Steps You Can Take To Ease Your Nerves Before A Big Moment

We've all had big moments that have lingered over us and provoked our nerves to spike. Even the most confident and self-assured among us aren't immune to experiencing the sensation of having butterflies in one's stomach as a monumental moment, major presentation, or public speech draws closer. Nerves are normal, so the first thing that must be done is eliminating any stigma, embarrassment, or shame around feeling nervous. Trying to suppress emotional experiences could lead to adverse effects, including increased stress and anxiety, self-isolation, and seeking coping outlets through unhealthy means. The more that stigma can be deconstructed, the more normalized experiences can become and the less likely people will be to seek out unproductive methods of processing emotions and feelings, including nerves and anxiety.

As your calendar shows a big date drawing closer, whether for an event or an impending deadline, there are some common symptoms associated with nervousness that you may begin to notice. Knowing which symptoms are to be expected and which are unusual for your situation is step one, followed by learning how to manage your nerves as they pop up. You can take proactive steps to quell your nerves at various stages leading up to the daunting engagement, from weeks or months out until mere seconds before the actual moment. Here are tips for calming those pesky butterflies fluttering around in your stomach, keeping sweaty palms at bay, and confidently stepping up to the plate for your next momentous occasion. 

Anxiety and nervousness share common symptoms

Terminology associated with anxiety disorders is often misconstrued and used in interchangeable-yet-incorrect contextual descriptions, which ultimately makes being able to discern the difference between typical experiences of nervousness and signs of a more complex underlying anxiety condition difficult to identify. In response to stressful situations, it's normal to feel nervous or anxious, as your body responds to the activation of stress hormones. When you have a stressful event or project looming over you, consider how you cope with your nerves and if you feel capable of self-regulating your anxiety. If you feel overwhelmed by anxious or nervous feelings which you're unable to soothe or remedy on your own, consult with a health care professional about the possibility of experiencing completion anxiety or another anxiety-related condition.

Completion anxiety is the fear of not being able to complete responsibilities, tasks, or benchmarks by the specified due date, and it can ultimately work against itself by creating increased pressure, resulting in decreased productivity. When it comes to a looming deadline or upcoming event involving a performance you'll be giving, signs of completion anxiety which can become apparent include procrastinating, experiencing intense fears of failure, and fretting about the big moment to a point where it interferes with your daily life. Though not everyone experiences completion anxiety or related performance anxiety, there are some fairly universal experiences surrounding big moments and effective ways to manage the corresponding sensations of nervousness and situational anxiety.

Journal about your nerves and anxious feelings

The practice of journaling can help you gain clarity on the upcoming moment instigating your feelings of nervousness. Writing out your thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of how future events will unfold can be beneficial whether you do it only once or you make a habit of it. If the event for which you're preparing is especially important to you, or if you're experiencing excessive nerves, journaling regularly can be a healthy way to cope with your nervous energy, anxieties, or fears; process what you imagine anticipating before, during, and even after the big moment; and generally help you prepare for handling various emotions when the momentous day finally arrives. Often, an event can feel much larger when we envision in our minds how it might go, as there's an underlying foundation of anxiety, nervousness, performance fear, or any type of concern fueled by emotions.

When you have downtime ahead of your event, spend some solo time doing things you enjoy while giving yourself space to check in with yourself, process your recent and upcoming experiences, and connect with yourself and your goals in a manner that grounds you. You may enjoy going for walks in nature to breathe in fresh air and reflect. Engaging in a hobby such as gardening or art can help reduce stress while allowing for self-connection, as can practicing journaling or tarot card readings.  

Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine

If there's a way for you to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, even long before you have a big event on your calendar, you'll find that the practice of being present in the moment will carry over to times of anxiety leading up to big moments. The more you have in your toolbox of mindfulness tactics and the more you practice those techniques, the more capable you'll feel in grounding yourself when you're about to go on stage for a speech, give a presentation at work, or meet a date you've talked to for a while.

Deep breathing exercises can help you in the days leading up to your big moment, as well as the mere minutes beforehand. When you invoke deep breathing, intentionally taking slow, steady breaths and focusing on your inhalation and exhalation, you're calming your central nervous system and taking your body out of a fight-or-flight state of nerves, ultimately grounding yourself in the present moment. Prior to your big day, find a deep breathing exercise that works for you. The many evidence-backed options include box breathing, belly breathing, alternating nostril breathing, and pursed lip breathing. Some exercises require seated positions while others accommodate standing, so try a variety beforehand to find what works for you.

Go back to basics

One of the best ways to ease your nerves in preparation for a big moment is to take care of yourself through the most foundational means. This refers to going back to the absolute basics, which include getting quality sleep each night, eating a vitamin-rich diet that meets your nutritional needs, and drinking a lot of water. Being kind to yourself as you prepare for your event, exam, or upcoming momentous experience by taking care of your body, avoiding all-nighters, and skipping junk foods that will leave you feeling sluggish, among any other habits that help you relax and rejuvenate, will take you far. Remember, your body is connected to your mind and vice versa, so to keep your mind sharp for your big day, you must also prioritize keeping your body in excellent condition.

