22 Jan How to Break the Cycle of Performance Anxiety?
break the cyclePerformance anxiety is extremely common. Also known as “stage fright,” it refers to feelings of worry and nervousness when you have to do something in front of others, whether it’s giving a speech, performing on stage, or even just taking a test.
Performance anxiety can range from mild nerves to paralyzing fear. It’s a vicious cycle – the more anxious you get about performing, the worse you tend to do, which makes you even more anxious next time. But there are effective strategies to break this cycle and boost your confidence. Let’s explore how to break the cycle of performance anxiety.
Understanding Performance Anxiety
Performance anxiety is your body’s natural response to a perceived threat. When you’re anxious, your brain is anticipating danger, so it prepares your body to fight or flee. Your sympathetic nervous system activates, flooding your body with adrenaline and cortisol.
This leads to physical symptoms like racing heart, trembling, sweating, dizziness, and nausea. Mentally you might blank out, have racing thoughts, or imagine failing and embarrassing yourself.
These anxious feelings can become so uncomfortable that you’ll do anything to avoid performing. Or if you can’t avoid it, you just try to “get through it” while feeling miserable.
Performance anxiety often stems from underlying lack of confidence. You might doubt your abilities, fear mistakes and embarrassment, or worry about being judged. Perfectionists are especially prone to performance anxiety, because even small errors seem catastrophic.
How Anxiety Creates a Vicious Cycle
Performance anxiety often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy:
The more anxious you are about performing, the more likely you are to struggle. When you’re extremely nervous, it’s harder to focus, recall information, and do your best work.
When your performance suffers, it reinforces your belief that you can’t handle pressure. You criticize yourself and feel even more anxious about performing next time.
Every poor or embarrassing performance seems to confirm that you’re incompetent. Your confidence plummets, making performance anxiety even worse.
It can feel like an endless cycle: anxiety leads to poor performance, making your anxiety even worse and ruining your next performance too.
Effective Ways to Break the Cycle
The good news is you can break this vicious anxiety cycle. Here are proven techniques to calm nerves, restore confidence, and start performing at your best again:
1. Shift Your Mindset
A major factor in performance anxiety is perception. The way you view performing dramatically affects how nervous you get.
Anxious thoughts like “I’m going to mess up” or “they’re going to hate this” triple your stress. But you can consciously reframe your mindset.
- Focus on contribution – Rather than worrying about impressing others or gaining approval, focus on how you can contribute value and help people.
- Embrace challenges – Anxiety often comes from believing you “can’t” handle pressure. But choose to view performing as an exciting challenge to overcome.
- Allow imperfection – Strive for excellence, but don’t expect flawless performances. Allow yourself to be human and make some mistakes.
- Keep perspective – If you embarrass yourself or mess up, remind yourself it’s not the end of the world. Laugh it off when you can.
2. Prepare and Practice Effectively
Thorough preparation is key to reducing performance anxiety. But there are smart and not-so-smart ways to prepare:
- Practice until you feel extremely confident in your abilities and knowledge. Over-prepare rather than risk under-preparing.
- Simulate the performance situation. For example, practice presenting in front of colleagues.
- Focus practice on tricky areas. Identify potential weak spots and drill those parts relentlessly.
- Visualize flawless performances. Envision yourself nailing the performance from start to finish.
- Cramming at the last minute. It increases the odds you’ll mess up or forget something.
- Practicing the wrong things. Don’t just mindlessly repeat easy parts you already know.
- “Winging it.” Insufficient preparation greatly raises the chances of struggling.
- Obsessing over perfection. It’s impossible and just makes you more nervous about mistakes.
3. Calm Your Body and Mind
Anxiety is a physical reaction, so you can decrease it with physical relaxation techniques:
- Deep breathing – Taking slow, full breaths signals your body to relax. It lowers heart rate and adrenaline.
- Progressive muscle relaxation – Tense and relax each muscle group to reduce tension. Tight muscles fuel anxiety.
- Guided imagery – Picture a peaceful, happy place reducing anxious thoughts. Combine with deep breathing.
- Meditation – Regular meditation improves emotional regulation. Even 5 minutes before performing helps calm nerves.
- Exercise – Work out regularly to reduce overall anxiety. Or exercise right before performing to burn off nervous energy.
- Laugh – Laughter instantly reduces anxiety and puts you in a positive mindset. Watch funny videos or call a friend who makes you laugh.
4. Develop Confidence in Your Abilities
You have more influence over your confidence level than you realize. Take these actions to build genuine confidence:
- Set incremental goals – Break bigger goals down into smaller wins. Checkmarking progress builds confidence.
- Celebrate small wins – Recognize all progress. Don’t brush off achievements as “no big deal.”
- Find early success – Seek out opportunities for easy early wins to build momentum.
- Get coaching – An expert coach helps you improve skills faster and provides confidence-boosting encouragement.
- Ask for feedback – Get constructive feedback on performances and keep improving. Feedback shows people want to help you.
- Remember past success – When nervous, remind yourself of times you succeeded under pressure in the past.
5. Change Your Self-Talk
“You are what you think.” Your inner voice has immense power over your confidence and anxiety. Take control of your self-talk:
- “I’ve got this.”
- “I’m going to nail it.”
- “I’m prepared and ready.”
- “I’m excited for this challenge.”
- “Bring it on!”
- “I’m going to blow it.”
- “They’re going to be disappointed.”
- “I wish I didn’t have to do this.”
- “This is going to be a disaster!”
- “I want to die.”
