Calvin Strachan | How to Get Rid of Your Nerves Before the Next Big Test or Presentation
Over the span of my career I've held many roles, most of which required me to perform under massive pressure.
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How to Get Rid of Your Nerves Before the Next Big Test or Presentation

Sometimes when you are taking a test, or you have to complete a certification; you can do the practice exam and everything seems fine. But when you go to do the real exam, your mind starts racing. Or you are preparing for a presentation at home, you practice your talk, you know your slides and you feel good. Then as soon as you get in front of your audience, the nerves start settling in and you choke.

So what do you do? How do you resist the pressure of a test or a presentation?

Well, there was an interesting study that was done at the University of Chicago. The study investigators, told some university students, some really bright kids, “We’re going to have you take a test.” But they ramped up the pressure. They said, “If you do well, we’re going to give you a significant amount of money. If you do poorly, we are going to take money away from your classmates, and we’re going to have professors in the room watching you as you take the test.”

All of this was designed to put pressure on these students. As you can imagine the students started feeling their anxiety and their nerves climbing through the roof.

The investigators took the students and then split them into two groups. One group was instructed, “For the next ten minutes all we want you to do is write down all the fears and worries and anxieties you have about taking this test in these conditions. Just write it all out. Get it all out on paper. Also, we’re not going to see your papers. Don’t put your name on it. Just write everything out and feel free to disclose anything and everything you want.”

In the other group, they asked them,  to simply sit there quietly and do nothing. So this group just sat and festered in their pressure situation.

After ten minutes both groups were asked to write the test. You can probably imagine what happened next.

The group who that was free to just let it all out, all the fears, anxieties and worries scored 15% higher than the group who had to sit there and just fester and ruminate on their fear.

So, if you have to do a presentation for work. You may notice while you are at home, practicing, getting ready for that presentation, that you feel really good in front of the mirror.

However, when the time comes to do the presentation in front of your colleagues or in front of your superiors; or in other words in front of the audience; you feel your nerves building up and you feel yourself about to choke.

The take home message here is, take ten minutes and just write out all those fears, all those anxieties about what’s concerning you and just disclose it all. When you disclose it all, it frees your brain up to think and get your mind focused on what you have to do.

Alternatively, if you don’t disclose it, your mind gets stuck on the fears and the worries and the anxieties and you can’t get focused on the job at hand.

Also, if you want help with that, there’s a link below where I have a simple exercise. It’s a stick figure exercise I do with my clients. I have them draw a stick figure and draw a thought bubble. In the thought bubble, I have them write down the fears and anxieties and the worries that are plaguing them. Any thoughts that are holding them back, I ask them to put it in there.

It’s a simple little drill, but you’d be surprised how effective it is.

If you’ll disclose those anxieties and fears, just like those students and just like my clients, you’ll see a huge boost in your performance and you will find a way to win.

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