How To Stop Being Nervous And Be More Confident In Important Situations

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Severe bouts of nervousness are not limited to public speaking, big presentations, or other typical anxiety inducing events. For some people, one-on-one interactions can cause moments of anxiety or panic which can adversely affect their body and mental health. Situations perceived as important, like job interviews, tense phone conversations, serious relationship talks, and first dates, can all produce feelings of anxiety and fear, which can be challenging and stressful to address, sometimes more so for people with an anxiety disorder. During these situations, you may experience trembling, an increased heart rate, stuttering, and self-doubt.

There are many healthy ways to approach the effects of intense nervousness. Having a repertoire of coping mechanisms to use in these situations can be valuable. While you may not completely stop your nerves, having skills to calm your nervous system can help you feel equipped to move forward and handle challenging circumstances. 

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I hate how I always get nervous in important situations

Solutions for managing your nerves

There are many ways to manage nervousness, develop confidence, and feel in control, including the strategies below. 

Prepare yourself

If you feel nervous before a stressful situation, take time to try to prepare yourself as much as possible. For example, if you have to make a presentation, ensure you're ready to fill any awkward silences with relevant comments. You can make a list of comments beforehand and practice them in the mirror if you're worried you'll forget them. 

If you're going on a first date with someone new, prepare several conversation topics to ensure you never run out of topics to discuss. If you have an important interview coming up, show up ready to answer any questions that might be thrown at you. When you confront a situation with confidence and preparation, you may find it easier to focus on trying your best and knowing you did what you could to succeed. 

When you spend time preparing for unforeseen events, often people don’t notice if you have social anxiety. Taking time to focus on a positive outcome may decrease anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges.

Consider your place in other peoples' minds 

Consider how you feel about others when they are conversing with you. If you're on a first date, you might not harshly judge your date in the same way you might judge yourself. It may be helpful to assume that your date is the same way, and if they are highly judgmental, they might not be the right fit for you. Even for those in a longer-term relationship, it is usually still of value to consider what your partner is feeling about you.

Every person has their own concerns, ideas, and thought processes. When you're making a presentation, each audience participant may have their own worries and thoughts about their situation. To them, your presentation may be a brief segment of information to consume and not a life-changing event. If you make a mistake, they may quickly forget it or empathize with you instead of feeling pity. Many stressful situations are a minor part of life that is temporary. If you remember that other people are likely thinking about themselves and not you, it may help you focus on giving your best efforts. 

Use nervous energy to your advantage

Feeling nervous may not always be negative. Nervous energy may serve as the fuel to your fire. When you feel nervous, you may notice a surge of energy similar to the rush of energy associated with excitement. Instead of trying not to be nervous, think of it from a different perspective. 

Excitement is often associated with significant events and positive outcomes, so channel your enthusiasm into an excited mindset rather than an anxious one. It could help your emotional outlook on the situation, making you feel calmer in the long run. For example, instead of thinking, "I don't want to give this presentation," you may think, "I can't wait to show them what I found!" or "I'm excited to tell them what I learned!" Harvard researchers have also studied this effect and found that it works to reduce feeling nervous. 

Getty/Luis Alvarez

Stay confident in your delivery

If you don't believe in your message, it may be challenging to have an engaging delivery. Many people may be able to sense authenticity and confidence within others. If you're afraid to express your emotions and beliefs, your audience might not be as engaged. 

Whether speaking to a massive audience or an individual, staying confident throughout your delivery could help you communicate your message and dramatically reduce your nervousness. When you successfully master this technique, your nervousness may decrease. 

For example, pretend you are tasked with giving a presentation. One way to ensure an effective delivery is repetition and practice prior to your presentation. Try to have one or two friends or family be witnesses to these trial runs and ask them for feedback. You may find that practicing in front of others you trust instead of practicing in your head (or alone) can reduce performance anxiety. 

Focus on persuasion, not perfection

When presenting yourself or an idea to others, you may be tasked with persuading others. Try to be as lively and engaging as possible instead of only striving for perfectionism. Instead of focusing on what your audience perceives as perfect, try to focus on being yourself. Your audience may appreciate that your personality stands out from the crowd. Many charismatic, funny, and charming people may be effective at persuasion, as humans often crave connection, and humor can be a way to connect. 

