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Overcoming Nervousness

A question came up recently — How do we control our nervousness?

The answer is surprisingly simple:

Think less, be more.

Nervousness is very related to over-thinking.

It’s natural to identify our ‘selves’ with our discursive thoughts, but this is typically what is underlying the sense of nervousness — our ego watching ourselves and worried about not measuring up to our own expectations of the current situation, or the future result, and providing a running commentary while doing so. It can be hard to moderate this internal chatter, to know when it is leading you further astray.

Think of a time where you have been fully absorbed in an activity you were doing. Maybe it was playing a really good game or sports, or reading a very good book, or making love to a partner — any instance where you have dropped your habit of thinking for the moment, to just connect directly with the experience itself. Chances are, you were not nervous during that time.

Nervousness is a habit; spend more time not being nervous, by forgetting about your ‘self,’ while doing something. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy it or not, as long as you can put your attention to the task you are doing, rather than putting your attention to the thought of your self doing the task.

By doing this, you will naturally de-power the neural pathways leading to the habit. Mindfulness of the nervousness, and an ability to smile at yourself when you catch yourself engaging in that kind of mental chatter can also help.

As they say in the Zen tradition — ‘when you chop wood, chop wood. When you carry water, carry water.’ Maintain a focus of what you are doing in the present moment, and you will spend less time ruminating about your fantasies of what the future may hold. Chances are, if you focus on what you are doing now, you will naturally lead yourself to a better future anyways; at least more so than by psyching yourself out by overthinking about something that may or may not come to pass.

Spend your valuable time dealing with what is, now.