Four Practical Steps for Controlling Your Nerves and Calming Your Mind

The more prepared I am, the more I’ll be in control, less nervous, less stressed and more focused. – Marilu Henner

Understanding Why You Get Nervous

Are you feeling a little nervous? Are your palms sweating? Is your chest thumping? Are your hands shaking? Okay, great… so what’s the big deal? Everyone gets nervous. Feeling nervous is just a natural and normal part of life, right? In fact, our nervous responses take us back to our caveman days where nervousness helped keep us alert and vigilant when confronted with uncertainty or something unfamiliar.

Nerves often arise while you’re facing something you’re unsure about or while facing intimidating circumstances. They can arise while you’re thinking about what you don’t want, what could potentially go wrong, what people may think, or about what you fear. In fact, nerves often arise when you indulge in bringing up past memories of mistakes and failure into the present moment.

With this in mind, your nerves are nothing more than interpretations you make about your life and circumstances. So in actuality, they aren’t even real, but rather vivid imaginings you concoct in your head. However, as humans, we are not always very rational creatures. As such nerves can often get the better of us even if things don’t quite make sense. But maybe nerves aren’t all that bad. Just maybe there is a little value in feeling nervous that we can potentially take advantage of.

What to do When Feeling Nervous

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Nervousness

It’s common knowledge that feeling nervous can bring about uncontrollable shaking and trembling. This can likewise lead to a lack of clarity of thought where you have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand. Moreover, being nervous can also cause you to feel restless, agitated and tense. All of these symptoms can lead to poor decision-making, hesitation, and reluctance when it comes time to taking action. These are all, of course, disadvantages of nervousness. But as mentioned before, nerves aren’t all bad, it just depends on how you interpret them.

For instance, when you’re feeling nervous what if it simply means that you’re expanding your awareness and understanding of a situation. And because you are feeling somewhat uncomfortable it also means that you’re growing and maybe even about to learn something new and interesting that will gain you valuable experience. With this in mind, stepping outside your comfort zone is often a positive learning experience that can bring about long-term benefits.

Isn’t it interesting how a simple shift in perspective in how we interpret our nerves can dramatically change how we approach each situation? 🙂

Gaining Experience Lessens Nerves

As you gain experience and become more familiar with any area of your life, you will naturally feel less nervous and insecure. In fact, the more familiar you become with something the fewer nerves you will have and the greater self-belief, self-confidence and competence you will gain. Therefore go out there and gain as much experience as you can as often as you can to help put your nerves at ease.

How to Overcome Your Nerves

Here is a step-by-step process that will help you to overcome your nerves:

Step 1: Gain Clarity

First, identify what it is that you’re feeling nervous about.

What exactly is it that I’m feeling nervous about?

Now figure out the causes of your nerves. Common causes of why you might feel nervous could be because you fear that you will embarrass yourself, that you will be rejected or criticized, or that you will make a mistake. In fact, you could even be nervous because you are afraid that you won’t be perfect. Ask yourself:

What is it that I am fearing?

Are these fears justified?

Are these fears real or am I just imagining them?

How are these fears hurting me?

It’s very important to figure out which of your fears are real (physically dangerous) and which are imagined, and only exist in your head. The moment you begin to figure out what is real and what is not is the moment you begin to take control of your nervous responses.

Step 2: Questions Your Fears

Next, it’s important to begin shifting your perspective about your nerves in order to gain a somewhat different view of the situation you are feeling nervous about. Ask yourself:

How else could I view this situation?

What if I was excited instead of nervous?

What if I was curious instead of nervous?

If you get a little stuck with these questions, then simply ask someone else for their opinion and perspective of the situation. Whatever makes you nervous may very well get them excited.

Once you have explored several different perspectives and you are now open to the possibility that maybe you shouldn’t be feeling nervous about this situation, then it’s time to explore worst-case scenarios. Ask yourself:

What’s the worst that could happen?

So what if the worst happened?

Could it potentially be a great learning and growing experience for me?

Every experience is a learning opportunity, and if the worst-case scenario did occur, then at least you are mentally prepared for it and willing to see it as an important and valuable learning experience moving forward.

Step 3: Clarify What You Want

Now you must begin making preparations and start figuring out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it to make sure you get through this experience to the very best of your ability. Ask yourself:

What is my desired outcome?

What obstacles might I face along the way?

What resources might I need such as knowledge, tools or skills that might help me?

How will I acquire these resources?

What specifically must I do?

While you are figuring out what specifically you will do, keep in mind what strategies worked for you in the past and how you handled your emotions when you were nervous. Ask yourself:

What’s worked for me in the past?

How did I handle my emotions at the time?

What can I potentially learn from this?

Your past can be a very valuable resource you can use to help you better prepare for the present moment.

Step 4: Take Small Steps Moving Forward

Finally, take action using small progressive steps.

