Here are three tips to help you conquer nervousness, according to a neuroscientist.

Hey there! You’ve been selected by your group to do the presentation of your team’s report to a panel of judges. Yikes! Feeling nervous? You are. And it’s alright. We’ve all been there. That awkward moment when you feel super nervous just trying to be yourself. This could range from public speaking to talking to your crush to that all-important job interview, to who-know-what the heck else in the nervousness of us. According to a Stanford neuroscientist, he has three tips that you could master and help you deal with your nervousness the next time you’re up for the “Big Deal.”

Who’s In Control: Brain Vs Body

Andrew Hubermann in a recent appearance on Stanford’s Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast explains how you could take advantage of simple physical actions to control of your nerves so you can perform at your best. Before we explain his nitty-gritty hacks, lets take a crash course on how you get stress and why your brain is to blame. In the course of life, your feelings of fear and excitement are completely different emotions to your brain. Obviously! But to your body’s response, they are the same. How?

It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a rock concert or facing a panel of judges for an interview, your brain preps you up for the occasion by triggering your autonomic nervous system. In effect, you begin to feel nervous all over, whether you’re scared or excited, you just can’t be yourself. Got it!

So how on Earth do you feel that awkward? Short answer: stress. There are tons of research on the topic on understanding how stress has a hefty toll on you. When you’re stressed, your body changes, and changing your body can change your level of stress. Initially, this is automatic, you can’t avoid feeling stress, but the way you respond to it could change the way you feel about it.

Here are Hubermann’s three tips:

#1. Take A Step Forward

Image: The Wolf Of Wall Street / Red Granite Pictures

First of all, step up your game. Hubermann insists that simply stepping up to whatever is stressing you is the ultimate way to tackle it. Fair enough!

“There are only three responses we can have to any circumstance. One is to stay still, one is to move forward, and one is to move back,” Hubermann explains.

Choosing to move forward and face your adversity triggers your brain to release a dose of the anti-stress hormone, dopamine. Stepping forward to the task doesn’t just cause your audience to see you with optimism, but it is seen as rewarding and satisfactory to your brain, which helps your body cope and deal with the situation at hand.

One “very interesting function of dopamine is to increase the probability that we will move toward similar types of goals in the future,” Huberman says. “It’s the molecule of motivation and drive. … and that forward movement, provided it’s adaptive toward a goal, triggers the activation of chemicals in the brain and body that will make the subsequent pursuit of those same or similar goals more likely and more pleasurable.”

#2. E.M.D.R

The term ‘EMDR’ stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing — a technique that was developed back in the 1980s to help people cope with severe trauma. This idea says that moving your eyes side to side for about 30 seconds will somehow reduce your fear and anxiety and boost your confidence. Hubermann thought this idea was ridiculous. Spoiler alert: he was wrong.

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“A couple of years ago, there were no fewer than five papers published in very high-quality journals … showing that these laterized eye movements lead to suppression of this fear center in the brain. So it’s a quite long lasting effect,” he reports.

This technique works best in certain situations, like public speaking or panel interviews — Hubermann says, “It’s not great for sort of reducing your stress about your entire childhood.” So if you’re having a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), you should seek professional clinical advice before administering it. But he suggests this is suitable for calming your jitters right before your big moment (just look away for a while and focus on yourself). Give it a try next time!

#3. Double Inhale! Then Exhale!

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Finally, take a deep breath. [Inhale…! Inhale! Exhale] One more time. [Breathe in…, and in, and out] That’s Hubermann’s last stress relieve hack. If that didn’t make you feel alright, then do it again, and again, until you feel calm. We all taken a deep breath to calm our nerves. If you’ve even been advised on that, than your breathing really has a massive impact on your stress levels. Most people are generally wrong about how to do this technique, says Hubermann. Its not a matter of taking a long inhale followed by a long exhale. Rather, breathe in, and in, then breathe out.

“So inhale through the nose,” he instructs, “and then before you exhale, sneak in a little bit more air and then do a long exhale. And you do this just one to three times. … Ideally the inhales are done through the nose and then exhale through the mouth.”

This technique is really effective; and for those of you who are interested, Hubermann gives an in-depth explanation about how carbon dioxide and lung anatomy helps to reduce stress in his podcast. But for those of you who often get nervous before the big moment, science says two inhales are better than one. Obviously! His podcast also goes into ways your body learns to tolerate more stress over long-hauls. So, next time your feel not so okay with bae, inhale…, again…, then let it all out. Bae might be impressed.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sat, Jul 24, 2021.