Feeling nervous is one of the many wonderful experiences we humans enjoy.
Heart pounding? Forehead beading?
Praying that you’ll fall down a manhole and the king of the sewer rats will make you his butler so you won’t have to do the thing you’re nervous about?
Congratulations, you’re a fully fledged member of the species!
Selling your product to shops involves doing a lot of things you probably haven’t done before.
Sending a submission email for the first time, meeting a retailer to talk about your work, ringing a shop to find out how your items are selling, exhibiting at your first trade show…
Hey, is that high-pitched whining noise your heart rate?
It’s okay. I know exactly what you’re going through.
Let’s talk about what actually happens when you’re nervous, then I’ll let you in on a weird but effective insider technique that we actors use. It might stop you feeling so awful.
Look, just breathe into this sandwich bag for a minute. There you go.
When you’re nervous your body is on high alert.
Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises and your system is flooded with the fight-or-flight hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Evolution has primed your body to help you survive the coming challenge, and it doesn’t much care whether that’s pitching to the owner of an amazing boutique or bringing down a sabre-tooth tiger so your tribe of hungry cave-people can eat tonight.
Look at it this way: when you’re in a nervous state you’re at least 10% more alive than normal.
Sure, you don’t feel as relaxed and carefree as you do when you’re sitting on the couch watching Golden Balls, but your senses are sharper, your brain is more alert and your instincts are tingling.
You’re ready to make something happen, and that’s a powerful place to be
But now let’s turn to all those miserable feelings we experience when we’re nervous. You know, the stomach cramps, sweating palms, racing pulse and general desire to be dead.
The first line of defence is so obvious we’re going to skip right over it – make sure you’re really well prepared for whatever you’re about to do.
One of the reasons you’re nervous is that you’re not sure what the outcome is going to be, so control all the variables you can by putting in whatever work is necessary.
So with that taken care of, here’s my favourite technique for dealing with nerves.
Let yourself feel as nervous as possible, as hard as you can
I know that sounds horrendous, but stick with me.
A lot of the misery that comes with feeling nervous is actually caused by the attempt to suppress it.
So instead of trying not to feel awful, give yourself permission to feel as dizzingly, stupendously, ridiculously awful as you can. Here’s how:
1. Do it in a controlled way.
Say to yourself: “Argh. I feel really nervous. I didn’t even know that bit of me could sweat. Okay body, you win. You’re allowed to feel as bad as you want starting…NOW.”
2. Sit down quietly and gently take away all the barriers between you and the nerves.
Don’t put a time limit on it. Allow those feelings free rein, for as long as they want. Let them run around the playground of your nervous system while you hold their coats.
Let them get on with it.
Here’s what will happen.
You’ll feel incredibly awful for about ten or twenty seconds. Then you’ll start to feel much better
It’s weird, but that’s how it works.
You’re braced for impact, and it is pretty excruciating for the first second or two, but then those hot, all-consuming feelings evaporate.
It’s like they’re a bunch of naughty kids who’ve been smearing glue into the carpet and hoovering the cat while you try to ignore them.
When you actually turn around and give them your undivided attention, they suddenly calm down.
This technique won’t stop you feeling nervous or worried altogether (click here for suggestions on that,) and you may have to do it lots of times in the run-up to whatever it is you’re about to do, but it does give you relief from those dreadful kill-me-now sensations.
It also puts you back in charge.
And pure, unadulterated, cask-strength, firing-on-all-cylinders YOU, with a few extra superpowers courtesy of Mr Adrenaline and Madam Cortisol is a killer combination.