The Science of Performance Anxiety: What It Is and How to Overcome It
As an athlete or elite competitor, you’ve likely experienced the discomfort and frustration of performance anxiety at some point in your career. Whether you’re about to take the field, step onto the stage, or compete in a high-stakes event, the pressure to perform at your best can be overwhelming. But fear not — with the right mindset and strategies, you can conquer your anxiety and unleash your full potential.
You can choose to be great at anything if you put in the work. The only thing holding you back is yourself, so if your goal is to be great at something and achieve it, then that’s what needs to happen. You have to work hard if you want to achieve your goals.
The key here is that there are no shortcuts — if someone tells you otherwise, ignore them. They are lying or trying to sell something (or both). You must push yourself until failure becomes success and success becomes habit; this will help build confidence in all areas of life, including performance anxiety. Now, when faced with challenges, we know we can overcome them by pushing through them instead of giving up before even trying because “it’s too hard.”
Pre-Performance Stress is a Good Thing
As an elite performer, stress is a natural part of your everyday life. It’s an adaptive response to the demands and challenges you face as you strive for excellence in your field. Whether you’re preparing for a high-stakes competition or striving to meet tight deadlines, stress can help you rise to the occasion and perform at your best. When you experience stress in response to a challenging situation, your body’s natural response kicks in, increasing blood pressure and heart rate to help you react quickly and effectively. This heightened state of readiness can give you an edge in your performance, allowing you to stay focused, alert, and in control even under pressure. Stress can be a powerful tool that helps you succeed in the face of adversity when channeled properly:
1. Embrace the Challenge: Shift Your Mindset
The first step in overcoming performance anxiety is to shift your mindset from one of fear to one of excitement and opportunity. Instead of dreading the upcoming competition, embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to showcase your skills and talents. Recognize that nerves and anxiety are a natural part of the process, and that they can actually help you perform better by increasing your focus and drive.
2. Visualize Success: Use Mental Imagery
One powerful technique for overcoming performance anxiety is to use mental imagery to visualize yourself succeeding in your performance. Before the event, take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself executing your routine or game plan with precision and confidence. See yourself hitting that game-winning shot, nailing that high note, or crossing the finish line with ease. By rehearsing these positive outcomes in your mind, you’ll begin to build the mental fortitude and confidence needed to make them a reality.
3. Breathe and Center Yourself: Practice Mindfulness
Another effective strategy for managing performance anxiety is to practice mindfulness techniques, like deep breathing and visualization. Before an event, take a few moments to breathe deeply and focus your attention on the present moment. Visualize yourself in a calm and centered state, fully in control of your thoughts and emotions. By practicing mindfulness regularly, you’ll develop greater self-awareness and self-regulation skills that can help you stay calm and focused under pressure.
4. Trust Your Preparation: Believe in Yourself
Finally, one of the most important keys to overcoming performance anxiety is to trust in your preparation and believe in yourself. Remember all the hard work, training, and practice you’ve put in to get to this point and trust that you’re ready to perform at your best. Instead of focusing on the outcome or results, stay in the present moment and focus on executing your game plan to the best of your ability. By trusting in yourself and your preparation, you’ll be better equipped to handle whatever challenges come your way and perform at your best.
Overcoming performance anxiety is no easy task, but with the right mindset and strategies, it is possible. By embracing the challenge, visualizing success, practicing mindfulness, and trusting in yourself, you can shed the shackles of fear and unleash your full potential. So next time you step onto the field or stage, remember — you’ve got this. Believe in yourself, stay focused, and go out there and show the world what you’re made of.
Unleash your inner fortitude with this free resource: