Why Are There Butterflies In My Stomach? Overcoming Anxiety Or Nerves

By Michael Puskar|Updated October 5, 2022

What Is The Feeling Of Butterflies In Your Stomach?

If you’ve ever been nervously excited, you've likely experienced the fluttery feeling or swoony sensations known as “butterflies in my stomach.” This feeling can arise in a variety of situations, from meeting someone new to giving an important speech to a large audience. It is also common to experience butterflies in the early stages of dating and is often accompanied by swoony sensations. But why is it known as butterflies in the stomach, and what is that feeling trying to tell you?

Why Do I Have Butterflies In My Stomach Paired With Anxiety? Is This Feeling In My Gut Normal?

Having “butterflies in your stomach” usually refers to experiencing nervousness caused by specific events. For example, people who experience this sensation may often get it when anticipating giving a performance, or during them. This can include public speaking, taking a test, or music recitals. Others may experience these feelings in the gut when meeting someone new, during the early days of a new relationship, starting a new job, or during other such events involving change and some degree of the unknown. Sometimes it is a good sign of falling in love with someone, while other times it is an uncomfortable indicator that we feel nervous about something.

This contrasts with anxiety disorders, which are common mental health disorders and involve excessive worrying on a regular basis that may interfere with daily life. it’s important to recognize the differences between butterflies in the stomach and anxiety disorder. Common symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling restless or on-edge
  • Easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping difficulties - trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, restlessness
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Muscle tension
  • Experiencing issues with the digestive system, such as a stomach
  • Increase in blood pressure

Everyone May Experience Butterflies In Their Stomach At Some Point

Butterflies in Your Stomach is A Common Anxious Sensation - Learn More Here

Everyone may experience that feeling of butterflies in their stomach due to certain situations, though these feelings are temporary and typically brought on by a specific situation. The feeling is a direct result of the connection between the brain and the belly. 

If you're unsure if you’ve experienced this feeling from being nervous or stressed, here are some common symptoms related to butterflies in the stomach:

  • Nausea
  • A fluttery feeling in my stomach
  • The feeling of having a "knot" in your stomach
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating and clamminess

Where Does The Feeling Of Butterflies In Your Stomach Come From?

Of course, there aren’t butterflies actually fluttering around in your stomach, but what causes this distinct feeling that so many individuals get? You’ve likely heard of the “fight or flight” response; this is the way that the nervous system prepares the body for possible danger. When this kicks in, usually in a situation that’s causing you high levels of stress, your body releases adrenaline, and it can also release dopamine when the body feels it’s back to safety. This increases your heart rate and redirects blood away from your stomach and toward your arms and legs, preparing you for fight or flight. The reduced blood flow to your stomach can often trigger that “fluttery” sensation.  This can occur whether preparing for a big speech, unsettling news, in the presence of your crush, or a big first date. Once your body stops its fight or flight response, more blood comes back to the stomach region and that nervous feeling begins to subside.

What Exactly Could This Feeling Be Trying To Tell Us?

This fluttering feeling is your body one of the signs of an approaching uncomfortable or stressful situation or even a nervous excitement from a new love interest. While getting butterflies around someone you like may seem like a good thing, relationship expert Tia Goldstein says it may actually mean that something could be amiss or you feel unsure about the relationship. In any situation, when I feel butterflies in my stomach, my body is probably telling me that I need to be on my guard, stay motivated, and have a heightened awareness of my surroundings.

How To Alleviate Symptoms Of Butterflies In Your Stomach And Anxiety

If you are experiencing butterflies in your stomach or regularly experience symptoms of anxiety, there are things you can do that may help ease symptoms.

1. Practice Intentional Breathing

a woman calms herself to get a butterfly feeling out of her stomach

Recent research shows that breathwork is a great way to reduce feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Breath work exercises can be a powerful way to reduce stress and come to a place of calm and peace. They can help you calm down and give space to expect and explain why you feel anxious, in an effort to ease the fight or flight response. To effectively practice intentional breathing, find a quiet place free of distractions. Sit down and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose, counting to five as you breathe in. Now exhale through your mouth, counting to five as you breathe out. Focus on your breaths as you do this, and become aware of any distracting thoughts. If you find that any anxieties or worries are beginning to pop up as you are breathing, refocus your mind on the breathing itself. Notice how your heart rate lowers and you feel an absence of tension in the muscles. You don’t have to close the thoughts out, as this can result in more stress; simply allow them to sort of “float” through your mind without focusing on them or giving them much attention beyond noticing that they’re there. Keep your primary focus on your breathing.

Even allowing yourself fifteen minutes of intentional breathing in the morning can greatly reduce your levels of stress and anxiety throughout the day.

  1. Take Care Of Yourself And Declutter Your Surroundings.

A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for both physical and mental health. Make sure to eat a healthy diet; scientists have shown countless links between healthy habits and reduced anxiety. Taking care of your body is the first step to taking care of your mind. This will help alleviate anxious thoughts and feelings in your stomach. Make sure you’re drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Exercise releases endorphins which promote feelings of happiness. While it may be difficult to completely change your lifestyle overnight, taking small steps to be more mindful of the way you treat yourself every day will pay off in the long run.

