Have you been watching the remarkable performances at the Olympics? Most of us will never have an opportunity to perform on a world stage in any kind of event from athletics to public speaking to singing a song. But almost all of us will at some time or another go for a job interview, attend an event where we don't know someone or make a presentation at work. If just the thought of doing any of those things makes you nervous, you may have performance anxiety.
Clients often come to me and describe the many physical manifestations of the nervousness that they experience when having to perform in such a situation. They will describe their hearts racing, hands shaking, sweaty palms and even feeling queasy. In fact, what they are describing is the perfectly normal release of the hormone adrenaline by their adrenal glands. Adrenaline is released when we feel threatened. It dilates blood vessels and breathing passages and boosts our heart rate giving us a burst of energy. This was very useful when humans were being hunted by large, wild animals. But, this adrenaline rush, is not so effective when we have to give the presentation at work and can't afford to run away. If time permits, use your muscles to burn off adrenaline. Take a brisk walk, tense and relax your muscles or push against a wall with your hands. Deep breathing can be a useful technique to overcome an adrenaline rush. Slowing yourself down by breathing slowly and deeply, walking more slowly than seems natural, taking a moment before speaking can allow your heart rate to slow and keep you more comfortable.
Focusing outwardly rather than inwardly will help as well. When we are anxious we tend to focus on our own behavior expecially shortcomings and mistakes. Instead, focus outwardly. If you are giving a speech, look into the eyes of your audience. Connect with individuals as real people rather than a collective audience judging you. As you connect, remember your subject (not you) is the important thing. Instead of worrying about how people are thinking of you personally, delight in giving your audience the information they have come to hear about.
And don't expect to be perfect. Perfectionists often focus on one problem or error and that causes them to lose their confidence or focus and make more errors. Make your goal to give your performance at your best. This does not mean perfect. Be aware that no one else expects perfection. Those enjoying your performance have made mistakes, too. People will probably like and relate to you more if you seem human enough to make a mistake. Instead, focus on sharing why you are there - to compete, to inform, whatever. If you make a mistake, smile, acknowledge, correct if you need to and move on.
Of course, performance anxiety is more likely to happen if you haven't prepared. Do what you need to do - practice, study, rehearse. Hypnotherapy can be a great way to deal with performance anxiety. Then go out and enjoy!