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Performance anxiety is a challenge that many people face, whether at work, in sports, or personal relationships. But when it starts impacting our daily lives, we may need help.

What is performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety occurs when you feel an overwhelming fear or anxiety about performing in a particular situation. It can affect anyone, from children in school to adults in the workplace. It is a form of anxiety that is often linked to the fear of failure or not meeting expectations.

Symptoms of performance anxiety

Symptoms vary but can include:

  • Increased stress and nervousness
  • Loss of stamina due to pressure
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping problems
  • Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations and sweating

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When to seek help?

If you feel that your performance anxiety is overwhelming or affecting your ability to function in everyday life, it may be time to seek help. Contact a psychologist or therapist who can offer you support and treatment options.

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Strategies to deal with performance anxiety

Performance anxiety is a feeling many of us experience in different situations, whether it’s speaking in front of an audience, before an important meeting, or perhaps during a sports competition. It is a natural response, but for some it can become overwhelming and hinder success. Here we present strategies for dealing with performance anxiety in specific situations.

Identify the causes

Understand what triggers your anxiety. Is it the fear of making mistakes, or perhaps concern about the judgment of others? By understanding the root of your anxiety, you can start working on managing it.

Preparation is key

Whatever the situation, preparation is essential. Do your research, practice your speech, or train for your competition. Being prepared may help quiet your anxious thoughts.

Breathing techniques

Learn deep breathing techniques. Deep and controlled breathing can reduce your body’s stress response and help you stay calm.

Mental training

Visualize success. Imagine yourself handling the situation well. This technique is often used by athletes to improve performance.

Small steps

Start with smaller, manageable situations and build up your confidence gradually. This can reduce anxiety over time.

Seek professional help

If your performance anxiety is overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek help from a psychologist or therapist. Sometimes we need extra support to deal with our challenges.

Remember, it is normal to feel some nervousness before a challenge. It is how we deal with it that counts. Applying these strategies can turn your performance anxiety into a driving force for success. And remember, we are here to make the difficult easier. For further support or to book a session with our qualified psychologists and therapists, visit our website.

Professional treatment methods

There are several treatment methods that can help with performance anxiety, including:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): A common form of treatment that focuses on changing negative thought patterns.
  • Medication: In some cases, drugs can be prescribed to help manage anxiety.
  • Talk therapy: Talking about your feelings with a therapist can be an effective way to process and manage anxiety.

Lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety

  • Regular exercise: Physical activity can reduce stress and improve mental health.
  • Balanced diet: A healthy diet can positively impact both physical and mental health.
  • Sleep: Good sleep hygiene is essential for managing stress and anxiety.

Empathy and understanding

Supporting someone with performance anxiety requires empathy and understanding. It is important to listen without judgment and offer support where needed. Here are some tips:

  • Active listening: Show that you are listening and are taking the person’s feelings seriously.
  • Avoid minimizing feelings: Comments such as “it’s not so bad” can feel condescending.
  • Offer practical help: Sometimes practical help, such as preparing for a presentation, can be very helpful.

Supporting children with performance anxiety

For parents and guardians, it is important to:

  • Create a safe environment: Encourage and praise, and avoid excessive demands.
  • Talk about feelings: Teach your child to express their feelings and concerns.
  • Working with the school: Work with teachers to create a supportive environment.

Corporate responsibility and working environment

Employers play a key role in managing performance anxiety in the workplace. Creating a healthy work environment includes:

  • Training for Managers: Managers should learn to recognize the signs of anxiety and how to support their employees.
  • Promoting Mental Health: Create policies that encourage work-life balance.
  • Access to Support Resources: Offer access to psychological counselling or support programs.

Understanding and managing performance anxiety is a journey for both the individual and those around them. By strengthening our knowledge and support, we can all contribute to a more healthy and understanding environment.

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24 frequently asked questions and answers about performance anxiety

What is performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety is a form of anxiety that occurs when you feel pressure or anxiety about performing a particular task, especially when faced with the possibility of being judged by others. This can range from work-related presentations to sporting events or social situations. This feeling is characterized by symptoms such as nervousness, heart palpitations, and a fear of not living up to expectations.

