Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by anna. anna Wonders, “what happens when you are nerves?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, anna!

The score is tied and you're at the free-throw line with two shots and a chance to win the game. You're on the borderline of getting an A in your history class and the final exam that will determine your grade is ten minutes from now. It's almost your turn to stand in front of the class and present your science project.

What do all these scenarios have in common? The person described in each scenario will likely be nervous! Who wouldn't be? Those types of situations are classic examples of times when people are likely to feel higher levels of stress and anxiety.

But those are just a few examples. All sorts of situations make all sorts of different people nervous. Everyone is different. What makes one person nervous might not affect another person at all. Regardless of your particular comfort with certain situations, life is full of situations that can cause anxiety and stress. For example, anyone can experience performance anxiety when worried about how they will score on an important test or perform in a big game.

The situations that create stress and anxiety may begin in the mind, but there are also a whole host of physical symptoms that can arise when our nerves get the best of us. A racing heartbeat, excessive sweating, heavy breathing, and an upset stomach are all common signs of our body reacting to a stressful situation.

Why do our bodies react this way? Experts believe we've been programmed that way for hundreds of thousands of years. Long ago, the things that caused stress were often imminent, physical dangers, such as predatory animals like bears and big cats. When encountering such danger, the body goes into a "fight or flight" mode.

The typical physical responses to stress, such as increased heart rate and breathing, are caused by adrenaline surges triggered by anxiety. Those responses prepare the body either to fight or take flight. For example, if you had to outrun a bear, your body would be preparing you to take flight!

Your increased heart rate and breathing help to deliver more oxygen to your muscles in preparation for either running or fighting. Increased sweating acts to keep your body temperature normal while your muscles work harder. Today, though, usually the things that cause us to be nervous aren't immediate, physical dangers, but our brains still react with many of the same bodily responses.

So what can you do when you feel nervous? Breathing exercises can help reduce your breathing rate to normal and calm your racing heart at the same time. Taking control of your thoughts can also help to reduce stress and anxiety. Focus on positive things you can control, rather than worrying about things beyond your control.

It also helps to identify those situations that tend to cause you stress and anxiety. Avoiding such situations in the future can dramatically reduce the nervousness you feel. For those events you can't avoid, prepare in advance as much as possible, so that you're not taken by surprise when the time to perform arises.

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