When we are anxious, our attention is not in the present. Most often, that is because we are worrying about what has happened or what might happen. This is sometimes described as being ‘off-centre' as opposed to feeling ‘centred.' Our stress hormone, cortisol, increases and we are inhibited from performing well.

Just take a deep breath to bring you back to the present moment.

Why it's important to stay calm

To give our best performance we need to be fully present.

When you are anxious and not fully present:

● you cannot think clearly;

● it can lead to nausea, headaches and more;

● you tend adopt behaviours showing that you are nervous;

● the audience has less confidence in you;

● you may go into flight or fight mode or freeze like a rabbit in the


● you may become fearful, which impairs good performance.

How to stay calm

Three easy things to do when you start feeling anxious:

1.     Breathe deeply to re-centre yourself

Guidance based upon the work of Wendy Palmer and Janet Crawford in ‘Leadership Embodiment' suggests we breathe in deeply as if breathing upwards. Then breathe out in a long breath as if exhaling down the front of our body. Maintain an upright stance throughout. Imagine you have soft shoulders and relax them. Even after several breaths, you can feel a difference as your attention is brought back to the present moment.

"The way we sit and stand can change the way we think and speak"- Wendy Palmer and Janet Crawford, authors of Leadership Embodiment

2.     Reframe anxious experiences to a positive

When we give negative meanings to things that happen it makes us feel anxious. However, we can choose to positively reframe those experiences. All we need to do is ask ourselves: ‘What else it could mean?'

Here are a couple of examples:

Having made a mistake at the start of a talk, your instinctive reaction might be:

● ‘I've made a mistake, so this is going to be awful.'

Taking a moment to positively reframe the experience, you might more helpfully think:

● ‘That's an early sign to keep me on my toes.'

After forgetting where you were in your talk, your instinctive reaction might be:

● ‘There you go - typical me!'

Taking a moment to positively reframe the experience, you might more helpfully think:

● ‘Anyone can forget something. I'll make sure I find a way to avoid that happening next time.'

3.      Place a positive label on the ‘negative' feeling

Feelings that we typically label positive or negative are often similar feelings.

‘Nervous' often feels like ‘excited'.

A quick way to overcome nerves is to change the label we give them. Instead of saying: ‘I feel nervous' or ‘I've got butterflies', we could, instead, say: ‘I feel a sense of anticipation' or ‘That's excitement.'

Remember to change the label you give to a negative feeling in order to change your reaction into a positive.

Things to try

1.     Next time you become aware that you are getting anxious or impatient, for example in a queue, practise the breathing exercise described above to re-centre and ground yourself.

2.     Practise reframing your own reactions; notice when you next react negatively to something. Remind yourself that you have simply labelled it as bad. Now think of a positive meaning for it.

TOP TIP - Drink water because dehydration causes stress - and stress causes dehydration. ‘Studies have shown that being just half a litre dehydrate can increase your cortisol levels,' according to Amanda Carlson, performance nutritionist.