Thursday 29 September 2016

Mindful moment… Harness those butterflies

Published 19/06/2016 | 02:30

Nerves can be paralysing for many.
Nerves can be paralysing for many.

We've all been there - that twist in your tummy, the pounding of your heart, the sudden sweat coating your palms… Nerves can be paralysing for many of us, whether it's fear of messing up an interview, an exam or a first date. The conventional advice in these situations is to do all you can to 'calm down', but in reality it's hard to reverse the physiological state we are in when we are full of adrenaline, no matter how many deep breaths we take.

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What's easier - and more effective, according to research from Harvard Business School - is to use the physical sensation of nerves and 're-frame' it, telling yourself you are not scared, you are excited; you are not dreading the event ahead, you are getting amped up for it. People who did this in the research performed better in a series of tasks - including karaoke, giving a public speech and tackling a maths problem - than those who told themselves to calm down. They sang better, they spoke more convincingly and thought more clearly.

This is because when we think we are excited, we expect good things to happen. When we tell ourselves we are scared, we play out all the ways the situation can go wrong, and this anxiety inhibits our performance. So, I am not nervous about that meeting with my boss, I am just very excited.

* Marianne Power is the author of helpmeblog.net

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