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info@incorporatepsychology.com.au  |   The Icon Centre Level 1, 15 Malt Street, Fortitude Valley Q 4006

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Conquering Performance Anxiety

November 27, 2018

Have you ever experienced pressure and stress before an important event or performance? Most of us have, and it is more common than we think. What have you experienced? Does the thought of performing make your palms sweat? Does it make your heart palpitate? Do you feel nauseous?

 

This is a type of performance anxiety, and you are not alone. Millions of people experience this, affecting people such as musicians, athletes, actors, or office workers, as well as those who don't work behind a desk. It can happen when presenting a campaign at work, speaking up during meetings, and being interviewed for a new job.

 

In this short article we want to talk about what it is, share some basic tips for navigating performance anxiety, and promote the benefits of having the courage to face our fears and challenges, as well as stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone. After all, isn't that what living life to the fullest is about?

 

We can go through life and not address performance anxiety, making changes to your plans, perhaps even avoiding those situations that might trigger the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. But what do we miss out on by taking the path of least resistance? Furthermore, performance anxiety may actually have some detrimental effects on your career or life, such as:

 

  • Stopping you from trying new things as you are afraid that you will mess up and look silly

  • Missing out on interesting experiences

  • Dropping out from social connections and experiences

  • Missing opportunities for career advancement

  • Experiencing feelings of inadequacy in the workplace or at home

  • Harming professional, romantic, or social relationships

 

But what is stage fright or performance anxiety? Quite simply, performance anxiety consists of stress and anxious feelings that occur when it comes to performing. It is a combination of physical sensations and symptoms that are a reaction to anxiety, as well as a whole set of thoughts running through your mind.  Usually performance anxiety takes the form of general worries and self-doubt in the lead up to an event, getting more acute just before or at the beginning of the performance. So, in understanding what it is and how it works in you, remember that ‘stage fright’ is often worse right before the performance and goes away once you’ve begun.

 

Here are some symptoms:

-          Dry mouth

-          Tight throat

-          Sweat and cold hands

-          Nausea/ uneasy feelings in your stomach

-          Racing pulse or rapid breathing

-          Vision changes

 

 

Tips to alleviate performance anxiety

In the lead up to an important event or presentation, here are some tips and techniques that could help you plan and prepare. Try some of these out:

  • Try to focus on what could go right, instead of what could go wrong

  • Visualise your success – focus on your strength and ability to handle challenging situations

  • Practice controlled breathing to help you relax

  • Try to limit your caffeine and sugar intake prior to the event. Too much caffeine or sugar makes you feel jittery, which does not help with nerves

  • Prepare ahead – practice

  • Stop and block thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence.

 

So, you’ve done all your preparation, and you’re ready to do your presentation or your big event. With all that practice behind you, we just want to make sure that you can handle things when the pressure is on. On the day of presentation:

  • Don’t try to make it perfect, and accept that it is okay to make mistakes.

  • Take a walk, go for a run, or jump up and down to release your nerves before your performance.

  • Remind yourself why you are there.

  • Make connections with your audience – smile and greet people; think of them as friends rather than critics.

  • Do breathing and relaxation exercises immediately beforehand.

  • Look up the back of the room for a friendly face.

  • Stand or sit in a self-assured, confident posture.

  • Remain warm and open, and make eye contact.

  • Remember to breathe throughout! This will bring your body under control and give you the space to think clearly.

 

“Breathe”

“Rehearse”

“Be humble”

“Authentic”

“Fully present”

 

The above tips should assist in alleviating your anxiety. If further aid is required, you may benefit from seeing a therapist or a professional regarding therapy. For instance, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may help by addressing the maladaptive thoughts, beliefs, or perceptions that occur prior to the performance, and behavioural tactics that could be used to assist in calming oneself down.

 

If you would like to learn more about the skills and techniques to get your anxiety under control, make an appointment with us today. Call us on (07) 3852 2441 or email info@incorporatepsychology.com.au.

 

 

 

Scientific References

Kenny, D. T. (2005). A systematic review of treatments for music performance anxiety. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 18(3), 183-208.

 

Rodebaugh, T. L., & Chambless, D. L. (2004). Cognitive therapy for performance anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 60(8), 809-820.

 

Stein, M.B., Walker, J.R., & Forde, D.R.  (1996). Public speaking fears in the community:  Prevalence, impact on functioning, and diagnostic classification. Archives of General Psychiatry, 53, 169-174.  

 

Stein, M.B., Walker, J.R., & Forde, D.R. (1994). Setting diagnostic thresholds for social phobia: Considerations from a community survey of social anxiety. American Journal of Psychiatry, 151, 408-412.


 

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