The velvet-voiced singer had to restart her hit single Easy On Me after nerves got the better of her as she recorded the ITV special An Audience With Adele, in front of celebrity guests at the London Palladium. And with her characteristic brutal honesty, she admitted she was ‘s*******’ herself about performing the number one single.
It’s nice to know that no matter who you are, or how much experience you have of nerve-wracking situations, those butterflies in your stomach can still be overwhelming and completely stop you in your tracks.
“It’s human nature to get nervous when you’re in a pressure situation,” says social psychologist Sandra Wheatley. “All that adrenaline, which is what makes you feel all gurgly in your tummy, is actually a good thing, because it makes the blood flow to all your muscles – which includes your lungs, your heart, your vocal chords – and it makes everything ready to respond.
“When you feel those butterflies, it’s to make you speak more loudly, your eyes shine brighter, your smile wider – you’re more receptive to success. That’s the thing with adrenaline, it is the fight or flight hormone, but it’s also something you need because it preps you to succeed.”
Although nerves may help us perform better, it’s still reassuring to know how to deal with them. Here are Wheatley’s expert tips for doing just that…
1. Take a deep breath
The adrenaline coursing through your veins in a pressure situation can increase your heart rate and helps pump your lungs, so to calm yourself down it can help to take deep breaths and breathe through it, explains Wheatley. “To control your breathing, take longer, slower, deeper breaths, and the fact you’re able to control your breathing will help you realise that actually, you are in control,” she says. “You’re choosing to do something and it’s a good thing, because sometimes you think that butterfly feeling is something you can’t control, like wild horses dragging you along. But if you do take breaths and calm yourself, you’re actually flying along behind those wild horses and enjoying the ride.”
2. Try visualisation
Visualisation is easy – it’s just imaging yourself doing something well. “One thing that’s been shown to help enormously in situations where you anticipate you might feel nervous, is spending a little time beforehand imagining it; almost dreaming it,” explains Wheatley. “Live through it and create that image inside your head, almost like a video of success, of everything going well and being fine. If you visualise success, you’re much more likely to succeed – it works for sports stars, for actresses, and I dare say it would work for Adele as well.”
3. Remember everyone gets nervous
As Adele has so publicly demonstrated, everyone gets nervous and you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. In the past Adele has admitted: “I have anxiety attacks, constant panicking on stage, my heart feels like it’s going to explode because I never feel like I’m going to deliver, ever.” Other stars who’ve admitted being affected by nerves include Rihanna, Beyoncé, Emma Watson and the singer Lorde, who’s been sick before going on stage and has said: “I am reduced by nerves. I can be completely crushed by feelings of all kinds… I get nervous, I get freaked out, I get, you know, the usual stuff.”
4. Remember past successes
Don’t be so down on yourself – everybody has succeeded at something, no matter how big or small. Think of those moments now. Wheatley says: “Focusing on the successful things you’ve done and remembering what you’ve done before that went well, all those things will help you repeat that success.”
5. Throw yourself a few curveballs
As well as thinking about past successes, maybe give a bit of thought to little things that might not go as well as you hope, to prepare yourself. “You can even throw yourself a few curveballs,” suggests Wheatley. “You may not get a laugh when you think you’re going to get a laugh, will that really be so bad? Just give yourself a few tools to make yourself feel better.”
6. Tune in to positive vibes
Wheatley says it will do no harm to big yourself up a little before doing whatever it is you’re nervous about. “Everybody wants you to succeed, remember that,” she says. “Everybody’s there to hear or watch you, and that’s not a pressure thing, it’s a good thing. The fact people admire you for getting up to speak or perform or whatever is something to remember.
”People wish you well – whether it’s a team meeting, standing up in school or at a conference, taking part in amateur dramatics, sprinting at your local athletics club – whatever it is, the people who are there are urging you to succeed, and it’s really, really important for you to harness that and keep it in your mind.”