Everybody gets nervous before a big event. Whether that’s public speaking, hosting a dinner party, or meeting the in-laws. However, it can sometimes hinder rather than help. Your hands can become clammy, your breathing quickens, and can cause nausea in severe cases.
Rather than let the nerves win, there is one handy technique you can use to bat the anxiety away. They’re called self-affirmations. Telling yourself who you are, what your strengths are and why you love yourself, essentially giving yourself a big metaphorical hug. You can do this by writing them down or placing yourself in front of a mirror and repeating them until the nerves start to subside and you feel in control. You might even benefit from writing down positive affirmations in bulk and putting them in a jar for you to access when you’re feeling a bit low.
Now you may be reading this and asking yourself how this can help you. But when I first started to go to therapy, my therapist gave me a very similar task. She called it ‘mirror work’, which is basically standing in front of a mirror, looking yourself in the eyes, and repeating positive affirmations. This was one of the first stages of my therapy, as I had very low self-esteem. And through tackling that, I would be able to move forward with a better state of mind. I was given a sheet with a list of affirmations that were tailored to me and was asked to memorize them. Next, she brought out a mirror and had me do a few practice runs to help me perfect my ‘mirror work’ routine.
She asked me to complete this at least once a day, for however long I felt I needed. The idea behind it is that once you start doing this on a regular basis, the more you will start to believe them. Meaning that when your anxieties come crawling into your head, you can easily push them aside and dismiss them without a second thought.
When I first began doing the mirror work routine, I felt ridiculous and silly. I kept laughing, looking at my hair, and fiddling with my clothes. It was incredibly hard to concentrate. I started to get angry at myself, the negative thoughts following soon after. As a result, I quickly found myself back at square one. I left it for a couple of days and then tried it again with a fresh head.
This time it got easier, as I was able to complete 5 minutes before I started to get distracted. But once my concentration lapsed, my anger came back. And then I was back at square one again. This cycle would repeat itself each time I tried to complete a session. Although I could concentrate longer each time I tried, the end result would be the same. I was getting more and more disheartened because my mind kept wandering. I felt like I was failing, which added to the anxious thoughts that the mirror work was trying to quell.
The next therapy session I had, I told my therapist about my trouble completing the mirror work. She explained that it will take a while for me to get the hang of it. For those positive thoughts to be accessible without having to dig deep. Eventually, it got easier. About a month in, I managed to stay in a calm state of mind for 10 minutes. It was a huge achievement for me.
Having gone through my own trials and tribulations with the mirror work, I can personally say that it works. Any time I’ve felt myself falling into a pit of self-doubt, I’ve been able to pull the plug on it. And if something goes wrong, then it’s only temporary and I have the ability to fix it.
That’s not to say I’ve been riding a wave of positivity and rainbows for three months. But I haven’t had an angry black rain cloud stationed firmly above my head, either. There are swings and roundabouts, as most things are with mental health. It’s getting to a place where you can recognize the nervous energy and turn it into something useful, rather than it throwing you into a spiral of self-doubt.
So now I’ll turn this over to you, the reader. Next time you’re feeling the tell-tale signs of nervousness eating away at you, and self-doubt starts to creep in, remind yourself that you’re an amazing human being. You’re funny, clever and talented and you’ll feel your confidence rise like never before.
How do you cope with anxiety? What do you do to quell those negative thoughts? Leave a comment below!
Edited by Viveca Shearin