A Startling Fact About Performance Anxiety
Choking under pressure is a common response whether you’re playing the lead in the
third grade Christmas play or giving an important business presentation.
Unfortunately, about 90% of people handle stressful situations poorly.
A recent experiment shows that getting excited works better than trying to calm down.
During a public singing contest, students were given various instructions. Those who
said, “I am excited,” scored an average of 81% compared to 69% for those who said, “I
am anxious,” and 53% for those who said, “I am calm.”
Learn how to use anxiety to your advantage when you’re in high stress situations.
These tips will help you to perform better even when your palms are sweating.
Encouraging Yourself to Get Excited
Remain fired up. It’s difficult to calm down when your body is on high alert.
Excitement is an easier state to capture when you feel anxious and your heart rate
is up.Distract yourself from self-doubts. You may have an interior monologue going
on criticizing what you’re saying or how you look. Divert your attention to
pleasant mental images or focus on the people around you.
Focus on the positive. Think about what you have to gain in the situation. Focus
on entertaining or helping your audience rather than worrying about forgetting
your lines or losing your job.
Generate flow. Put aside the outcomes for the moment. Lose yourself in the process. Enjoy what you’re doing for its own sake.
Rename your feelings. Tell yourself you’re excited. Your brain will like than better than being anxious.
Remember the benefits of anxiety. Anxiety has its positive side. It motivates us to take action. Without some anxiety, we would have little incentive to work or do anything challenging.
- Accept your feelings. Realize that anxiety is natural. Everyone experiences
uncertainty and wonders what will happen in the future. By some estimates,
about 20% of people report that their performance suffers when they feel
- Seek long term peace. While it’s difficult to calm down on short notice, serenity
is still a worthwhile goal. Your mind and body need time to recover after
demanding experiences. Manage stress, get good quality sleep, and make time
- Evaluate advice. High anxiety makes people more likely to seek outside advice
and less likely to assess it accurately. Think before you follow someone else’s
recommendations. Consider how to adapt them to your own circumstances.
- Engage in rituals. Even irrational practices can help. Many athletes hold onto
lucky bottle caps or wear a certain pair of socks. Find your own good luck charm!
- Beware of manipulation. Unfortunately, researchers also found that anxious
people were more likely to attract advisors who would deliberately mislead
them. Be extra careful if you have any doubts.
- Acknowledge genetics. There’s a strong hereditary basis for stress responses.
Some people are more physiologically sensitive. But, everyone can learn to
become more resilient.
- Empathize with yourself and others. Anxiety is often confused with weakness.
While you’re learning to manage your emotions, give yourself credit for becoming
more adept. Encourage others who are going through similar struggles.
- Seek professional advice. If anxiety is interfering with your life, there are
effective treatments. Talk with your doctor to see if medication or therapy may
You can make anxiety work for you. Just stop calling it anxiety and tap into your
excitement. You’ll feel better and enjoy more success.