Scientifically proven ways to calm your nerves
“Keep calm and carry on" is easier said than done.
“Keep calm and carry on.” We’ve all heard it before, but actually applying the advice is easier said than done, especially when you're working. Learning how to not be nervous takes time, but it's worth the effort you put in. And by the looks of it, we could all use help taking a breather.
According to a recent Monster survey, 31% of US respondents have experienced anxiety and 15% experienced depression because of their job, with 37% of women experiencing anxiety versus 25% of men.
Here are 10 scientifically proven ways to calm your nerves and stay cool under pressure at work.
1. Slow your breathing
Deep-breathing exercises can slow your heartbeat, stabilize your blood pressure, and induce relaxation by reducing your body’s cortisol levels. Harvard Medical School recommends this technique:
- Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Take a normal breath, followed by a deep breath, where you breathe slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural).
2. Keep a journal
Journaling just a few minutes a day can lift your mood, reduce anxiety, and even strengthen your immune system, research at Eastern Michigan University found. Writing your thoughts down can also help you identify sources of frustration at work.
3. Break a sweat
Physical activity releases endorphins—the chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. So, make sure you’re getting at least some form of exercise on a daily basis. Even a little bit can help: in a 2019 study at Iowa State University, psychologists found that walking for just 12 minutes is a powerful mood booster.
4. Take breaks
Time off will give you an opportunity to work on how to not be nervous. Building breaks into your work day gives you time to clear your head, which can help combat stress. Ideally, you’ll want to step away from your desk and take a walk outside, since studies have shown a strong connection between time spent outdoors and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
5. Find your zen
You don’t have to be a Tibetan monk to reap the benefits of meditation. Indeed, mindfulness exercises—which teach how to slow down racing thoughts—can reduce aggression, irritability, and anger, research shows.
If you’re a beginner, consider using a meditation app like Headspace—companies including Google and Adobe give their employees access to it.
6. Get better sleep
This is another way to take care of your body and reduce stress. How much sleep you need, though, depends on your age. According to guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, adults ages 18 to 60 should get at least seven hours of sleep per night.
If you’re having trouble getting a good night’s rest, you may need to improve your “sleep hygiene” by turning off electronics at least one hour before you go to sleep and avoid eating large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime.
7. Pay it forward
According to UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, gratitude practices improve brain function, which can help keep you healthier and happier. Expressions of gratitude also create a positive work environment. Take advantage of opportunities to spread goodwill, such as thanking a co-worker for helping you finish a project.
8. Use guided imagery
The next time you feel stressed at work, try practicing guided imagery. This entails “focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind,” according to the Cleveland Clinic, and it can improve your coping skills during stressful times.
A good starting point? Try this guided imagery session on YouTube from the Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.
9. Take a scenic drive to work
Nature can have calming effects on drivers, an Ohio State University study found. So instead of taking the six-lane highway to work every day, shift your commute to a scenic drive along tree-lined streets.
10. Deal with bad habits
If you’re coping with work stress by turning to alcohol or drugs, talk to a doctor to get help. You can find a mental health professional in your area through the American Psychiatric Association.
Find a less stressful job
If you've done what you can to figure out how to not be nervous with limited results, maybe the smart thing to do is rethink where you work. Need help finding a less-stressful job? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox to cut down on time spent looking through ads. Take control and start looking today.