Coping with nervousness and nervous conditions.
Select a Topic
- Signs & Symptoms of Nervousness?
- What Causes Nervousness?
- Nervousness in Children
- Help for Overcoming Nervousness
- Foods to Help Relieve Nervousness
- Tips to Help Manage Nervousness
What is Nervousness?
Nervousness is a common and natural response of the nervous system to stressful situations. In some cases, it can be positive, as when a looming deadline at work makes you focus on a task or when a new relationship gives you butterflies in your stomach1. For some people and in some situations, however, nervousness can be quite incapacitating, leaving you feeling terror-struck at a time when clear thinking and togetherness are required. It’s difficult to impress a future employer in an interview or inspire an audience when your hands are shaky and sweaty, your mind is blank and you’re trying so hard to catch your breath that talking is an afterthought.
Nervousness can be an infrequent, circumstantially bound problem, or it could be the result of another more serious disorder. Either way, help is available, and once the symptoms and causes are understood, nervousness can be managed.
Signs & Symptoms of Nervousness
People react physically in different ways when they are feeling nervous. The following are some of the physical changes that may occur when you are nervous.
- Upset stomach and nausea
- Rapid heartbeat
- Bad Breath (Halitosis)
- Tics and Tremors
- Dry mouth
- Sweaty Hands
- Hot or cold flushes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Feeling restless and agitated
- Dizziness or feeling light-headed
What Causes Nervousness?
Feeling nervous can be a normal reaction to stressful, unknown or intimidating circumstances. It is quite normal to feel nervous before a job interview, before delivering a presentation and even before a doctor’s appointment.
While the situations that give rise to nervous feelings are the triggers, the body changes occur because of an increase of stress hormones released into our blood by the adrenal glands as a response to the anxiety-provoking situation. This is often called the “fight or flight” response because the hormones are meant to help us protect ourselves from a threat. Whether the threat is a mountain lion attacking us or failure in front of colleagues, the physiological response is the same1.
How we cope with these nervous feelings can make all the difference.
Situations that May Cause Nervousness
- Public speaking or performance
- Meeting strangers
- Job interviews
- Starting a new sport or hobby, such as going to the gym or to pottery class for the first time
- Appointments or meetings where you may feel you are going to be ‘put on the spot’ or be the focus of attention such as a meeting with your boss
Of course, nervousness can play a greater role in certain situations and some people are just more prone to feeling nervous or have an underlying condition that heightens nervousness and an overactive stress response. Examples of this include:
- Exam nerves
- Test Anxiety
- Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (children & Adults)
- Caffeine and other stimulants increase nervous tension
- Many prescription medications, as well as illicit substances that also increase nervous tension
Nervousness in Children
Sometimes when children go through a lot of changes in their routine or living conditions, they tend to feel nervous. Common reasons for children to suffer from nervousness include peer pressure to fit in, parental pressure to succeed at school or sports and stressful situations at school like bullying or exams, among others. The symptoms of nervousness in children can come in many different forms depending on the child.
Some children get more hyperactive when they are nervous while others tend to be distracted or uninterested in activities. Whichever response they exhibit, both get physically exhausted very easily. Also, children with an overactive stress response may not have much of an appetite, become easily irritated and often feel restless.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a quick fix for nervousness in children. However, once the root of the problem is identified, it’s easier to treat. Talking with your child about his or her difficulties is a good first step toward helping alleviate nervousness symptoms.
Making sure your child avoids caffeine — including chocolate and caffeinated sodas — and sticks to a healthful diet rich in proteins, fruits and veggies and low on processed foods helps manage any stress he or she might deal with. Exercising with your child is another way to help quell their nervousness. Symptoms of nervousness in children are easily ignored or written off, but they will not go away on their own, so make sure you pay close attention to your child’s demeanor.
Help for Overcoming Nervousness
A little nervousness before an event is not necessarily a bad thing and can even help to improve performance by increasing levels of alertness and vigilance. However, if nervousness becomes bothersome to the point where it affects your ability to perform at work or to enjoy social activities, there are a number of things you can do to manage that overactive stress response.
There are many treatments available to help you manage nervousness, depending on the severity and the underlying cause. It is important to get a professional diagnosis if you think a more serious psychological disorder or medical condition is the underlying cause of your nervousness.
Foods to Help Relieve Nervousness
Carbohydrates have been known to calm a nervous mind, as they release serotonin in the brain. However, they aren’t so good for those trying to cut back on their sugar intake. All carbs — like rice, pasta, potatoes and breads — have been described as comfort foods because they can act as a mild tranquilizer on the body. It is important to stick with complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat breads and pastas to help keep the body satiated without overloading on empty calories.
Alternatively, protein is packed with nervousness-ridding elements like B vitamins. Proteins to include in your diet to help manage stress while also managing your weight include salmon, tuna, chicken, beans, snapper and scallops. If you are looking for vegetables to help with your nervousness, try bell peppers, spinach, yellow corn and mushrooms.
Stay away from caffeine which only adds to nervousness. When snacking is in order, hold the chocolate and eat some sunflower seeds. They are rich in Thiamin, which helps quell feelings of panic and anxiety.
Tips to Help Manage Nervousness
- It’s helpful to know that while you may think your nervousness is glaringly obvious, it never looks as bad as it feels. Many people who feel sure that everyone notices their nervous feelings are surprised to hear friends and colleagues remark on how confident they seemed.
- Deep breathing is one of the most helpful tools to calm nervousness. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose and feel your diaphragm and belly expand. Keep your shoulders low and relaxed. Hold your breath in for a few seconds, then release your breath slowly through your mouth. Repeat this at least three times or until you feel calmer.
- Try not to be frustrated or angry at yourself for being nervous. It’s a very normal fear reaction, and focusing on its negative effects will only make them seem larger than life.
- Harness your nervousness to prepare for the event that is stressing you out. The more you practice your speech or study for that test, the more confident and less nervous you will be when it’s time to perform.
- Watch out for and dispel any negative thoughts about possible bad outcomes. While imagining a worst-case scenario can help you prepare for all possibilities, focusing on “what ifs” will only deepen your nervousness. Try to accept that not knowing what will happen is normal and manageable.
- Many people speak faster when they feel nervous. Before you walk into the interview or step up to the podium, take a deep breath and slow down your rate of speech. This will prevent you from becoming breathless — which makes many people feel more nervous.
- Products such as PureCalm and Epi-Still-M can help promote feelings of calm during times of pressure, stress, or nervous tension.
1. Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. "Nervousness: Why It's Different from Anxiety & How to Feel Better." Healthline. February 5, 2019. Accessed June 08, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/nervousness