It's totally normal to get nervous before doing something difficult, scary, or completely new to you, but that doesn't mean you'd probably prefer to calm down before doing it. Being in a calmer frame of mind doesn't mean the adrenaline will go away, but it does make for a better position to negotiate, make tough decisions, and generally act like a grown-ass adult. Fortunately, there are people who put themselves into terrifying positions for a living — by standing up in front of a crowd on a regular basis. These three public speaking pros explain how to calm yourself down quickly, based on their myriad experience.
Everybody has their own individual tricks for calming down when they're faced with a nervy situation. Regina Leeds, who does public speaking tours as the Zen Organizer, tells Bustle that her tried and true trick is a breathing exercise. "Here is my favorite: four-seven-eight," Leeds says. "Breathe in through your nose to a count of four. Hold for a count of seven. Breathe out through your mouth for a count of eight. I do this with my audiences and tell them to remember it when they are stressed. Five minutes will do the trick."
Marketing strategist Crystal Washington agrees. "Once stage time is near, I take a few minutes to breathe in deeply." Your breath is a key way in which to control your heart rate and therefore your feelings of anxiety, so sitting with it for a while is a good plan.
However, calming down isn't just about your breath; it's also about your space. Life coach Tanya Wasylewski of Meraki Coaching tells Bustle, "It is easy to get distracted by the thoughts in your mind, so about 10 minutes before I get up to speak I find a quiet space to ground myself. I close my eyes, put my feet on the floor and my hands on my belly. I then breathe deeply into my belly, and imagine that what I am about to say will resonate with the people I am about to speak to, and trust that the right words will come."
Mantras can help, too. "I say a simple prayer: 'Let the words that come out of my mouth be what they need to hear.' Then I let it go," Washington tells Bustle. "The prayer is my way of making it about the information and not me."
If you find yourself getting nervous again, return to these mantras, breathing exercises, and grounding practices. "During the presentation, if I find myself feeling distracted or inarticulate, I will pause and breathe into my belly again to reground myself," Wasylewski says. And, Washington adds, they'll also make you feel comfortable with things that are out of your control. "Letting go is important as [whatever you're doing] may not go as planned," she tells Bustle.
It's also worth looking at the good side of your nerves, say the experts. "Nerves are just energy. Excitement is energy. They exist on the same continuum," says Wasylewski. "If I feel nervous, instead of focusing on nerves, I choose to say ‘I am so excited’. This puts me into a happy space which comes through in my presentation."
Put together, these tips might just get through the next terrifying thing in your life. Remember to breathe, ground yourself, acknowledge your nerves, and let it all go. You'll ace it.