10 Strategies for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
Performance anxiety is experienced by everyone at some time or another. It could be when we have to make a speech, write an exam, or go somewhere new that makes us anxious. The body thinks it is in danger and triggers our ancient fight or flight (or freeze) mechanisms for defending ourselves against predators. But there are strategies for overcoming performance anxiety that we share with you here.
Accept That It Is Normal to Feel Anxious at Times
Allow yourself ten minutes maximum to feel anxious. This acknowledges the body’s response. Then firmly put it aside and engage in an activity that requires concentration, like warm-up exercises or trying to memorize your speech. Exercise will produce endorphins, which help with pain and stress.
Taking deep breaths and holding them for the count of ten before slowly releasing the air is instantly calming. Shallow breathing from the chest is not the correct way to breathe, yet we often fall into this when we are worried about our performance. You can learn more breathing techniques that reduce anxiety here, as well as how to breathe properly.
Shake Loose the Adrenaline
Adrenaline builds up before a performance we are nervous about. Reduce this by shaking the arms and legs one by one. Avoid coffee, which will increase the level of this hormone circulating in your body. Some adrenaline is good but too much can incapacitate you.
Prepare for the Event
If you haven’t studied sufficiently, it is going to be hard to convince yourself that you will ace the exam. Put in the work and revise constantly. A musician should practice their chords or do their voice exercises regularly. For a presentation, research the answers to questions you might be asked.
For people who frequently have bouts of performance anxiety, meditation can teach you to relax. Explore various meditation techniques until you find the one that works best for you, as everyone is different. Learn a quick method that you can practice just before going on stage or entering the exam room.
Keep Your Anxiety to Yourself
When you tell everyone how nervous you are, you reinforce it. They will look at you and see the anxiety, which will make you feel even less in control. Take responsibility for it and present yourself as calm and confident. Reflect this with good posture and hands held loosely by your side.
Relax Your Body
Deliberately relax every muscle in your body starting from your toes and working your way up to your scalp. Start by tensing the muscle and holding it for a count of five. Then purposefully relax it for a count of ten. You can combine this with mental self-talk by saying ‘toes relax’ etc.
Use Your Anxiety to Perform
A certain amount of stress is needed to give your best, most vibrant performance. It is only when you freeze up that it is not good for you. Ease yourself into your performance by knowing what you are going to say by way of introduction. Practice this for several days before the event. Find the friendly faces in the audience and make brief eye contact with them before shifting your gaze to meet someone else’s eyes.
Understand Your Trigger
Identify which aspect of your performance you are worried about. For example, having everyone’s eyes on you can take you back to your first oral at school. Remind yourself that this is a new situation and that you are much more confident and accomplished at public speaking than you were as a kid.
Is performance anxiety preventing you from doing your job? Then it is time to speak to an expert. Sometimes we need help to uncover our triggers and overcome them.
The good news is that you can overcome performance anxiety.
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