When you think about the term "performance anxiety" you might think of someone on stage, a singer or an actor, who feels stage fright before going onstage. But many people suffer from performance anxiety. It can be the dread and fear an athlete feels before running a race or playing a game. It could be a student who has extreme anxiety before taking a test. Or it could be an employee who needs to make a presentation to co-workers. Symptoms of performance anxiety are similar to other types of anxiety: nausea, sweating, shaking, heart palpitations, dry mouth, nervous tics.
Many of us get nervous when having to talk in front of a group, take an important test, perform on stage or participate in athletic events. For some, though, performance anxiety can stop them from participating in activities they enjoy or getting a job they want or getting a promotion. Self-esteem and confidence can suffer.
The following are some tips to help manage performance anxiety
Use your nervous energy to help prepare for the event. Many athletes and performers will go through a ritual, such as stretching, meditation, taking a walk or listening to music.
Be prepared. Whatever you are doing, practice and prepare to help you feel more confident in your abilities.
Have a meal with complex carbohydrates (whole-grain bread or pasta) a few hours before the event to make sure you don’t get hungry but still have energy.
Visualize your performance going perfectly. Don’t focus on everything that could go wrong, instead imagine it going exactly as planned.
Take a few minutes to do deep breathing. Check out the proper way to do deep breathing exercises to help you relax.
Review your expectations. If you worry about being "prefect" you will no doubt let yourself down. Are you expecting too much of yourself? Do you find it difficult if you make a mistake? Make your expectations more realistic and instead of trying to meet a goal, remind yourself the performing to the very best of your ability is what is important.
Accept that the unexpected often happens. When something goes awry, it can throw your entire performance off, but if you are prepared for preparing for different scenarios. Remind yourself that you have handled it when the unexpected happened before and you can again.
When you find yourself ruminating with negative thoughts - smile. Even if a smile is forced it can help change your attitude and outlook.
Keep your thoughts on the present rather than the outcome. Remember that your performance isn’t only about the final outcome but about the performance itself. Focus on that instead of worrying about the end.
Once you have completed your performance, take some time to review, making sure to note the things you did right. If there were certain things about the event that went wrong, take a moment to acknowledge them and what you might have done to prevent or handle them differently. But then let them go, knowing that next time you can use the information to do even better.
"Stage Fright Overcoming Music Performance Anxiety," 2012, Sept 11, Michael gallant, Echoes: Insight for Independent Artists
"Blocked by Performance Anxiety?" Date Unknown, David Carbonell, Ph.D., Anxietycoach.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.