Dealing With Performance Anxiety
By Paul Rothbart
Performance anxiety, commonly called stage fright, afflicts many. It generally occurs when having to appear before a group of people. It can be an actual performance, such as theater or music, but a presentation at work or an oral report at school can also be a cause of performance anxiety. It is based around a fear of failure and thus humiliation. It is not uncommon for even talented and experienced performers to suffer from stage fright from time to time. At best, it's unpleasant, at worst, it can degrade a performance. Here are the symptoms, the causes, and some ways to deal with performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety is a reaction to stressful situations. It is normal and not a mental disorder. The symptoms range from mild to extreme. Butterflies in the stomach are common with intestinal distress possible. Elevated heart rate and blood pressure may occur. Trembling is a symptom that some experience. Stage fright can cause errors during the performance and may even cause the individual to back out altogether. Left unchecked, stage fright will have a detrimental effect on performance.
A feeling of vulnerability is often a trigger for performance anxiety. People fear being judged and feel exposed. There is a feeling that a single mistake will ruin the performance and harm the reputation. In a group, a person may fear letting down the others. Those with social anxiety may experience extreme self-consciousness. The fight or flight response can become activated causing the performer to wish to flee. Performance anxiety is often a self-fulfilling prophecy. The expectation of making mistakes causes mistakes to occur. This can become a cycle that affects future performances.
Dealing With It
Relaxation techniques are very helpful in combating performance anxiety. Mediation and deep breathing can bring a calm feeling that can keep stage fright in check. Maintaining a relaxed and confident posture and appearance can be very helpful. A good idea is to focus on the performance itself, rather than the anticipated reaction of the audience. Visualization of a successful performance is an excellent strategy that produces solid results for many people. During my years as a stand up comic, I got performance anxiety under control by realizing that no matter what happened, I could handle it. For those with debilitation stage fright, therapy is often very effective.
Stage fright affects a large number of people. Performing in front of an audience, even a familiar one can be nerve racking. But the anxiety doesn't have to spoil the performance. There are excellent ways to deal with the stress. Try them out and find the one that works best.
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