Dealing with nerves, pressure and other tests of our Zen skills

I wouldn’t be a very good life coach unless I talked my own talk – so I am dealing with nerves myself right now and thought I would share that with you.

The thing I’m beginning to get nervous about is an event that’s coming up soon. I’m co-hosting a day retreat with a friend of mine, and while I am really looking forward to it, I must admit I’m feeling a bit of pressure too.

On the outside I probably look as cool as a cucumber. So I think it’s really important to share that I’m not always feeling that cool on the inside. We all fall prey to nerves, especially when we are attempting something new, or there is a sense of pressure for us to perform.

I’ve also recently lost my voice, randomly and from nowhere. I’ve got my voice back now but it’s left me with a cough so that’s now a new worry. What if I lose my voice before the event, what if I can’t stop coughing throughout my talk?

Of course, nerves are a perfectly normal part of the human experience. The extra adrenaline and cortisol in our blood stream helps to sharpen our focus and perform better. So nerves serve a purpose, and that’s something worth remembering when the butterflies in your stomach are bothering you.

But for the sake of feeling as good as you can while the nerves are doing their thing, there are things you can do to keep feeling good at the same time.

So in order to talk my life coach talk, I have some tools and techniques to fall back on when my nerves get a bit too loud, and I wanted to share them with you today.

Sense check with an impartial friend

Let’s take the example of my upcoming event, and the talks I’m going to be giving on the day. That in itself is nerve-racking! In fact, psychological studies show that public speaking is among one of the most stressful things you can put yourself through.

One of the ways the nerves are manifesting for me, is that I am second-guessing the talks and workshop activities I have planned. I’m looking back at my notes and wondering if the content is right, or if I need to add more, or go the other way and keep the talks shorter.

In short, I’m finding it hard to be the judge of my own work because I’m too close to it, and my nerves are interfering a bit too.

So the trick I’m using here is to ask an impartial friend or two to look over my notes and let me know what they think.

Simple, right? Please trust me when I say that the simplest answer is usually the best one. Just knowing that somebody impartial has looked over my notes makes a world of difference to how I feel about the day.

Shake it off

I mentioned earlier that the physiological point of nerves were to sharpen you up by pumping more adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. This is fab when you are actually about to perform; be that stepping onto a stage, sitting an exam, or running in a race.

But when the nerves kick in too early, such as the day before your exam, speech, race or whatever it is, then the adrenaline and cortisol aren’t doing you any favours. You may find that you are kept up at night by the extra energy. So shake it off!

Jog, dance, or rap along loudly to the opening credits of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air – whatever floats your boat! That energy needs to be burned off a little bit to allow you to relax and get your Zen back.

Positive rehearse

Our minds typically ‘negatively rehearse’ things that we are nervous about. We imagine things going wrong and can even obsess a little over the worst case scenario.

The trick here is awareness. When you can be aware you are doing this, catch yourself and stop. Trying flipping the story in your mind, and ‘positively rehearse’ things going well.

What’s your best case scenario? Picture it, and try to hold that thought for as long as you can.

Keep a running ‘to do’ or ‘to remember’ list

If you didn’t know this about me already – I am a very committed list-writer! In fact I have been since childhood, and it’s always been a joke in my family.

“Where’s Toni? Oh she’s probably writing a list…”

The great thing about lists is they take a bit of the strain away from your memory. When we are trying to remember too many important things, that takes up space in our brain (our pre frontal cortex to be fancy) and that can have a knock-on effect, slowing down our decision-making abilities.

If you write it down then you won’t forget it, or worry about forgetting it. Again, it’s very simple, but it does make a difference.

When I step up to speak on June 15th, I will have been using all these tools myself to stay as Zen as possible. Of course I will still be a little bit nervous – it’s a perfectly normal human reaction to pressure. But I will feel better than I would have, had I not worked on my mindset.


P.S. If you are curious about the day retreat event I mentioned in this post, then take a look on Eventbrite. It’s called Life, Love and other stuff, and tickets for Jun 15th are available up to the night before. But don’t leave it that long, we only have 2 tickets left.

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