Getting butterflies in your stomach is a metaphor for the physical aspect of nervousness. This is a sensation that is caused by your body’s flight or fight response to triggers like first dates.
Butterflies in your stomach can also be described as a nervous stomach. It can lead to uncomfortable gas, acid reflux, and even cramping. And it isn’t all in your head. Nerves and anxiety release hormones within the body that lead to these feelings.
This is why thinking positively or relaxing doesn’t do much to ease the butterflies in your stomach. So, what can?
Why do you get butterflies in your stomach?
Getting butterflies in your stomach can make you feel uncomfortable. Maybe you just feel a little queasy, or you could completely lose your appetite or feel sick. These butterflies are what led to me not eating on the first few dates I ever went on. I felt so nervous that I could barely sip water.
But, why? Whether I was familiar with the person or not, I was equally filled with butterflies. I would be practical and rational but that feeling in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away.
Some might call that your gut talking. Perhaps it was my gut saying this wasn’t the person for me, but more likely it was my nervous system releasing adrenaline, increasing my heart rate, and rushing blood to my limbs, in turn, slowing digestion. [Read: 7 stages of first date panic and how to calm them]
All of these bodily functions often lead to an urgency to use the bathroom which can make you feel even more nervous. Your brain and your gut may seem far apart, but they go hand-in-hand. This is the same reason why when you’re stressed, you may eat a lot or not at all. Mental health problems and even minor nervousness can lead to gastrointestinal issues.[Read: 32 weird, true psychological facts about love no one seems to know]
This is why your stomach flips when you get a text from your crush or why you might have to run to the bathroom before a big presentation. Your body’s fight-or-flight response is acting up.
Of course, a first date or interview is not life-threatening, but this bodily function is what has helped humans to evolve from times when we were at risk of physical harm. So, even though you probably won’t be fighting with a lion during a coffee date, your body reacts to it in a similar fashion.
How to stop the butterflies in your stomach
I know. That was a lot of science about hormones and bodily functions, but explaining the butterflies in your stomach in the most literal and accurate sense may help you realize that you aren’t going nuts.
These responses are perfectly normal for just about everyone. And they don’t always mean that your gut is telling you to run or that you are falling in love. You can get butterflies in your stomach just by flirting with someone cute in the elevator.
But, with all of this, how do you stop it? You want to be able to eat on a first date. You want to feel like your stomach is calm when you are about to give a speech. [Read: How to get rid of nervousness: Lose the fear and guide your mind]
How do you get those butterflies in your stomach to stop flapping around and wreaking havoc on your body when you need it to function at its highest capacity?
Well, even though this is a natural and normal thing for your body to do, there are some things that can help you relax and feel a bit calmer in these moments. Some help with the nervousness at the source and others help treat the effects.
#1 Stop. Just take a step back. Whatever is causing these feelings is on your mind. Just stop thinking, stop worrying, stop wondering. Sit down and breathe with intention. There are breathing techniques for anxiety everywhere online, once you find one that works for you it can immediately help to calm you. [Read: How to instantly calm down – 7 hacks that work like magic]
#2 Spend time with your pets. Pets are proven to reduce stress levels. When you are feeling nervous about a date or anything, cuddle with your pet. Playing fetch will also boost your mood, but the act of physical touch soothes you almost immediately.
#3 Go for a walk. Light exercise releases feel-good hormones and can overpower the nerves you have bouncing around in your belly. Go for a nice stroll or even do some simple yoga poses to ground yourself. Even consider going on a walk for your first date if that is what you’re nervous about. The fresh air and movement will take your mind off of the motion in your stomach.
#4 Try tea or CBD. CBD is an amazing substance to help ease anxiety without any psychoactive effects. Everything from gummies to oils can help you unwind. If you’re nervous about trying it, herbal teas without caffeine can offer similar effects. Try chamomile tea to help you slow down and peppermint tea to soothe your nervous stomach. [Read: How to calm your nerves in any situation you walk into]
#5 Listen to calming music. It is scientifically proven that music can drastically alter your mental state. Listen to your favorite song or google mindful music or spa music to really feel at peace. The butterflies in your stomach will slow down to a light flutter with the rhythm. [Read: How to find yourself when you feel like you’ve lost your way]
#6 Hydrate. When we are nervous, we forget we should stay hydrated. On days we have big dates or work events, we may be so worried we forget to get our eight cups.
Take small sips of water when you are feeling nervous. Not only will this fight any minor dehydration which can lead to increased anxiety, but it will help to clean out any toxins in your body.
#7 Take antacids or a mint. If the butterflies in your stomach will just not stop, try some antacids. Pepto-Bismol or TUMS should ease any physical symptoms from nervousness.
If you don’t have access to them, popping a mint can help to soothe the acids in your stomach and refresh more than just your breath.
#8 Watch something funny. Take your mind off of whatever is making your nervous. Watch your favorite sitcom, a funny YouTube video, or whatever makes you laugh. Laughing really is the best medicine. It will rearrange your thoughts and shift your body’s reaction from nerves to humor.
#9 Avoid coffee. Coffee and caffeine in general are known to boost your anxiety levels exponentially. Even if you’re going on a coffee date, order decaf to make sure you don’t aggravate your nerves or the butterflies in your stomach.
#10 Nibble some crackers. Yes, nibbling on saltines is advice doctors give to pregnant women with nausea, but it also works if you have a sour stomach for other reasons. Eating something in small bits that will settle the action in your stomach will help calm that part of your anxiety.