Please keep in mind that you might at times take a step back. That’s okay, just don’t get too concerned about this. Keep your head up and stay focused on your desired outcome. Just keep moving forward, and you will eventually get through this, and as a result, gain valuable experience that will ease your nerves the next time around.

A Method for Overcoming Your Nerves

What to do Before the Nervous Event

Here are some ideas of what you can do to prepare yourself mentally and physically before the nervous event or circumstances you are about to confront:

Get Enough…

Get enough sleep and rest to stay refreshed and full of energy.

Get enough regular exercise to help you stay healthy and focused.


Ask solution focused questions that help you calm your nerves and focus you on your desired objectives.

Ask people how they tend to handle their nerves. Strategies that worked for them, may also work for you.

Psyche yourself up…

Psyche yourself up by visualizing positive outcomes in advance. Visualize the events and circumstances in your imagination going smoothly from start to finish. The more times you visualize these events the less nervous you are likely to be because visualization is a type of mental rehearsal that can provide you with a greater sense of confidence.

Psyche yourself up with a motivational pep-talk in front of the mirror.

Psyche yourself up with dancing and music. The movement of your body and the beat of the music will get your adrenaline pumping, which is likely to replace your nervous feelings with excitement.

Calm your nerves by…

Calm your nerves by wearing a lavender scent. Lavender has a calming and soothing effect on the body.

Calm your nerves by eating protein, fiber, whole grains and fresh produce. These types of foods can help calm your nerves and settle your body.

Calm your nerves by taking deep breaths using your diaphragm. Slow diaphragmatic breathing can work wonders by helping you settle your mind and relax your body.

Calm your nerves by taking herbs such as Lemon Balm, Kava Kava, and Valerian Root. These herbs will tend to settle your nerves and calm your body.

Avoid at all costs…

Avoid drinking caffeinated products. They will just make you feel more tense and agitated.

Avoid trying to attain perfection. Achieving perfection is impossible. Accept the fact that nobody is perfect and that you are likely to make mistakes. Instead of resisting these mistakes, embrace them and learn from them to improve your performance for next time.

Preparing Yourself for Things that Make You Nervous

What to do During the Nervous Event

Focus primarily on…

Focus on what you can control. There is no point focusing on things that are out of your control. This will only lead to more tension and agitation.

Focus on the present moment. Be mindful of the present moment and what you are doing right now. Don’t think about the future or the possible mistakes you might make or what others may think. Just absorb yourself in the present moment and block out everything else. Focus only on the process of what you are doing and not on the end result.


Always stay positive – thinking as an optimist would:

  • I can do this…
  • This is fun…
  • I am calm…
  • I am excited and curious…

Always maintain control over your breathing making sure that it’s calm, collected and in rhythm.

Always detach yourself emotionally from the situation and from obtaining your desired outcome. Yes, you might very well have doubts about whether or not you can do this. However, this is no time to focus on these doubts. Therefore, at this stage remove all the emotional investment you have in this and just focus on working through the process in the present moment.


Try acting as if you’re confident. Sometimes faking confidence can bring about the confidence you need to get through a nerve-racking event.

Try counting to ten or five or three, whatever suits you. This is especially valuable when your nerves start getting the better of you. During moments such as these, simply relax, clear your mind and begin counting backward from five to one. When you reach the number one, begin where you left off and just keep moving forward.

Try vigorously moving your body or simply walking with intensity and purpose. This can almost instantly help you feel more confident, alive and in control of your circumstances. It’s important to remember that often when we’re nervous we will usually move in a very timid and sluggish way. When you get into the habit of doing the opposite by moving your body with intensity and purpose, you are more likely to get out of your nervous funk.

Try turning your nerves into excitement, passion, curiosity, humor, and fuel for action. This comes back to simply shifting your perspective about what you are feeling in the moment. For instance, don’t think of yourself as feeling nervous. Instead turn your nerves into excitement or passion. This alone can provide you with the momentum you need to get you through this nerve-racking event.

How to Calm Your Nerves

What to do After the Nervous Event

Congratulations. You went through this nerve-racking event and you survived. It’s now time to learn from your experience so that you can do better in the future. Ask yourself:

How did I handle my nerves?

What worked well for me?

Where could I improve?

What can I learn from this?

What will I do differently next time?

The more thorough you are with answering these questions, the better aware and prepared you will be the next time you are confronted with a nervous situation.

How to Feel Less Nervous

Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Did you gain value from this article? Is it important that you know and understand this topic? Would you like to optimize how you think about this topic? Would you like a method for applying these ideas to your life?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I’m confident you will gain tremendous value from using the accompanying IQ Matrix for coaching or self-coaching purposes. This mind map provides you with a quick visual overview of the article you just read. The branches, interlinking ideas, and images model how the brain thinks and processes information. It’s kind of like implanting a thought into your brain – an upgrade of sorts that optimizes how you think about these concepts and ideas. 🙂

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Gain More Knowledge…

Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:

Six Steps for Calming Your Nerves

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