One of the keys to giving a great presentation or acing an interview is controlling your nerves. A healthy amount of adrenalin can keep us sharp and on our toes, but once that bleeds into outright anxiety or excessive nervousness, then performance suffers.

The first time I gave a public talk I was so nervous that my hands were literally trembling as I tried to switch from one slide to another.  Nor did I sleep much the night before, being so worried about tomorrow’s talk. That experience, coupled with my own horrible first-time interview, hardened my resolve to get over my fears of interviewing and public speaking.

I learned how to transform that intense apprehension into an incredible state of calmness – and you can too.

It all starts with our breathing.

A terrific mentor taught me this technique she called the “Three Breaths to Serenity”. I’m not sure where she learned it, but I am very thankful for her guidance.

Three breaths.

Three deep breaths, in-and-out through the nose, allowing your belly to fill with air on each intake. If possible, five seconds on the inhale, and five seconds on the exhale.

The first breath is known as the consciousness breath.

As you are breathing in, be aware of the cool air as it passes through your nostrils. Feel the air tickling your nasal hair on its way in. Likewise, on the exhale, sense the warm air flowing back through the same passage. Concentrate on that air in both directions.

The second breath is called the confidence breath.

During both the inhale and exhale, think about all your skills and talents. There’s a reason you’ve been invited to give this talk or take this test or interview for this company. You have game-changing skills that can make a difference. Feel proud of what you’ve accomplished thus far in your life. You’ve worked hard to earn this spot, and you have what it takes to be successful.

To help you get in touch with that state of contentment, smile during the exhale of this second breath. And not a half-hearted, fake smile that you might give for a photograph – but a genuine, ear-to-ear grin. Believe it or not, even forcing yourself into a big smile instantly lifts your mood and reduces stress.

Don’t believe me? Give it a try.

The final breath is the gratitude breath.

Try to keep smiling throughout this third breath. And consider all the people and situations that have enabled you to be in this current situation. Friends, family, colleagues, and random encounters are all fair game as you reflect on how grateful you are to be right here, right now.

That is the Three Breaths to Serenity.

I recommend you repeat this three times right before your big moment. And if you are sitting in a chair, then on each exhale, feel yourself sinking deeper and deeper into the seat of the chair. Then when you are done, pop right up on the edge of your chair and ace the gig.

I am a cynic by nature. I never believed this would work, but was willing to give it a try. I was very pleased to be proven wrong. And after watching the Wolf of Wall Street and Matthew McConaughey’s chanting/humming meditation scene, I can assure you the Three Breaths to Serenity technique is far less conspicuous.