  1. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts.

Anxiety can stem from worrying about something in the future, and negative thoughts may spiral into even more negative thoughts. This can result in keeping you in a perpetual state of anxiety, stress, and worry. When you begin to feel anxiety, it may help to stop and ask yourself what’s making you feel that way. You can even bounce these ideas off of somebody you trust, too. Or, it can be beneficial to journal these thoughts so you can become aware of any negative thought patterns that you may have. This can help you give yourself some room to analyze and challenge these negative thoughts, find where they are coming from, and potentially replace them with more positive ones.

  1. Accept Uncertainty.

Anxiety often stems from the simple fact that we don’t know what the future holds; no matter what lies ahead, it’s always too early to say. Those prone to anxiety may often immediately visualize the worst-case scenario and assume that every negative thought they have is based on reality. Of course, anxiety exists on a spectrum and everyone’s experience differs. Regardless, when you learn to accept that the future is, by nature, uncertain, it may help you to be more focused on the present. It may be beneficial to take steps every day to bring yourself closer to where you want to be in life, even if the actions that you take feel small. The more you feel in control of your present, the more you’ll feel in control of what’s ahead.

  1. Visualize Positive Outcomes And Plan For The Day Ahead Of You.

You may feel anxiety, stress, or worry over not having complete control over how your life plays out. While nothing is set in stone, there are certain things you can do to feel more in control. It may help to keep a calendar and write down all appointments, deadlines, and important events so that you can prepare for what’s ahead and therefore feel more in control. Every day, make a to-do list of what you want to get accomplished and check off the boxes as you complete the tasks. This simple act of checking off boxes can feel incredibly rewarding. If there’s something important coming up that you are anxious about, visualize that particular event having a positive outcome. Imagine how you can behave and communicate in a way that promotes this positive outcome instead of focusing on all of the ways it could go wrong.

6. Surround Yourself With Positivity.

Butterflies in Your Stomach is A Common Anxious Sensation - Learn More Here

This could be people who bring out the best in you, certain music that calms you, saying out loud, “Wow, the sky is really beautiful today,” or even making yourself a tea that promotes relaxation. Whatever it is that brings you joy, try to incorporate it into your everyday life. Surrounding yourself with things that make you happy makes it more difficult for the negative thoughts to creep in. Every time you feel as though you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or stress, it may help to take a second to relax and refocus. Call a good friend, take a long bath, sniff some calming essential oils, watch an uplifting film — anything that makes you feel good and brings you peace.

  1. Seek Help.

Sometimes, anxiety or stress might feel so overwhelming that it may negatively affect your everyday life. If you find that you’re having difficulty alleviating your symptoms of anxiety, or that high levels of stress are affecting aspects of your life, it may be beneficial to seek help from a licensed professional. A licensed therapist may be able to help you regain control over your emotions and overcome feelings of stress and anxiety. Read below for reviews from people who used BetterHelp to manage their anxiety and stress. Medication prescribed by a medical doctor can also help the neurotransmitter and norepinephrine balance that is often linked with anxiety disorders. However, it’s important to have a sidebar with a doctor before you pump medicine into your body.

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If you’re experiencing high levels of stress or symptoms of anxiety in your life, some of these tips in this article may be able to help. However, seeking the help of a licensed mental health professional may be able to offer other tools and guidance to overcome your stress and anxiety and improve your overall mental health.

We hope this article about the reasons behind anxiety or nerves has been useful for answering the question, "Why do I get fluttery feelings during certain moments? How do I calm my symptoms?" Sometimes it can be hard to understand why you might be getting butterflies, and it can be important to recognize the root of those feelings. Everyone experiences the feeling of butterflies, but it can be useful to understand if those are feelings of excitement or feelings of uncertainty. If it's the latter, understanding why your fight or flight response gets triggered can help you alleviate symptoms of butterflies in your stomach and anxiety. If you want to read more articles about anxiety, you can find more information here.

Therapy can help you understand what could be causing you anxiety and feelings of nervousness. BetterHelp specializes in different types of online therapy to help address all types of mental health concerns with thousands of licensed therapists. If you are interested in finding a therapist for a list of reasons, BetterHelp can help. If you want to find individual and couples therapy, reach out to start your mental health journey.

Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:

  1. What causes the feeling of butterflies in your stomach?
    2. Is butterflies in my stomach a good thing?
    3. What does it mean when someone gives you butterflies?
    4. Does butterflies in the stomach mean love?
    5. Should you feel butterflies in a relationship?
    6. How long do butterflies last in a relationship?
    7. Why do I get butterflies in my stomach when I talk to him?
    8. How do I give him butterflies in my stomach?
    9. What do butterflies mean in love?
    10. How do you know if you’re in love?
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