Does speaking in front of a crowd make you nervous? You’re not alone. Experts say that up to 20% of Americans suffer from performance anxiety, also known as stage fright. At Healthy365, we help the Hancock County community overcome a number of mental health conditions, including connecting clients with resources to address specific anxieties or concerns like this one. Here are a few quick tips that can help you or a loved one with your next bout of performance anxiety.
What is performance anxiety?
According to GoodTherapy, performance anxiety is the “fear about one’s ability to perform a specific task.” Performance anxiety can occur with a wide variety of tasks but is often associated with public speaking or performing for an audience. Some of the symptoms of performance anxiety can include a racing pulse and rapid breathing, dry mouth and tight throat, trembling or sweaty hands, knees, and lips, a wavering voice, nausea/upset stomach, and even vision changes.
For adults who are out of a school setting, you may no longer be performing or speaking on a regular basis, but performance anxiety can still impact people who need to make a presentation at work, speak publicly at a family gathering or even have to do something difficult, like parallel parking, in front of a crowd.
Practice makes perfect, or at least less anxiety
The number-one way to quell performance anxiety is by practicing. For people with stage fright, public performances can induce a “fight or flight” response out of fear of messing up, and in extreme cases, this anxiety can cause panic attacks. By practicing your presentation frequently, you are more likely to feel confident about your performance.
Meditation and confronting your vulnerabilities can also improve your confidence and reduce performance anxiety. Stage fright can sometimes become a bit of a “self-fulfilling prophecy,” where even if you are well-prepared, your anxiety responses cause you to lose confidence. By practicing relaxation techniques regularly (even if a performance is not upcoming) you are more likely to have a confident attitude in the face of a public event.
Preparing on the day of your performance
So you’ve taken the days or weeks before your next performance to practice, but there are also a number of things you can do in the hours leading up to the event. Make sure to limit your caffeine or sugar intake the day of the event, and eat a good meal to give you lots of energy. Right before your performance, try to get the nerves out by jumping up and down, shaking out your muscles or taking a quick walk. Try not to focus on what could go wrong, and instead visualize a successful event and the audience enjoying your performance. Connecting with your audience by smiling and making eye contact can also be a helpful confidence boost, especially if they are family, friends or coworkers.
Performance anxiety in children
Stage fright is extremely common among children. Your son or daughter may often get a stomach ache or nausea before a big athletic event or a school play. As suggested above, you can help your student reduce their performance anxiety by helping them rehearse or practice for the event. During these practices, be sure to offer them praise and positive encouragement, but let them know that you will still love them even if they make a mistake.
If you are not someone who experiences this type of anxiety, try to understand where your child is coming from, rather than telling them to “stop worrying” or that it’s “not a big deal.” It can be tempting to let your child skip a stress-inducing event, but it may prevent them from developing coping skills needed later in life and their anxiety could worsen. One way to find a compromise is to suggest recording a performance to be played for a teacher or coach at a later time. If you see consistent and severe signs of anxiety in your child, you may need to look into a children’s therapist or family counselor who they can speak with.
If you or someone in your family is in need of support for performance anxiety or another mental health condition, Healthy365 would love to connect you to local resources that can help. Contact us today at 317-468-4231 to learn more about the mental health organizations available here in Hancock County.