5 Simple Ways to Calm Your Nerves with Bo Parfet

Have you ever found yourself on the eve of a significant moment—maybe a presentation, a high-stakes meeting with your manager, or a first date—and you’ve become consumed by nervousness? Suddenly you feel a wave of heat wash over you, your heart starts to race, your palms get sweaty, and you’re unable to speak smoothly. Basically, you’re ‘choking under pressure. 

Nervousness and/or anxiety affect your life in a variety of ways- it leads to avoidance, lack of focus, and poor sleep. It distorts your perspective and makes small challenges seem impossible. Serial entrepreneur and public speaker Bo Parfet has learned this the hard way by struggling through it time and time again. As a founder of multiple successful firms, a team manager, and an accomplished mountaineer who’s climbed some terrifying peaks, Bo Parfet has practiced pushing his own limits mentally and physically.

So, how do athletes, performers, and those in leadership positions deal with nerves? What makes them successful? They all have in common that they must regularly face their nervousness head-on to perform at a high level. Here, Founder and CEO Bo Parfet shares with us five useful tips for managing your nerves when it matters most. 

1. Reframe stress

First, you must release control. We often create our own anxiety by telling ourselves we need total control. This is never possible, and on some level, we know this. As President of the Logic-Based Therapy and Consultation Institute, Dr. Elliott Cohen explains, this tension between our desire for control and the reality (that life is always uncertain) creates the feeling of anxiety. 

Often, when the anticipation of an event or experience makes us especially nervous, it’s because we’re aware of the importance of the moment. In his book Better Under Pressure, Justin Menkes draws from in-depth interviews with sixty CEOs for insights on how to deal with nerves. Menkes says, try conceptually reframing the event as an opportunity to experience something uniquely important, rather than an opportunity to mess something up! 

2.Just breathe! (…and practice mindfulness) 

Being mindful is largely about recognizing stressful thoughts and triggers. Stress’s physiological signs include sweaty palms, a racing pulse, and an increased heart rate as hormones are released from your body. First, we must recognize these signals and then train ourselves to respond differently.   

One of the easiest and most immediate physical actions you can take is to practice breathing exercises. Most serious athletes and mountaineers like Bo Parfet know how important breathing is. You don’t need to learn any abstract new meditations or special techniques. The trick is simply to slow down and increase focus on the breath in order to push worries away.  

Try the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise from PsychCentral:

  • Breathe in for 4 seconds
  • Hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale slowly for 8 seconds
  • Repeat until you feel calmer

According to Maria Gonzalez, the founder, and president of Argonauta Strategic Alliances Consulting and the author of Mindful Leadership, stress is usually compounded. How well you react to and manage daily stressors “impacts your relationships with other people, with yourself, and how others perceive you” more long term. So being mindful at the moment will make you stronger in the long run. 

3. Divide & Conquer

Whatever the event you’re anticipating, break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. It helps to look at your timeline and be realistic about it. Outline purposeful actions you can take with their allotted time. You may find that the assignment felt bigger than the sum of its parts. ‘Divide and conquer is a trusted technique that Bo Parfet has often used in work planning as well. For example, if your company or organization has an ambitious goal that seems beyond reach, project managers must break it down into small, specific tasks with clear timelines and owners. This approach applies to both business and psychology because it works!   

4. Make a list

Making lists is a part of the divide-and-conquer approach. It’s a tool that forces you to practice prioritizing responsibilities and managing time better. Try doing a brainstorm on all the tasks you need to complete. Dump them all onto a sheet of paper. Then, carefully order them based on importance and deadline. This may seem simple, but it’s often where people misplace their focus and miss opportunities. Try color-coding tasks based on their urgency if you’re a visual person. List-keeping is also a great way to catch yourself procrastinating. When you see an item that’s been sitting on the list for too long, ask yourself if you’re intentionally avoiding It for some reason. 

5. Positive Affirmations

Did you know that about 95 percent of your brain activity is beyond your conscious awareness? Imagine all the unconscious thoughts that influence the choices you make daily! Spiritual leaders have known this for millennia and have used mantras—words or phrases meant to concentrate the mind and promote calmness. Similarly, psychologists often recommend positive affirmations—phrases with literal meanings that help encourage you to stay the course. Affirmations can help in all types of situations. For example, you pitch a big idea to a client or have a difficult conversation with family. 

In order to bring out the best in yourself and others and improve your performance in any area of life, practice these five tips from Chief Operating Office Bo Parfet. If you want to learn more, listen to Bo Parfet’s podcast called “The Impact with Don Wenner,” where the top industry leaders are interviewed and explain how they succeeded during adversity.

Article Editor