Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 8th 2015 Contents A36
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, December 8, 2015
How do you deal with nerves? This question
seems to be recurring lately. I wish someone expe-
rienced could have answered it when I was just
starting out as an athlete.
It s hard to remember the feeling of nervousness
itself. What stays etched in the memory and comes
to mind is the incredible pleasure from the immediate
relief from this self imposed stress. It s interesting
to note that nervousness only arises from our antic-
ipation of an upcoming situation, but once the sit-
uation is upon us and has consumed our attention
totally, we are no longer nervous.
Nervousness is a physical response from the body
to stressful thoughts in the mind. To the brain, the
thoughts of the mind are just as much a part of con-
sciousness as the sensations of the body and the
Our body is this incredibly complex organism that
is the result of millions of years of evolution, while
the imagination is relatively new addition. To the
body, stress from thoughts in the mind is as equally
real as stress from stimuli about the outside world
and does elicit a physical response.
So from the perspective of the body, the thought
of imminent danger can provoke the same response
as if there actually was actually a threat to you. As
a reaction to this stress, our body prepares itself for
action by releasing the stress hormone cortisol which
stimulates our sympathetic nervous system, otherwise
known as fight or flight response.
It s this response which creates endorphins to
buffer pain and stimulates our adrenal glands which
is often felt as the sensation we call butterflies in the
I like to think of nervousness as emotional invest-
ment in an upcoming situation. It s brought about
by stress from a combination of our yearning desire
for a positive outcome coupled with equally intense
fears of a negative one; wants and fears always go
It s because you care about the result of that exam,
or the medical test, or sporting event that you become
nervous, and the more you care, the more nervous
you will become. We care, because we have decided
that obtaining a positive outcome and avoiding a
negative one is important to us.
No one else can make us want or decide something,
we do that to ourselves. So, therefore all pressure is
actually self imposed. To realise this is the first step
towards mastering nervousness.
The next step is to obtain the right perspective of
the upcoming situation. To do this we need to see
it in the context of an opportunity for greatness
instead of a chance for failure. Viewing it as an oppor-
tunity for greatness helps us to see the fun and
actually look forward to the situation instead of
dreading it, greatly alleviating the stress.
Stress and fun might seem like totally different
things, but they are actually two polarities of the
same thing, which is excitement, just in the same
way that hot and cold are both extreme opposites
If a room is too cold, it is impossible to take the
cold out. Instead we have to add in heat to make it
more comfortable. When we are stressed about an
upcoming situation because we have decided that it
is important to us, we can t take the stress out.
However we can add in the fun by deliberately
bringing to mind all the reasons why we can expect
to be successful, the many enjoyable aspects of it,
and the satisfaction that will ensue from a positive
result. In this way we see the fun and not the stress,
and very quickly the situation becomes a more pleas-
ant fun one.
It also helps to come to terms with the worst case
scenario. This is not easy to do, but facing our worst
fears will free us from them. I do this when I am
competing. The context is always different, but I
imagining the worst case scenario, which is the
current image that I associate with my feeling of the
fear of failure. I then fast forward in my mind to my
reaction to that negative outcome and always
come to the realisation that it happens to
people all the time, and that my mistakes
will never define me, and that life will go
on.Without the fear of failure we are then
free to completely focus on being our best.
A small amount of nervousness is always
a good thing and helps to bring out the best
in all of us. Embrace it! It s natural to care
about an important upcoming situation.
However, if we let our mind run wild and
it s thoughts consume us, we become too
nervous, provoking an overpowering physical
response which always leads to a negative
impact on our performance.
If we allow our nervousness to get the
better of us, the pressure created from caring
too much can be so intense that it fuses
our wants and fears together in the crucible
of the mind, making us desperate.
The next time you feel those butterflies
in your belly as nervousness begins to con-
sume you, recognise it arising in your mind
from your wants and fears. Keep the right
perspective, and focus more of the fun and
less on the stress.
• Find George on Twitter: @georgebovell
Turn those nerves into fun
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