Performance Anxiety

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Our topic this month discusses how to manage performance anxiety. You don’t have to be an athlete or a public speaker to have experienced this phenomenon. You may have felt the symptoms of lightheadedness, excessive anxiety, or sweaty palms at raising your hand in a class to ask a question or proposing a toast at a wedding.  Whether it’s social or professional, the feeling comes from a desire not to be embarrassed by poor performance.
 
In all cases, performance anxiety is one of the most common social fears. So how do you manage jitters and keep them from adversely affecting your performance?
 
Here are a couple tips I use before speaking to a large group or playing in a tournament:

  1. Normalize your nervousness. You may assume you are the only one who feels like this, but everyone does at some point in life. Feelings are feelings, not a realistic assessment of your ability. Most often, the anxiety you feel prior to beginning the activity goes away once you begin.
  2. Pick one thing to focus on. Your mind may be going in a multitude of directions, trying to think of all the things you want to remember at the time of your performance. By choosing only one, your mind will settle upon that thought, and all other thoughts will subside.
  3. Worst-case scenario. Try to think of the worst possible thing that could happen – you play poorly with people watching or you stutter/trip over words while speaking to a group. Can you survive that? I try to think of all the people who love me, all the things that will still be the same at the end of the day, regardless of my performance. If I bomb, they will still be there for me.

    What are your strategies for managing anxiety? I’d love to hear your thoughts.