10 instant tips to help calm your nerves at work

Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK
17 August 2018

In order to reach our goals, it means we often have to step out of our comfort zone and perhaps do things that make us feel nervous. It might be a job interview, a big presentation, a performance conversation or pitching a new idea or campaign. If you’re about to push yourself into something new and need a bit of help calming those last minute nerves, try out some of the techniques below.

A business woman holding a microphone

Different things work for different people, so it’s a good idea to bear this in mind. But as Benjamin Mee (author of We bought a zoo) said: “You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”

1. Acknowledge that you’re nervous

Nerves are normal. It’s your body’s inbuilt fight or flight system at work. It’s designed to help you by releasing adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone). This helps you to become more alert so that you can act quickly. It also speeds up your heart rate so your blood pumps to the areas of your body that need it most. So tip one is not to try to completely get rid of feeling nervous, or be angry or disappointed that you feel nervous. Everyone does to some degree, even if they don’t look it. It’s an automatic reaction and in small amounts can help you to perform.

2. Move your body

Whether it’s going for a walk or doing some stretches, try moving your body to help you relax. We often think we have to be still to relax but this isn’t the case. Going for a walk before a big meeting, for example, can help you relax in just a few minutes.

3. Don’t over fuel on caffeine

Depending on what effect coffee or tea has on you, if you’ve got a job interview or important meeting coming up, it might be better to go easy on the caffeine. Too much can make you feel jittery and shaky, which, if you’re already feeling nervous, may not be helpful. Instead, make sure you keep well hydrated with non-caffeinated drinks, such as water. Not drinking enough fluids can make you feel foggy and you may find it hard to concentrate.

4. Try a breathing technique

Breathing deeply can help you feel calmer. Try breathing in through your nose for four counts and then out though your mouth for another four counts. Put your hand on your stomach – you should be able to feel it rise and fall with your breath. Be conscious of your body and try to keep it relaxed. For example, check that you’re not hunching your shoulders or stooped over.

5. Get into the zone

Some people find it helps to get in the zone and have a few moments to adjust their mind for an upcoming event. Try popping your headphones in and listening to some of your favourite music. You may have noticed lots of athletes do this just before a big race. It’s a good way to relax and filter out the background noise and any worries that might be creeping in ahead of an important event.

6. Use your imagination

Practise this relaxation technique by closing your eyes for a few moments and thinking about a calm and peaceful place. It could be your bedroom at home, a beach you visited once on holiday, or somewhere calming you’ve never been but can imagine in your mind. Hone in on the details of the place – what it looks, smells and sounds like.

7. Seek out moral support

Connect with someone – a friend or family member. Send them a quick text or email. Or let people know when your job interview or presentation is going to take place so they can send you a message of encouragement beforehand.

8. Surround yourself with self-help material

Pick some self-help reading material that gives you a boost. This could be saving some inspirational quotes on your phone or reading an extract from a book on your kindle. You could keep a list on your phone or in your wallet of all the reasons why you are capable, able to succeed and qualified to do what you’re about to do. Having these to hand can help remind you of your strengths and help you prepare for something you’re nervous about doing.

9. Keep your eye on the prize

Sometimes, if nerves are getting the better of us, we can start to self sabotage and want to duck out of doing what we know will ultimately be good for us long term. If this starts to happen, think about how great you’ll feel after you’ve given that speech or presentation. Think about the long-term gains and outcomes and how it’s going to improve your sense of confidence and career.

10. Reward yourself

It takes courage to pursue your goals and get out of your comfort zone. Take a few minutes to be proud of yourself for doing it. After a job interview or presentation, give yourself a little reward for your bravery. It could be a coffee from your favourite cafe, a trip to a nail bar, a magazine or a movie. Having something nice lined up for after a nerve-wracking meeting or event can give you something to look forward to.

Bupa health insurance aims to provide you with the specialist care and support you need, as quickly as possible. Find out how you can benefit.

Pablo Vandenabeele
Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK

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Bupa health insurance aims to provide you with the specialist care and support you need, as quickly as possible. Find out how you could benefit.