What to do when you have performance anxiety?

If you are experiencing performance anxiety, it is important first of all to acknowledge and accept your feelings. Breathing techniques and mindfulness can be effective ways to deal with acute anxiety. In the long term, practicing the task you are worried about, seeking support from friends, family or a psychologist, and working on your confidence and self-image can help.

How to reduce performance anxiety?

To reduce performance anxiety, you can start by preparing well for the task. This includes practicing and planning in advance. Setting realistic goals and focusing on the process rather than just the outcome can also be helpful. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or yoga can reduce physical symptoms of anxiety. Talking to a therapist can also provide strategies to manage the anxiety.

Can performance anxiety be positive?

Yes, in some cases performance anxiety can actually be positive. A certain level of anxiety can increase focus and motivation, and make you perform better. It is when anxiety becomes overwhelming and hinders performance that it becomes a problem. Learning to balance and manage these feelings is the key to turning anxiety into an advantage.

When to seek professional help for performance anxiety?

If your performance anxiety is persistent and affects your daily functioning or quality of life, it is important to consider professional help. Signs that you should seek help include: if the anxiety feels overwhelming, if you avoid important tasks or situations because of your anxiety, or if you experience physical symptoms such as difficulty sleeping or eating. Psychologists and therapists can offer strategies and support to manage your anxiety.

Are there common causes of performance anxiety?

Yes, there are several common causes of performance anxiety. These can include past negative experiences, high expectations from oneself or others, fear of failure or criticism, and lack of preparation or experience. Social and cultural factors, such as pressure to perform at school or work, can also contribute to the development of performance anxiety.

What are the physical symptoms of performance anxiety?

The physical symptoms of performance anxiety can vary, but common signs include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, upset stomach, headaches, and rapid breathing. Some may also experience dizziness or a feeling of being “out of it.” These symptoms are caused by the body’s stress response, which activates the fight or flight system.

Can performance anxiety affect one’s personal life?

Performance anxiety can definitely affect one’s personal life. It can lead to avoidance of certain situations, which can limit personal and professional development. It can also affect interpersonal relationships and self-esteem. It is therefore important to manage these feelings so that they do not limit your quality of life.

How does performance anxiety differ from other types of anxiety?

Performance anxiety is specific to situations where a person feels judged or the center of attention. It is distinguished from other types of anxiety by its focus on performance and results. While general anxiety can be more diffuse and related to a variety of situations, performance anxiety is usually tied to specific events or activities.

Can children and teenagers experience performance anxiety?

Children and teenagers can definitely experience performance anxiety. They may feel pressure related to school performance, sports, social situations or artistic performances. It is important for parents and guardians to recognize the signs of anxiety in children and teenagers and to provide support and encouragement. In some cases, it may be appropriate to seek professional help to give the child tools to manage their anxiety.

Can lifestyle changes help manage performance anxiety?

Yes, lifestyle changes can play a major role in managing performance anxiety. Regulated sleep, a balanced diet, and regular physical activity can improve both physical and mental health, which can reduce symptoms of anxiety. Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can also be effective in reducing stress and anxiety.

Is performance anxiety more common in certain professions?

Performance anxiety can affect people in any profession, but it is more common in professions that require regular presentations, public appearances or high competition. Examples of such professions include artists, athletes, business leaders, and teachers. It is important for employers to recognize and support employees who struggle with these issues.

How can you help someone experiencing performance anxiety?

To help someone with performance anxiety, start by listening and showing understanding. Avoid downplaying their feelings and instead provide support and encouragement. Encourage them to seek professional help if necessary and offer to be there to support them. Helping them practice or prepare for the situation they are worried about can also be helpful.

Can performance anxiety affect academic performance?

Yes, performance anxiety can definitely affect academic performance. Students may experience anxiety before tests, presentations or in competitive environments. This can lead to avoidance, delays and, in the worst case, failure in academic tasks. It is important for educational institutions to offer support and resources to help students deal with this type of anxiety.

Are there techniques to deal with performance anxiety in the moment?

