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How to handle your nerves (so they don't handle you)

Nov. 28, 2017
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“Nerves” describe the worried or slightly stressed emotion you feel when you are nervous. The physical symptoms include light adrenaline or butterflies. It feels like you’re waiting for a rush of energy that hasn’t come yet. People tend to get nerves when they are anticipating an event that will happen soon: you have been preparing for something, and now that moment has come.

This kind of emotion can also occur if you are met with a situation outside of your comfort zone. Since you are outside your comfort zone, you tend to anticipate the near-future more. Trying to play a sport for the first time, giving a presentation, or asking your crush out can bring up nerves. Nerves seem disorderly, like a swarm of bees or a tangled ball of yarn. If left to fester, these emotions can feel overwhelming. Being wound up by your nerves can be very distracting. Nerves can put you in shock, making you feel stiff, tense, and unresponsive to your surroundings.

But despite having a cluster of negative side effects, nerves can be good as well.

There are good and bad nerves, you ask? Not exactly. All nerves are the same. The adrenaline, butterflies, stress, and worry are there no matter what, and without learning to handle your nerves, your nerves may get the best of you. The difference lies in how you deal with your nerves. The first solution is to get rid of them. This would mean learning not to be nervous, which can be a bit of a tall order. Nerves are normal, after all; everyone gets nervous. It’s far more productive to learn to channel them. 

Sometimes nerves are a sign that you care a lot. Nerves might come from not wanting to make mistakes or wanting to do a great job. This can make you more attentive. Nerves, when you channel them, can help you focus on the moment. Many entertainers get nervous, but they use that as motivation to put on the best show they can. Almost like an extra boost, nerves can inspire you to put in extra work to avoid what you fear may happen. Your survival instincts kick in.

If you do not learn to handle your nerves, they’ll breed anxiety. Anxiety is uneasiness and worry about the outcome of an unpredictable situation. Giving in to anxiety means allowing yourself to be controlled by fear. This is brought on by realizing the “lack of control” you have in life. Truth is, it is not that you have a lack of control in life, but that some things are just not under your jurisdiction. For example, you can try to convince your teacher to round up your grade, but they have the final call. There are parts of your life that are controlled by outside factors that are unrelated to your control.

Pay attention to what is under your jurisdiction. You may not be able to tell your teacher to round up your grade, but you can study and show your teacher that your tried your best to learn. You may not be able to tell your skin to magically clear itself, but you can exercise and eat healthy. You may not be able to stop your nerves from taking hold, but you can learn to be less nervous or use those nerves to your advantage. Most importantly, know that your nerves do not control you. Remember that nerves are natural, and let them encourage you to keep pushing forward and give your best effort. You can do it!