Athletes, musicians, actors and public speakers can all be victims of performance anxiety, otherwise known as stage fright. A certain degree of nervousness can enhance your performance but, when it starts to prevent you from doing what you enjoy, or it affects your career, self-esteem and self-confidence, then you need to look at ways to control these negative emotions and reduce the anxiety. Performance anxiety does not in any way indicate a lack of talent. These are the common warning signs to look out for as well as some techniques in dealing with this form of anxiety.
1. Common Signs to Look Out For
A warped perspective and highly critical self-evaluation are common signs of performance anxiety. An overwhelming sense of dread and a feeling that you will not make it through despite all your preparations are also common signs, as is thinking that if your performance is not perfect, you are a failure.
You may also jump to conclusions by thinking that a good performance was only a stroke of luck and one mistake or bad performance dictates your whole career and future path. Your body’s ‘fight or flight’ mechanism kicks in with the following possible symptoms:
- A racing heart
- Quick, shallow breathing
- Trembling hands, knees, voice, or lips
- A dry mouth and tight throat
- Hot or cold hands
- Vision changes
- Heart palpitations or panic attacks
- Elevated blood pressure
2. Healthy Body for Healthy Mind
A few lifestyle changes may be a good idea to cut down on your performance anxiety. Eating a well-balanced diet high in fibre and low GI indexes, rich in nutrients and minerals can assist your body to find a balance. Decrease your caffeine and sugar intake and always remain hydrated. Get enough sleep to reduce mental strain and allow your body to relax and recover.
Learn and regularly practice controlled breathing, meditation and other relaxation techniques like yoga. These should be done daily so that it becomes part of your skill-set and can assist you on performance days.
These self-help practices are essential in creating a healthy body for a healthy mind. Never forget that self-care is important and you are always worthy of extra time, money and effort that you spend on making yourself happy and well. Focus on activities you enjoy, and find an outlet to relieve stress.
3. Find the Focus
Performance anxiety forces you to focus on the failure, humiliation and rejection you fear. Overcoming this nervousness is important for you to empower yourself. Find a relaxed, confident pose. Make eye contact with the friendliest faces in the audience. Think about the importance of the journey, not the destination. Visualise your successes and shift the focus off yourself and your fear and think about the enjoyment of the spectators.
Human connections are essential. Reach out and talk to others about the challenges you face. They might have unique advice for you or be able to point you in the direction of therapists that could assist you in your quest to overcome performance anxiety and reach your full potential.