6. Reframe Nervousness as Excitement
Anxious and excited feelings are remarkably similar physically. You can intentionally relabel anxiety as excitement:
- Describe anxious sensations in excited terms. “My heart is racing because I’m so eager to get started!”
- Say you’re excited out loud. Hearing the words changes your mindset.
- Use positive self-talk like “I’m excited to show them what I can do!”
- Focus on enjoying the thrill rather than resisting the nerves.
7. Develop Coping Strategies
Having coping strategies makes you feel more in control when anxious. Useful techniques include:
- Centering – Pause, take a deep breath, and reconnect to the present moment.
- Positive self-talk – Silently repeat a mantra like “You’ve got this” to stay grounded.
- Find a focal point – Stare at one static spot instead of scanning faces. It’s calming.
- Fidget object – Keep a small object like a stone in your pocket to handle. It releases nervous energy.
- Humor – When you mess up, make a joke to instantly reduce tension. Laugh and the audience will laugh with you.
Special Tips for Different Situations
Certain types of performing have unique challenges. Here are tips tailored for common scenarios:
- Thoroughly prepare and practice out loud until extremely polished. You need to know your content cold.
- Record practice runs and watch them to improve. Get feedback from a coach.
- Connect with the audience. Make good eye contact and read their body language.
- Slow down speaking pace. Nerves make people talk too fast, losing impact.
- Pause before answering questions. It’s fine to take a moment to think.
- Simulate the performance environment and tech during practice. Get comfortable with the real setting.
- If possible, practice on the actual stage. Familiarize yourself with the acoustics and layout.
- Loosen up physically before performing. Shake out nerves and do vocal/body warm ups.
- Disconnect from mistakes. Keep going as if nothing happened wrong.
- Remember the audience wants you to succeed. Feed off their energy.
- Establish optimal pre-game/event routines for nutrition, sleep, warmup, etc. Routines breed confidence.
- Simulate high-pressure game situations in practice as realistically as possible.
- Visualize exactly how you want to perform. See yourself succeeding in detail.
- Focus only on the next play/point/game. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.
- Celebrate all small successes during the game. Draw confidence from any good play to break the cycle.
Taking a Test
- Know the material cold and do practice tests under timed conditions.
- Arrive early, settle in, and clear your mind before starting.
- Read instructions carefully and budget time per section.
- Do easy questions first to build momentum. Skip tricky ones and come back later.
- Take deep breaths during the test when anxious.
- Thoroughly research the role, company, your resume details, and commonly asked questions.
- Practice aloud until you can answer questions smoothly and confidently.
- Review your strengths and qualifications beforehand. Remind yourself why you deserve this job.
- Dress professionally and appropriately. Look sharp and feel confident.
- Make steady eye contact and give firm handshakes to project confidence.
- Send thank you notes after the interview.
Have Compassion for Yourself
Breaking performance anxiety takes diligence and practice. Some days you’ll slip back into old thought patterns. Have compassion for yourself on the tougher days.
Remember that everyone deals with anxiety at times. The key is bouncing back from setbacks. Recall your past successes and growth rather than criticizing yourself.
With consistent effort, the empowering techniques in this article will help you break the vicious cycle of performance anxiety. You’ll step into the spotlight feeling energized and confident instead of afraid. The audience will embrace your authentic confidence and abilities.
Rather than holding you back, performing will become an opportunity to connect, contribute value, and shine. You’ve got this!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I feel like throwing up before performing?
Nausea is a very common physical symptom of performance anxiety. It’s caused by surging stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol break the cycle. Your sympathetic nervous system is kicking into high gear, preparing you to fight or flee. Deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can calm your body and reduce nausea.
How do I stop my voice from shaking when I’m nervous?
Shaky voice is caused by tightened vocal cords and tense throat muscles. Take deep breaths before speaking to relax your vocal cords. Speak slowly and pause between sentences. Stop trying to force your voice steady, since tension just makes shaking worse. Know your content extremely well so you can focus less on perfect delivery.
Why do I blank out when put on the spot?
Mental blocks happen because anxiety overwhelms the thinking centers of your brain. It becomes harder to access stored information. Overprepare your content so it’s baked into your memory. Practice thinking under pressure. When you blank out, pause and take a breath rather than panickingbreak the cycle . Ask to come back to the question later if needed.
How do I get over my fear of judgement and embarrassment?
Everyone worries about being judged. But remember that mistakes and embarrassment are inevitable in life. The healthiest mindset is being willing to take smart risks even if you might look foolish. Keep perspective – in the grand scheme, small embarrassments don’t matter much. People are generally forgiving. Focus on contributing value rather than winning approval.
Why is my anxiety worst right before I have to perform?
Anticipation of performing is almost always worse than the actual event. Your brain paints catastrophic visions of the future. But once you’re actually performing, you’re unlikely to mess up as badly as your anxious brain predicted. As the event approaches, keep perspective and recognize your anxiety will decrease once you dive in. Use relaxation techniques right beforehand to reduce the intensity of the anticipatory nerves.
Performance anxiety can be debilitating, but it is highly treatable using proven techniques, and some individuals explore alternative approaches like Shen Men piercing for anxiety to complement traditional methods. Reframing your mindset, preparing thoroughly, practicing physical and mental relaxation habits, and building genuine confidence are effective ways to break the vicious cycle. With consistent effort, you can rewire your brain to respond to performing with eagerness instead of dread. Rather than holding you back, your abilities will become a source of growth, connection, and joy.