The Truth about Performance Anxiety
Throughout our lives we’re challenged to ‘step up to the plate’ and perform! These challenges come in many forms; whether it be sitting an exam, a presentation in front of your peers or a difficult conversation with your boss.
Regardless of the type of challenge, nerves will likely reach an all-time high just before the onset of our performance. In general, the higher the perceived ‘stakes’ – the higher the stress & anxiety! No wonder Yr 12. students find exams a highly stressful time.
An element of performance anxiety will mostly aid performance; the natural ‘stress’ our body produces (i.e. adrenalin and cortisol) can sharpen the mind. However, anxiety & stress can easily escalate when our thinking becomes unmanaged rumination. In any case, our nerves need to be actively managed – especially in the lead up to performance!
After suffering from performance anxiety himself, Dre Baldwin – Professional Basketballer, Author & Entrepreneur – regularly shares useful insights in how to ‘bullet proof your mindset’. What I value about Dre’s insights are that they do not only echo the sentiment from widely endorsed sports & performance psychology, but also narrow down on what has successfully worked for Dre in the past (including with other professional athletes he has coached).
Below, I have provided four simple tips that draw from Dre’s advice. Specifically, these tips are designed to help manage anxiety in the lead up to an important performance.
- View the ‘opportunity’ – not the ‘threat’ – Understand that you have a great opportunity to showcase what you can do, rather than a ‘threat’ to expose what you can`t do. Assuming that you have prepared adequately; reminding yourself that you have ‘done the work’ is a great way to relax yourself from thinking ‘what if’? Furthermore, committing to thinking in the present – letting your performance ‘come to you’ – will likely keep you focussed and help your concentration.
- Don`t worry about others – Put simply, don`t worry about what others will think of your performance. Whether it be giving a presentation or sitting an exam, you have likely earned the right to ‘participate’, given the work and commitment you have invested. You don`t need to feel sheepish or apologetic for being ‘on show’ and making mistakes. This is your journey – not anyone else’s! As Bruce Lee says, you were not put on earth to live up to others’ expectations (and vice versa)!
- Understand and commit to your Pre Game zone – Consider past pre game activity which helps put you in your performance ‘zone’. If you are unsure as to what your specific activity is, chances are that you have not paid attention to or tried anything to prepare you mentally for your performances. So start experimenting and taking note of what works! Some people prefer to be as ‘low key’ in as possible before their performance, while others like to take a more energetic approach. My performances often revolve around giving presentations and conducting workshops. My ‘Pre Game’ zone is fairly energetic and involves verbalising the content out aloud while I am driving to the venue. This has proven time again to help me get into my delivery persona, as well as help ‘connect my brain to my mouth’ (incidentally, coffee helps in the same way)!!
- Take 5 deep breaths and Visualise your Success –Taking several deep and slow breaths is an effective way to lessen the effects of your anxiety. Breathing deliberately slowly essentially ‘short circuits’ the physiological effects of your anxiety; helping you to regain control and composure. In addition, ‘visualising’ key aspects of your routine just before your performance, can help your brain ‘click into gear’ at the time of your performance.
So if you are often distracted by pre-game nerves & anxiety, try following the aforementioned steps before your next ‘performance’!
And… if you are a teacher, this could be timely advice for students given we’re in the midst of the exam period!
Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article useful! For more information on managing stress, worry and anxiety visit https://mindscholar.com.au/
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