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

By Michael Puskar|Updated April 25, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Erika Schad, LCP, CWLC

What Is The Feeling Of Butterflies In Your Stomach?

If you’ve ever been nervously excited, you've likely experienced the fluttery feeling known as “butterflies in my stomach.” This feeling can arise in a variety of situations, from meeting someone new for a first date to giving an important speech to a large audience. 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 when meeting someone new, starting a new job, or during other such events involving change and some degree of the unknown.

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. 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

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. While it may seem like others around you are calm and collected, rest assured, it’s entirely possible that they also experience these physical feelings of being nervous, and often without showing it.
 

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 — the nervous system’s way of preparing 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. 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 causes that “fluttery” sensation. While fleeing a hungry predator may no longer be a common problem in today's world, your body produces the same chemicals when you feel as though you need to protect yourself. This can occur whether preparing for a big speech, unsettling news, or a big first date.

What Exactly Could This Feeling Be Trying To Tell Us?

This fluttery feeling is your body signaling the approach of an 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 get butterflies in my stomach, my body is probably telling me that I need to be on my guard 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

Breath work exercises can be a powerful way to reduce stress and come to a place of calm and peace. 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. You don’t have to force 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. 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. 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 to analyze and challenge these negative thoughts, find where they are coming from and potentially replacing them with more positive ones. 

  1. Accept Uncertainty.

Anxiety often stems from the simple fact that we don’t know what the future holds. 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 prepared 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.

  1. 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.

Counselor Reviews

“David has helped me manage my anxiety and self esteem in a very constructive way. He’s extremely supportive. His personality is perfect for me.”

“Kelli has given me effective ways to manage my anxiety that I utilize every day. She has also helped me gain a new perspective on self care and gave me the building blocks to heal myself. I have made so much progress from working with her and will continue doing so with the guidance she has provided me.”

Conclusion

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.
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
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