Head Boy’s talk on nervousness
The Senior School comes together three times a week for an assembly in the Minster. Last term we were fortunate to hear from a number of excellent speakers including Charles Dunn, Head Boy, who talked about nervousness. Read on for a transcript of his speech.
As I stand and talk to you this morning, there is something that all of us in the room have in common. Apart from the fact that we all attend Warminster School in some form or another, or we are all in church; we have all experienced being nervous. Nervousness occurs for different reasons in different people, whether it is being nervous about an exam, public speaking, or performing in front of a group of people. It is something that everyone has experienced and something that we are likely to experience in the near future.
Although I try to look calm and collected on the outside, on the inside this isn’t always the case. This morning for example, I would say I was and I’m still pretty nervous about speaking in front of so many people. I have also experienced nervousness away from school whether it representing my country at golf or sitting my theory test, but in most of the situations I have been able to overcome these nerves and get through the once daunting situation. And I hope that after this speech some, if not most of you, will find it easier to overcome your nerves when faced with a difficult situation.
Nerves are often caused by a fear of the unknown, failure or worrying how a situation we are faced with, will turn out. When we are nervous, physical changes can occur in our body to something referred to as our “flight” or “fight” response. This is our bodies’ first response to danger or a perceived threat to our survival, so when faced with this situation we want to flee or fight against it. Although in modern day life, the causes of such responses are unlikely to be life threatening, our brain acts in the same way. After such a reaction, many chemicals and excess energy are released and can cause changes in the body such as increased blood flow or increased awareness. It is these changes that are responsible for many of the symptoms that we experience when we are nervous, like butterflies in our stomach, a rapid heartbeat or a dry mouth.
However, before you think that you have had some if not all of these, don’t panic, you are not alone. American LPGA Golfer, Paula Creamer, said that “being nervous is not something you should be ashamed of. Nervous means you care, you really want to do well”. And to some extent there are some situations in life where it is good to be nervous and show these nerves. For example, in interviews, a panel will expect to see some nerves, as it shows you are eager to succeed and that the job or place is very important to you. Furthermore, it has been shown that your nerves are not as obvious to everyone else as you may think they are.
A certain amount of controlled nerves can actually be helpful to the human body; as they will help to concentrate your focus, and improve your performance through increased energy and enthusiasm. The hardest thing to do is to control the nerves and believe that they are a positive thing. One of the best ways to control nerves, particularly for exams, sports events and musical performances is being prepared. If you are well prepared, you will automatically feel more in control of the situation that you are about to face. This in turn will help you to feel more confident thus meaning you are more likely be successful. For exams, ensure you have done plenty of revision in advance, do plenty of exam questions marking them with the appropriate mark scheme to get the correct terminology. And if you don’t understand something during your revision, look it up in a text book or go to your teacher until you understand. All of this will help you to become more prepared and less nervous.
Other ways in which you can control your nerves include relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, exercise and positive thinking. The last point: positive thinking in many psychologists’ minds, is a great way to deal with nerves. All of the sports psychologists I have seen through golf, have repeatedly talked about a positive mental attitude, and that you have to believe you can succeed before you truly can. Always think optimistically as negative thoughts won’t get you anywhere. But most importantly always keep your mind in the present – you should not think about the future as you can easily loose concentration and cost yourself your goal. Try to learn from the past, and take confidence from what you have done previously.
A way that I have used to deal with nerves is to distract the nerves. Try thinking about something else completely unrelated to what you’re getting nervous about, this may be a long walk on a beach, a TV show or a pizza, but any of these will at least help you to think more positively.
So to sum up. Everyone has experienced nerves in some form or another, and they are nothing to be ashamed of. But I urge you that next time you feel nervous, try to transform them into a positive outcome, and try to conquer your nerves. I leave you with a quote from Beyoncé: “I think it’s healthy for a person to be nervous. It means you care – that you work hard and want to give a great performance. You just have to channel that nervous energy into the show”.