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  • Writer's pictureAmy Smith

Conquering the Spotlight: Understanding and Overcoming Performance Anxiety

What is Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety is a type of anxiety that is triggered by the expectation of performing a task in front of others. It is a common experience, and many people will feel anxious before an important event or performance, such as a speech, job interview, or musical performance.

Performance anxiety can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, shaking, difficulty concentrating, and negative thoughts. In severe cases, performance anxiety can interfere with a person's ability to perform the task, leading to avoidance or even a panic attack.

Why do People get Performance Anxiety?

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of performance anxiety, including:

1.       Fear of judgment: People may worry that others will evaluate them negatively during the performance or that they will be criticised or rejected based on their performance.

2.       Perfectionism: People who hold themselves to very high standards may be particularly vulnerable to performance anxiety because they may worry that anything less than perfect will be a failure.

3.       Lack of experience: People who are new to the activity may be particularly vulnerable to performance anxiety because they are unfamiliar with the expectations and may feel less confident in their abilities.

4.       Previous negative experiences: People who have had negative experiences in the past, such as a poor performance or a negative evaluation, may be more likely to develop performance anxiety in the future.

5.       Personality factors: Certain personality traits, such as introversion and shyness may increase the risk of developing performance anxiety.

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety?

Managing performance anxiety can be challenging, but there are several strategies that can be helpful. Here are some suggestions:

1.       Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce physical symptoms of anxiety such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, and shaking.

2.       Reframe negative thoughts: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking "I'm going to mess up this performance," try thinking "I am prepared, and I will do my best."

3.       Visualise success: Imagine yourself performing well and receiving positive feedback. This can help boost confidence and reduce anxiety.

4.       Get the balance with regards to preparing: Being well-prepared for the performance by practicing and reviewing your material can boost confidence and reduce anxiety. However, over-preparing can lead to heightened anxiety, excessive self-criticism, and a lack of spontaneity, ultimately hindering the one’s ability to connect authentically with their audience.

5.       Focus on the present moment: Instead of worrying about the past or future, focus on the present moment and what you need to do to succeed.

6.       Defuse from Thoughts: This technique comes from a therapy approach called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). To defuse from worrying thoughts during a presentation, acknowledge the thought without engaging with it, label it as just a thought, and thank your mind before redirecting your focus back to the present moment and the task at hand.

7.       Get support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your anxiety, or consider seeking professional support from a therapist or counsellor who can provide guidance and coping strategies.

8.       Use humour: Finding humour in the situation and being able to laugh at yourself can help reduce tension and anxiety.

Remember, managing performance anxiety is a process that takes time and effort. It's important to be patient and kind to yourself, and to continue practicing strategies that work for you. With time and practice, you can reduce anxiety and improve your performance.


If you would like support from a therapist, online or face to face in St Albans,  to support you to manage performance anxiety please get in touch by completing the webform below or contact me by emailing me:

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