“I had butterflies in my stomach just before the presentation”, is a statement I have heard a million times. There are many times when one can feel a tingling sensation in their stomachs, not just before a presentation. This is colloquially termed as butterflies. But there is a much more scientific explanation behind this feeling. Obviously, there is no way by which there can be real insects in your stomach! But the fluttery feeling has a scientific explanation that has more to do with our evolution than what we eat. It is more mental than physical and it is certainly encoded in our DNA.
Why Do We Get The Sensation?
Firstly, we need to understand that we humans are not always on top of the food chain. Evolution has allowed us to climb the food chain to reach the apex. But we see that even though we have left behind our cave dwelling past, we have some instincts that remain with us today. For example, our deep seeded fear of darkness comes from the fact that our ancestors could not see in the dark, but the predatory animals could, hence our instinct tells us that darkness is something to be afraid of.
Similarly, we see that our body reacts to certain conditions with a tingling sensation in the stomach.
The sensation comes from our fight or flight instinct. When we face a challenging situation, our body either prepares to perform evasive maneuvers or chooses to face the predicament head on. The process that leads to sensation is as follows:
- When we face a challenge
- When our brain registers and assess the threat
- When the brain neurons send signals to our heart and our stomach
- When our heart rate increases
- When our stomach muscles tighten
- When the adrenaline level in our body increases
- When the adrenaline momentarily stops digestion, causing the sensation to intensify
When these processes come together to produce the effect, we commonly term it as butterflies in the stomach!
Situations That Cause The Sensation:
There are many different times when we might have this sensation. This depends on what our brain considers threatening or challenging. Here are a few common instances where one can feel butterflies in the stomach:
- When you come across someone that you are attracted to
- On a first date
- Before an important presentation, meeting or examination
- Before an important interview
- If you get pulled over by the police
- During any kind of verbal or physical conflict
- When threatened with violence
- While on a new journey
- When trying anything new
- When speaking in front of a large audience
These are 10 common instances when one can have the sensation. There are many more occasions when you can feel the jitters.
How To Combat The Butterflies In The Stomach?
Even though the sensation is an instinctual reaction, there are a few ways by which one can combat the sensation. A few effective methods are:
- Divert your mind from the issue by doing something unrelated
- Think about the past instances where you have successfully tackled such situations
- Talk to someone who has gone thought the situation that you are facing
- Face the situation with a person that you can trust
- If you are on the verge of an anxiety attack, take a mild nerve relaxant
- Meditation is one of the most effective ways to calm your nerves
The sensation of butterflies fluttering in the stomach is nothing to fear, in fact, it is a sign that your body is functioning normally. And at times, like when on a date, it can actually feel good!
Are there more ways by which you tackle your jitters? Share them with us in the comments section below.