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What to Do When You Get Nervous

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Everyone gets nervous sometimes. In some situations, it can even be a good thing! A bit of extra adrenaline, or your heart beating a little faster, can make you feel more awake and focussed, which might be exactly what you need when you’re walking into a high-pressure situation.

But getting too nervous can be a serious problem. It’s hard to concentrate when your hands are shaking – and looking scared and sweaty isn’t great when you want to make a good impression!

Many language learners panic and get really nervous when they have to speak in English, especially in an exam or in a real life situation, outside of the classroom. It’s understandable – these situations can be scary!

Here are 5 top tips to help you deal with nerves and stay calm when speaking English.

  1. Take a Deep Breath

When your heart is beating fast and you can’t think straight, the best way to calm yourself down is to concentrate on breathing slowly in and out.

Focussing on your breath takes your brain’s attention away from the million things that are making you scared, and the slow action will make you feel more peaceful.

  1. Run Your Wrists Under Cold Water

Before an exam, presentation or other stressful situation where you have to speak English, do you start to feel uncomfortably hot and sweaty? If so, there is an easy way to cool down quickly.

You know how you spray perfume or aftershave onto your wrists and neck? That’s because this is where you can feel your pulse. It’s where your blood is pumping right under the skin. If you put something cold here, it will help to cool down your bloodstream, too. Turn the cold tap on in the bathroom and hold your wrists underneath for 30 seconds. It will help you reduce your temperature fast!

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

When you’re feeling nervous, there is nothing worse than someone shouting at you or telling you you’re not good enough. But often, we make things worse by doing this to ourselves!

When things are going wrong, do you sometimes say to yourself, (out loud or in your head) that you’re an idiot, that you were stupid for trying, that you should have worked harder, that you can’t do it, etc. etc.? Stop it! You’re going to make yourself fail!

Instead, give yourself some encouragement. Remind yourself that you CAN do this. You DO know the vocabulary you need. The situation is NOT as scary as it seems. You WILL survive. Honestly, it will help you!

  1. Prepare Some Backup Phrases

When you’re really anxious about something, it’s common to have your mind go completely blank and forget what you wanted to say. The best way to prevent this is to plan ahead.

Learn a couple of simple phrases really well so that you can always use them when you get stuck. For example, if you are preparing for an interview, a useful phrase might be “let me think about that for a moment”, which gives you a little bit of time to remember what you were talking about without the interviewer realising that you are stuck. Or, if you are in a meeting or taking questions in a presentation, you might say, “that’s a really good question” or “that’s an interesting point”, which avoids long pauses while you think of something to say!

  1. Smile

It sounds so simple, but smiling is the very best way to deal with nerves! Smiling actually makes you feel happier and more relaxed, even when you force yourself to do it.

It helps you to get a better connection with the person you’re talking to, it reduces tension when you’re worried, it helps you to seem confident and friendly, makes the situation less stressful for everyone… and it gives you a few extra seconds to get back on track when you forget what you were going to say next.


What are your secrets for getting rid of nerves? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!