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Tips for Relieving Unnecessary Nervousness
Big speech to deliver? Interview for a new job? It's normal to be nervous, especially about things you don't do very often. After all, if you interviewed every single day, you'd have answers ready before the interviewer even finished the question, right? And although you're probably comfortable talking to your friends, your children, your spouse or even someone you don't know well, that's different from speaking to a room full of people or to one person who determines your job fate. A little nervousness right before the event can be a good thing. It sends an adrenaline rush through your body, getting you "pumped up" and ready to go. But if you're too nervous, it makes other people as uncomfortable as you feel.
Public Speaking: Know Your Material
As you step to the podium, you turn to the audience and feel a stab of fear. All eyes are on you. Then you glance at your notes and realize, you've got this. You prepared well in advance. Knowing your material is the secret to easing your fear, according to the Mayo Clinic. Instead of focusing on the audience, focus on telling them what you know. This means doing your research, preparing what you're going to say and rehearsing it repeatedly. Think about using props or visual aids to add interest or help with explanations, and practice using those in your speech. This way, if you start to get nervous and lose your place you'll recover quickly.
Job Interviews: Prepare and Practice
First, research the company and the job description so you're familiar with what they do and what the job entails. Having this knowledge will make you feel more secure going into the interview, and you'll be prepared when asked why you want to work for the company and what your best traits are. Once you know about the company, you can think clearly about why you're interested in working there. Knowing the job description, you can tailor your traits and positive attributes to job duties. For example, if you're in an interview to be an office manager, you could bring up your skill at multi-tasking and your organization techniques. If you'll be working with customers, saying you work well with people or like helping others solve problems would be good responses. Ask a friend to do a mock interview with you using interview questions you've supplied. Practice answering them again and again until you feel comfortable.
Tests: Study, Don't Cram
Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It can be caused by a fear of failure due to past test experiences or the habit of tying your self-worth to the outcome of the test. The key is to prepare far in advance so you're truly ready to take the test.
Cramming right before the test may be better than nothing, but the danger is that, in your nervousness, you'll forget or confuse much of the information you just took in. It's far more reliable to study as you learn. Take notes when you read or listen to a lecture, but make sure you really understand what you're writing. Ask questions or put a number next to your note so you remember to look it up for clarification later. If the teacher provides a study guide, use it. Teachers rarely put questions on the test that weren't covered in the study guide. Make practice tests from the study guide and take them. Go over what you missed and answer those questions again.
When you're actually taking the test, focus on the test questions, not on your surroundings or other students. Reread the question to be sure you understand what it's asking. For example, "What were the causes of World War II?" is not the same as "Why did the U.S. get into World War II?" because the U.S. entered later, after the war had begun. Sometimes a single word can change the entire question, such as the word "not." Consider the difference between these multiple-choice questions: "Circle all that are planets in our solar system," versus "Circle all that are not planets in our solar system." Huge difference.
Remember that your self-worth is not tied to a test grade. You are you, with many positive attributes, whether you ace or fail the test. If you have a child with test anxiety, reinforce self-worth and that your love for the child doesn't depend on a test performance or anything else.
Try these methods for calming bouts of nerves:
- Take deep, slow breaths. Breathe in for a slow count of four, breathe out for a slow count of four.
- Sigh instead. Take a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. You'll feel a release of tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Consciously relax each muscle, one at a time.
- Smile and think positive thoughts. Visualize yourself doing well on the test, interview, speech or whatever you're nervous about. When negative thoughts enter your mind, learn to replace them with positive ones.
Seek Out a Professional
If anxiety and nervousness are a part of everyday life for you, get help from a counselor or mental health professional. She can help you reduce or eliminate your particular symptoms by getting to the root of what's troubling you or giving you techniques to recognize and manage anxiety when it occurs.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area who has written about careers and education for work.chron.com, workingmother.com, classroom.synonym.com and more. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards for her writing.