Don't give up

Practice can be beneficial, and if you give up each time you feel nervous, you might teach your body that you are "unable" to continue when nervous. Even if you experience panic or severe anxiety before a presentation or interview, go into it with the goal of doing your best. Whether your worst fears come true or you ace it, you may find that repeatedly exposing yourself to your fears lessens them and shows you that you are capable of change. This premise is the idea behind popular forms of therapy for anxiety disorders, like exposure and response prevention therapy (ERP) for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), phobias, and social anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders may lead people to feel nervous, but with practice the effects may be mitigated.

Alternative solutions 

Rushes of nervous energy can cause physiological reactions due to increased adrenaline in your nervous system. However, there are several techniques that you can use to counteract these reactions if they occur.

Breathe deeply

Instead of breathing from your chest, try breathing from your stomach to increase the amount of oxygen in your brain. This technique may trick your body into believing that you're calmer than you are, which may help you sidestep common symptoms of nervousness, such as sweaty palms, stuttering, and jittery hands or legs. A popular breathing exercise for anxiety is box breathing, which involves breathing in for a specific count, holding your breath, breathing out for a specific count, and then holding your breath again. 

Drink water

An adrenaline rush can cause a severe lack of saliva regeneration. This lack of production may result in a dry mouth, making speaking difficult or uncomfortable. Try to stay hydrated so your speaking stays fluent and easy to understand. Bring a water bottle with you on stage if you're giving a speech. 

Speak more slowly than usual

Decreasing your conversation speed may calm you down and allow you to breathe more easily while talking. It could also give your brain more time to process your thoughts, allowing you to craft your words carefully. If you speak calmly and efficiently, your audience may have an easier time understanding and listening to you. If you're prone to talking fast when nervous, try to remind yourself that talking fast may not speed up the event and that talking slowly can help you get through it with fewer nerves. 

See a therapist 

Critical situations may make you anxious. Severe anxiety may sometimes indicate an underlying anxiety disorder or mental health concern. Many people struggle with first dates, job interviews, moving to a new place, and significant presentations. However, if you find severe nervousness causing problems in your life, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed professional. Therapy can be highly effective in treating anxiety, and your therapist can offer coping skills to help you get through events. In addition, you can roleplay with your therapist to practice how you might address a scary situation. 

Getty/AnnaStills
I hate how I always get nervous in important situations

Counseling options

You might benefit from seeing a therapist if you're experiencing distress before significant events or having deep concerns in romantic relationships. Over 41.7 million US adults see a therapist, and the number is growing. You don't need a diagnosis or mental health condition to seek professional advice. Many therapists are trained in anxiety, stress, and fear support. You can also take part in treatment online.  

Online therapy is an effective and convenient way to improve mental health. A study published in 2018 utilized Virtual Reality (VR) hardware and therapist-led counseling sessions to see if these two methods could reduce feelings of public speaking anxiety. The study's authors found that 95% of participants saw reductions in feelings of public speaking anxiety over six months. This novel approach of therapy-focused VR treatment reflects the hybrid approach employed commonly in online therapy.

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp offer discreet online counseling with professional, licensed, and vetted counselors experienced in helping people address stressful situations. With online counseling, you can match with a therapist from home and choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your provider. If you struggle with social anxiety, you can message your therapist until you're comfortable meeting them over the phone or via video chat. You can also choose to have chat sessions indefinitely if you are uncomfortable. The method you choose is up to you. 

Counselor reviews

"After working with Debra for just a couple of months, I have seen my anxiety drastically reduce. I learned a tremendous amount from her about managing and effectively coping with anxiety and trauma. I have seen great results when putting these new things into practice. She is very patient, kind, and understanding. I found it easy to open up to her. She is also very good about checking in and making sure I am on track to becoming a better version of myself."

"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."

Takeaway

Feeling nervous in a significant high-stress situation is common and can be natural. However, if your anxiety, stress, or fear impacts your daily life, functioning, or relationships, you may benefit from reaching out for support. Thousands of therapists are available to offer guidance, and you're not alone. Consider seeking medical advice or reaching out to a counselor to get started.
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