  In the first interview I was nervous, but just thought I was lucky to get that far, but by the second interview my nerves had developed further as I really wanted the job.  At the third and final interview I was asked to go along to meet the whole team and we sat around having a cup of tea and chatting.  They were doing their best to put me at my ease, but I was so anxious and nervous to make the right impression, that I wasn’t being myself and just clammed up.  The worst thing was that I was aware that I was doing this and wanted to just say “this isn’t really me, I’m not normally like this!”, and in hindsight, if I’d actually said that, I might have calmed down and been more myself.  The call came the next day and it was no surprise that I didn’t get the job.  Being so incredibly nervous had cost me.

What I’d realised is that getting myself all worked up and not being myself had done the damage.  Going back to the Mastermind event, I was given advice the day before and was told that most importantly, I should be myself.  So next time you feel nervous about anything, give yourself a pep talk and let yourself shine through – it’s you people want to see and not a different person that you might think they want to see.

When it comes to being nervous in a social situation, remember again to be yourself.  Most of us have been in that awkward position where we’ve gone into a room full of people and they all seem to know each other.  I’ve done that before where I went to a conference, didn’t know anyone and hid in the ladies toilet right up until the conference started, then slid in at the back so I didn’t have to talk to anyone.  I knew I couldn’t keep doing this so next time I went to such an event, I walked into the room confidently, found a seat in the middle of a row (so that I had to talk to someone either side) and greeted people as they filled seats.  As soon as I said hello to a couple of people and passed the time of day, my nervousness went – these people weren’t out to get me, they were there for the same reason I was.  So again, I used the nervousness I felt, plucked up my courage and jumped right in.  If you feel you’re stuck for something to say, honesty is always the best policy and you could admit that you’re not used to being in these situations, then ask the person you’re talking to if they’re a regular at these events (the new way of saying “do you come here often?”)!

I have spoken a few times at Warwick University as a patient representative, talking to healthcare professionals about my experience of blood clotting.  The first time I did this, I couldn’t get out of my head that these people were surgeons, doctors and nurses and that in my mind they were all amazing people who did fantastic things – I basically put them all on pedestals.  When it came to doing my talk, I felt sick, dizzy and thought I was going to pass out before I’d spoken.  However, I had notes on cards with me so had something to hold which helped and before I started, I introduced myself and said to the group that it was my first time sharing my story, that I was a bit nervous and that I’d like to use my notes.  One very kind doctor said at once “of course, we’re grateful for you being here”.  This made me relax immediately and I managed to do my talk without a hitch.  So, we can all do our bit to make others feel more comfortable if we see that they’re nervous, be kind and calm and this will help to put them at their ease.

If you experience problems with nervousness, give me a call on 07969 489705 or contact me here for a free consultation, talking about it helps and makes it more manageable.

Next month – O is for Optimistic.  Are you an optimist or a pessimist, or perhaps you don’t know?  During the Coronavirus pandemic you may have been more of one than the other.  I’ll be looking at how being optimistic has improved my life and made me calmer.

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