Remember to be kind to yourself if you are unable to sleep soundly through the night, especially as the date of your big moment nears. Practicing self-compassion and kindness, rather than shaming yourself or feeling guilty for not sleeping a solid eight hours or eating a perfectly healthy diet, are some of the best foundational principles to help you succeed. If you feel particularly nervous on a given night or simply can't sleep, recommendations include taking a warm shower or a calming bath with soothing essential oils and playing soft music or white noise.

Prepare and practice

Preparation is undoubtedly the foundation for achieving optimal performance for your big moment since it will provide you with the skills needed to carry out the task at hand, along with the confidence to reassure yourself you've got everything under control when your nerves creep up. Still, it's worth noting that being as prepared as you possibly can doesn't inoculate you against the possibility of feeling nervous, experiencing jittery sensations or butterflies, or even second-guessing yourself as the moment in question draws closer. But what preparation can do is — quite literally in accordance with its namesake — make you prepared.

Practicing for your big moment, particularly if you're giving a presentation or speech, should take form in a manner that feels most comfortable for you to fully express yourself, rather than feeling stifled if your partner or roommate is within a few feet and their presence makes you feel self-conscious as you rehearse. You may prefer to rehearse in front of a mirror, which can help you see your body language and posture, though some speech experts warn against mirror rehearsing, as it can present opportunities for fixating on minute details of your stature, body language, or appearance that can potentially compound or add to your stress. As an alternative, stagger your practice by rehearsing to yourself, recording your practice runs, and then practicing in front of friends or family as your preliminary rehearsal audience. 

Cultivate confidence and comfort through visualization

Manifestation is a word you may hear a lot, though becoming familiar with what it means and ways to practice manifesting your goals for the future can build up your self-assurance prior to your big moment. To manifest something literally means to create it, and many forms of modern manifestation techniques emphasize visualization of what it is you wish to create in your life. In respect to a forthcoming major event or experience, engaging in manifestation can help you visualize by imagining what the moment itself will feel like as you confidently step onto that stage or into your dream job interview. Scripting, for example, is one manifestation technique that involves journaling.

Robin S. Sharma says in a quote, "Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality." This is how manifestation works, similar to the Law of Attraction where what you envision for yourself is what is attracted into your life. By focusing on how you'll feel in the moment, such as imagining you'll feel excited about an upcoming opportunity, you're likely to discover that how you repeatedly imagine feeling in the moment will be similar to how you actually feel when the time arrives. Practicing feeling and conducting your mannerisms with confidence, perhaps even roleplaying your manifested confidence during your self-rehearsals and before a trusted rehearsal audience, will help you feel and appear genuinely confident when the time comes. 

Rely on your support network

Remember it's completely normal to feel nervous and self-conscious and even to experience self-doubt as you prepare for a big moment and that it's typical to experience fearful thoughts of worst-case scenarios. The catch here is to do exactly that by catching yourself in moments of catastrophizing your impending momentous event and using the coping skills of mindfulness, deep breathing, grounding techniques, and visualization to bring you back to the present moment and a state where you can reassure yourself of your preparation for the upcoming experience.

Don't worry if you aren't perfect at snapping out of fearful or anxious waves of nerves, as you're only human after all. When you're struggling with nerves, having difficulty sleeping as the event draws closer, or needing an extra boost of reassurance, lean on your support network, which might include friends, family members, co-workers, and members of your household, such as a partner or roommate. From acting as your practice audience to giving you helpful feedback, take advantage of your support system because they're cheering you on! 

In addition, activate your love languages. For physical touch, a hug of 20 seconds can release calming neurotransmitters from your brain, resulting in both physical and emotional relaxation, while increasing mood-boosting oxytocin and decreasing cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. Ask for encouragement, preparation help, or the company of a friend, and know your community is behind you. 

Give yourself the gift of grace

A motivational mantra can get you up and going when you're starting to doubt yourself or fall into unproductive habits such as procrastination. Devising an affirmation, mantra, or phrase to repeat can help you maintain your confidence and remind you of all your hard work in preparing for your big moment, also easing anxiety. Establishing a mantra can also be an act of grace-filled self-love, an affirmation for reminding yourself that you deserve compassion, kindness, and empathetic understanding.

Be a member of your own support team by following the wisdom of treating yourself as you'd treat your best friend as they prepare for a big moment similar to the one you're getting ready for. While leading up to your big moment, extending self-grace to yourself is one of the most imperative components, with self-grace defined as a form of resilience in knowing that even if the worst-case scenario occurs, you'll be there for yourself, ready to provide forgiveness and comfort in knowing you'll be okay. Give yourself a hug, recite a supportive affirmation, and cheer yourself on as you take center stage. Once your big moment has finally passed, find a way to celebrate your hard work and accomplishments because you deserve it!