If you sometimes struggle to bat away your worries, we’ve got a simple guide to help you to cap your nerves
For some, it starts with a fluttering of butterflies in their stomach, followed by the clamming of their hands. Before long, an uncomfortable tense feeling prickles up their spine and across the shoulders. Their heart begins to race as a bead of sweat snowballs down their forehead and suddenly sitting still is no longer an option. No matter how anxiety affects you, it’s important that you don’t let it take over. In a survey covering Britain, researchers found that 1-in-10 people will, at some stage in their lives, suffer from a ‘disabling anxiety disorder’. While many of us are able to tame our anxieties, there are of course situations when our worries can really take hold of us. Job interviews are a common cause of stress and anxiety, so, as we’re focusing on careers this issue, what better time to take a look at how we can teach ourselves to tame our anxieties? Because that’s the thing, they really are controllable – after all, when you think about it, they are manifested in our minds.
Remember you’re amazing
Many believe there’s a direct correlation between self-confidence and anxiety. An imbalance in either area can have a direct effect on the other. Therefore, it’s important for you to recognise how fabulous you are (because, you really are fabulous!). “Recognise the things you’re good at and the things that are good about you,” psychologist, Dr Lynda Shaw says. We know this can be tricky but we’ve found out tips to help with that, too. “Listen to and take note of compliments that others give you for inspiration. And, don’t forget to compliment them back – you never know, they may be anxious or lacking confidence just like you.
Snooze it off
“Many anxious people suffer from a lack of sleep,” says Dr Shaw – and it’s no surprise! When your mind is whirring with worries, not even the softest of pillows nor the most melting of mattresses can tempt your mind to switch off and allow you to settle into an energising slumber. However, there are small things you can do to encourage the cogs of your mind to wind down. “Having a warm bath before bed will not only physically and emotionally relax your body it can help you sleep,” Dr Shaw advises. But why is it helpful? Well, research has proved that, when you step into a cool room after your bath or shower, your body temperature drops which tells your internal system that it’s time to rest.”
We’re not sure about you, but the unknown has a nasty habit of encouraging our anxieties to creep up on us. The only way to combat this is to arm yourself with knowledge. “Try to make sure you are as well informed as possible,” Dr Shaw suggests. If it’s an interview you’re nervous about, ask the interviewee or HR representative what you can expect, and any questions that are puzzling you.
Following on from point three, the next step is to be prepared. “I recommend that people follow the words of Abraham Lincoln, ‘I do the very best I know how, the very best I can and I mean to keep doing so until the end’,” Dr Shaw continues. “Whether you’re anxious about a test, a speech, an interview or a business meeting, the best way to show confidence is to be prepared.” Make sure you do your research. Before an interview, spend time looking up common questions online and preparing answers to them. You might find it helpful to bullet point all of your strengths and important notes to take into the interview. This is perfectly acceptable and will put your mind at ease if you’re concerned about your mind going blank.
A lot of the time our anxieties are unfounded. While this doesn’t make them any less real, it does mean that voicing them can alleviate the stress. Think of your anxiety as a big bar of chocolate (we know it’s an odd analogy but bear with us). Break down all the elements that are making you feel nervous, and imagine each as a chunk of the chocolate. Now, snap them away one-by-one, and share them with a loved one. You see, like a bar of chocolate, once you’ve spoken the issues through, you’re likely to find your fears melt away!
“Always believe you can do something,” smiles Dr Shaw. “Visualise yourself doing exactly what you need to do, and doing it well, to gain confidence. This is something that many sports psychologists do to help our greatest athletes.”
Ok, so we’re going to suggest a little eight-letter word now, but, before you skip to the next step, give us a minute to explain. You see, exercise can be a great aid to anxiety –honest. “Unused muscles can become tense and cause symptoms of anxiety,” Dr Shaw tells. “So make sure you take a little time to exercise. Not only will it reduce your anxiety and prevent panic attacks, but you can stay fabulously fit at the same time!”
Let it go
We’re all human; you understand that, we understand it and everybody you come face to face with will, too. We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect. Before you allow worries of being asked a question and not knowing the answer, or getting something wrong, to fill your hear, remind yourself of this well-known fact. “Just be honest and say you don’t know the answer but you will find out,” suggested Dr Shaw. “Than make sure you do! No one knows everything about anything, so you will appear confident and in control if you give an accurate answer – even if it is a day late.”
Everybody is different. We all feel differently and react differently, so it’s important that we give ourselves a break and consider our individual needs. “Don’t compare yourself to others. When setting your goals and aims think about your abilities and not what others can do and are doing. Be aware of the reasons why you’re anxious or lack confidence. Write down a list of obstacles, then think positively about how you will overcome them,” confirms Dr Shaw.
If we were to ask you to act out the feeling of anxiety, the chances are most of you would pretend to struggle for breath. Therefore, we’re all familiar with the idea that when a person is anxious or stressed they may begin to breathe a little faster than normal. “This gives the illusion of needing more oxygen,” Dr Lynda explains, “but, in actual, fact they are getting too much, thus leading to dizziness, weakness and more.” Keep this in your mind if you find your breathing becomes heavier, stay calm and try to relax yourself. “Control your breathing by taking a long deep breath in through your nose and slowly breathing back out again through your mouth.”
Dr Lynda Shaw is a psychologist of consciousness who aims to enhance people’s relationships and communication. Praised for her innovative approach, Dr Shaw is a great public speaker who offers insight into a variety of relevant and often controversial issues. She is also an author, columnist and a regular on BBC Radio Oxfordshire. Find out more at drlyndashaw.com