To manage performance anxiety in the moment, you can try breathing techniques or progressive muscle relaxation to reduce physical symptoms. Mental preparation such as visualizing a successful performance can also be effective. Having a positive affirmation or mantra to repeat can help keep negative thoughts at bay. It is also important to stay focused on the task at hand rather than on your anxiety.

Can performance anxiety lead to other mental health problems?

Yes, if performance anxiety is not managed effectively, it can contribute to other mental health concerns such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder or low self-esteem. Chronic anxiety can also have negative effects on physical health, including sleep problems and high blood pressure. It is therefore important to seek help early.

Does performance anxiety affect people differently depending on their age?

Performance anxiety can be experienced by individuals at any age, but its presentation can vary. For example, children may show anxiety by avoiding school activities or having stomach problems. Teenagers and adults may experience more pronounced physical and psychological symptoms. Older adults may experience anxiety related to work performance or social activities.

Is it possible to completely overcome performance anxiety?

For some, it may be possible to completely overcome performance anxiety, while others may learn to manage it effectively. Through therapy, self-help strategies, and sometimes medication, individuals can find ways to reduce and control their anxiety. It is important to remember that some anxiety is normal and can even be motivating.

What role does self-confidence play in managing performance anxiety?

Self-confidence plays an important role in managing performance anxiety. Higher self-confidence can reduce fear of failure and criticism, which are key factors in performance anxiety. Working on building confidence, through positive self-talk and celebrating success, can help reduce anxiety levels.

How to balance performance goals and mental health?

To balance performance goals and mental health, it is important to set realistic and achievable goals. Recognizing and celebrating small progress can help build confidence and reduce anxiety. It is also important to include time for relaxation and recovery in your routine, and to be aware of when it is time to take a break or seek professional help.

Can relaxation techniques such as meditation really help with performance anxiety?

Yes, relaxation techniques such as meditation can be very effective in dealing with performance anxiety. Meditation helps to calm the mind, reduce stress levels and improve focus and concentration. By practicing meditation regularly, individuals can learn to control their anxiety-triggered thoughts and emotions, making them better equipped to deal with stressful situations.

What role does positive self-talk play in managing performance anxiety?

Positive self-talk is a powerful technique for managing performance anxiety. It involves actively replacing negative thoughts and self-criticism with encouraging and empowering statements. By practicing positive self-talk, individuals can increase their confidence and self-esteem, reducing the fear of failure and criticism that often underlies performance anxiety.

Dealing with performance anxiety: A step-by-step guide

Managing performance anxiety can be a challenging process, but with the right steps and strategies, you can effectively reduce stress and increase your well-being. Here is a guide to help you or someone you know to start managing performance anxiety.

1. Identify feelings

Reflect on what you are feeling. Is it fear, nervousness, or worry about performing? Recognize these feelings as a natural part of the human experience.

2. Understand the causes

It is important to understand what triggers your anxiety. Is it fear of failure, concern about the opinions of others, or something else? As a result of this insight, you can start working on changing your perspective.

3. Set realistic goals

Setting achievable goals can help reduce pressure. It’s okay to not always be perfect. It is important to be realistic with your expectations of yourself.

4. Practice relaxation techniques

Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to calm the mind.

5. Preparation and practice

Remember that good preparation can help reduce anxiety. Practice what you are going to perform, so you feel more confident.

6. Seek support

Talk to friends, family or a therapist about your anxiety. Use that support to help build your confidence.

7. Reflect and learn

Remember, every experience, good or bad, is a chance to learn. Reflect on what went well and what can be improved.

8. Take care of your health

Don’t forget the importance of good sleep, a balanced diet, and regular exercise. A healthy body contributes to a healthier mind.

9. Be kind to yourself

Avoid being too hard on yourself. It is important to show self-compassion and understanding.

10. Seek professional help if needed

If your anxiety becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists and psychologists can offer specific techniques and support.

A first step in seeking help

Managing performance anxiety is a process that requires time and patience. Remember that professional help is available and can be a valuable resource in your journey. Also remember that you are not alone. You can quickly and easily get in touch with one of our therapists or psychologists for an initial conversation about how they can help in your particular situation. We help make the difficult easier.

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Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.