Last week I performed as the right hand man for a blue puppet in Late Night Puppets produced by the Wellington Improvisers Troupe (WIT), as part of the Fringe Festival.
I wanted to perform at my best so I employed some of the simple anxiety busting techniques in my Performing Under Pressure toolbox to help defuse my pre-show nerves, including one of the most effective - 7/11 breathing.
Another great technique I used was to tell myself that the physical sensations I was experiencing were just a sign I was excited. Really EXCITED!
I'm not anxious I'm Excited!
Fear and anxiety trigger our survival response aka the 'Fight or Flight' response. Then we experience stress - that familiar cocktail of uncomfortable physical sensations, emotions and thoughts which can quickly derail our ability to perform as well as we're able to.
One way of avoiding a potential derailment, is to change how we perceive the meaning of the physical sensations.
A study "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement." conducted by Alison Wood Brooks, Harvard Business School assistant professor found that by simply labelling the sensations we feel when anxious as signs that we are excited improves performance.
In the study 659 subjects went through anxiety-inducing experiences such as singing in front of strangers, and completing a difficult mathematics test under time pressure. Some participants were guided to reframe their anxiety as calmness. Others as excitement. Still others were left to their own devices.
The study found that once anxiety set in, it was hard for the participants to calm down physically. In all cases, most of the participants continued to have elevated heart rates. All participants also reported that they continued to feel anxious, no matter how they reframed the sensations.
However, compared to those who reframed their anxiety as calmness or did not reframe their anxiety at all, participants who reframed their anxiety as excitement performed much better.
In the study, participants reframed anxiety as excitement in one of two ways:
- Saying out loud convincingly, "I am excited."
- Reading on a screen, in large letters, "Try to get excited."
Those simple acts were enough for the study participants to actually feel excited and perform better than the others.
Alison Brooks says reframing anxiety as excitement improves performance because it primes us to have an opportunity mind-set and creates a shift towards a positive emotional state. When in a positive emotional state people feel more able to perform a task and see the upcoming performance as a challenge, rather than a threat.
So the next time you have to perform in front of an audience (such as to deliver a speech, make a presentation, chair a meeting, attend a job interview) and your palms are sweating and your heart is pounding, don't tell yourself, "I'm feeling stressed out." Instead, tell yourself "I'm excited and feeling pumped up. I'm ready to perform!" This is what I said to myself last week and I thoroughly enjoyed my time on stage.
If you would like help with performing at your best under pressure, controlling performance nerves, anxiety or stress call me on 021 056 8389, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.tycoaching.nz .
"When you change your mind you change your life."
Have an exciting week!
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits and gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis, positive psychology and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).