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Performance anxiety is a common experience that many people face in their personal and professional lives. It can manifest in a variety of situations, such as presenting in front of a group, taking a test, or performing in a music or theatre production. When anxiety interferes with your ability to perform at your best, it can be frustrating and overwhelming. However, it is important to know that performance anxiety is a natural response to stress and can be managed effectively with the right tools and strategies.
The Yerkes-Dodson Law is a psychological principle that helps explain the relationship between arousal and performance. The law states that a certain level of arousal is necessary to keep us attentive and increase our concentration, but too much arousal can have the opposite effect and cause our performance to suffer. Finding the optimal level of arousal for each task is important to achieve the best results.
How Performance anxiety feels like
Performance anxiety is characterized by excessive fear or worry about one's ability to perform well. It can lead to physiological symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, and dizziness, as well as psychological symptoms like self-doubt, thoughts of failure, and a sense of losing control. Recognizing and understanding these symptoms is the first step in managing performance anxiety.
Strategies to tackle anxiety
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to managing performance anxiety, as different strategies work for different people. However, there are several techniques that can be effective for many individuals. One approach is to reduce negative thoughts and self-doubt by replacing them with positive and empowering thoughts. This can be achieved through positive self-talk, visualization, and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.
Another helpful strategy is to normalize arousal and use nervous energy to enhance performance. Rather than trying to eliminate the feeling of nervousness, it can be channelled into motivation and focus. Building self-confidence through sufficient practice and preparation is also important in managing performance anxiety. By being well-prepared, individuals can feel more confident in their abilities and reduce anxiety about the task at hand.
Having a support system can also be valuable in managing performance anxiety. Surrounding oneself with supportive and encouraging people can help alleviate anxiety and build confidence. Whether it's a coach, teacher, friend, or family member, having someone to listen and offer encouragement can make a significant difference in managing performance anxiety.\
In conclusion, performance anxiety is a natural response to stress that can be managed effectively with the right tools and strategies. The Yerkes-Dodson Law explains the relationship between arousal and performance, emphasizing the importance of finding the optimal level of arousal for each task. Recognizing and understanding the symptoms of performance anxiety is the first step in managing it, followed by techniques such as reducing negative thoughts, normalizing arousal, building self-confidence, and having a support system. By taking the time to figure out what works best for you, it is possible to overcome performance anxiety and achieve your goals.
Dr Shawn Ee.
BSc. BPsych. DPsych.(Clinical), Clinical Psychologist & Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Registered Psychologist (AHPRA; Australia)