Even Presidents Get Nervous: 5 Keys To Handling Stress


So, your first inaugural oath in 2009 included a mistake (albeit not your fault). Four years later, after nailing a legally-required private oath ceremony, you say, “I did it” to your youngest daughter Malia. And then, on January 21, 2013, in front of millions once again…you flub.

Even Presidents, it would seem, can get a little nervous.

In fact, high profile attacks of the nerves are not uncommon. After performing a perfect vault hundreds of times and being the favorite to win gold, McKayla Maroney, (the best vaulter on the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team) fell in the individual finals.

Midori Ito, the first female ice skater to perform a triple axel in competition, cracked under pressure at the 1991 World Championships, falling off the ice into the sideline pit (the disaster happens at 1:01).

And Jessica Simpson forgot the words to “9 to 5” while honoring her idol Dolly Parton at Kennedy Center Honors.

Nervousness is not limited to Presidents, Olympic athletes and entertainers, of course. Here are five simple strategies you can use to handle everyday stress.

1. Focus on your objective, not the magnitude of a situation. Whether you are giving a speech to a room full of peers or having a difficult talk with a loved one or employer, concentrate on your goal. The end–to educate and inspire, or to improve a relationship or work environment–is what matters most, so focus on that.

2. Breath. Ever notice that when you are nervous you forget to breath? Try 4 point breathing before (and during) a stressful situation. Breath in from your abdomen for four counts, hold four counts, then breath out four counts, slowly and steadily. You may have to do it a few times, but you will notice your body begin to relax and your thinking begin to clear.

3. Think positive. Sure, you’ve heard this before. But do you notice what happens when you think positive thoughts? Positive things occur! Smile, admire things about the person you’re talking to, focus on your strengths (your cause, your confidence). Think how proud a close friend or family member will be, picture them smiling. Think of sunny days, your upcoming vacation, that delicious lunch you made from leftovers, whatever is a positive in your life.

4. Vizualize. Have a clear picture in your mind of exactly how you want the situation to turn out. Picture it and feel the joy of its successful completion.

5. Stop and re-ground yourself. It’s okay to take a beat and then continue. Odds are the people you’re talking to won’t even notice. Use that moment to refocus on the overall objective, take a deep breath, insert a positive mental picture, or visualize your intended outcome.

Try these approaches…and you will be able to make that buzzer-beating shot:

or deliver that perfect speech!

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