5 Tips to Relax When You're Nervous

Although it’s normal to feel nervous in unfamiliar situations, you have to control your nerves to prevent them from playing tricks on you. With these simple tips to relax, you’ll be able to keep your cool in important situations.
5 Tips to Relax When You're Nervous

Last update: 27 December, 2020

Learning tips to relax is one of the most useful life skills. Although we all need to disconnect sometimes, not everyone knows how to achieve mental calmness.

Nerves are a normal bodily reaction to an unknown or feared situation. This reaction isn’t bad in itself, because it prepares you to act and cope. The problem comes when that reaction is maintained for a long time, or when it’s triggered by situations that aren’t really dangerous, such as speaking in public.

Five tips to relax

Controlling your nerves is a way to dominate your emotional reactions. This positively influences both self-esteem and coping mechanisms. This is why we decided to give you some simple tips to relax when you’re nervous.

1. Focus your attention on your breathing

Feeling nervous causes a series of physiological symptoms that you probably know all too well. Rapid heartbeat, muscle tension, or rapid shallow breathing are some examples.

These symptoms can make you nervous, in itself, since being aware that you feel this way increases your discomfort. Therefore, a good solution to relax is to control them.

Breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic or deep breathing, are very useful to reduce this emotional component of nerves. A study published in the Journal of Sports Psychology states that training in breathing techniques is effective in reducing tennis players’ anxiety before competing.

2. Practice positive self-talk

A stressed athlete.
An athlete may feel more pressure when there are spectators in the stands.

Another symptom of nerves is having negative self-thoughts or thoughts about the future. However, these thoughts only reinforce the discomfort.

It isn’t easy to eliminate negative thoughts. In fact, you simply can’t tell an athlete to stop thinking about what’s worrying them. In fact, the more one tries to resist negative thoughts, the stronger and more intense they become.

A solution to this is to direct the focus towards positive thoughts. Saying phrases such as, “I’m going to do my best” or “I’ve prepared myself to deal with this” can help quiet negative internal dialogue.

3. Allow yourself to fail: there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes

Making mistakes is natural and humane. Nevertheless, a lot of people believe that making mistakes is embarrassing and that they should be avoided at all costs.

On many occasions, people become nervous because they’re scared of making mistakes or disappointing others. Athletes train hard and have the necessary skills to win competitions. However, the irrational fear of making mistakes can play against them.

Coaches have to support their athletes and encourage them to try again, despite making mistakes. The only mistakes that shouldn’t be tolerated are giving up or not trying.

4. Tips to relax: visualize yourself succeeding

Imagination greatly influences thoughts and emotions. It’s so powerful that psychologists frequently use it as a technique to treat conditions such as phobias or generalized anxiety disorder.

Visualization is a powerful psychological technique to boost sports performance. In fact, it can help reduce anxiety in important moments.

According to a study published by Psychology of Sport and Exercise, visualization is a technique pentathletes use to mentally prepare for a competition. This method produces confidence and peace of mind because it allows athletes to mentally go over their training.

5. Take advantage of the power of meditation

Many activities can help you relax: listening to music, dancing, writing. However, there’s one that stands out without a doubt due to its benefits and how easy it is to learn: meditation.

In short, meditation consists of connecting with your inner self and minimizing external interference. Thus, it allows you to delve deeper into aspects that usually go unnoticed or that you normally don’t pay attention to during the day.

A woman doing yoga.
Meditation is one of the best ways to relax.

Thanks to it, you can discover a lot about yourself. Getting to know yourself better is a very valuable tool, as it allows you to be aware of your strengths and how you face challenges.

Apply these tips to relax and say goodbye to stress

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, it’s normal to feel nervous in an unknown situation. However, just because nerves are normal doesn’t mean that you should just sit idly by. In fact, uncontrolled nerves pose a risk, as they can play against you.

By applying these tips to relax, you’ll get immediate stress relief. The key is to put them into practice as soon as you detect the discomfort. The longer you take to control them, the harder you’ll have to work to overcome them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bertollo, M., Saltarelli, B., y  Robazza, C. (2009). Mental preparation strategies of elite modern pentathletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 10(2), 244-254.
  • Urra Tobar, B. (2014). Evaluación de la efectividad del entrenamiento de estrategias de afrontamiento en el nivel de ansiedad precompetitiva en tenimesistas. Revista de psicología del deporte, 23(1), 67-74.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.