Mental Performance Anxiety – Get Excited!

Most people experience performance anxiety.  This includes all the feelings you have before and during a task you must do while others are watching and judging.  How well we cope with these feelings often determines how well we do. Performance anxiety can be especially acute when the task we must perform involves thinking, learning, decision-making and other cognitive or mental performances.  For example, knowing that you are going to have to “think on your feet” is often what worries people about public speaking.

Learning to manage mental performance anxiety is critical for improving brain function and cognitive performance so it is a key topic on the Next Brain Blog.  While we are often taught to try and calm ourselves down during bouts of performance anxiety, recent research indicates we may want to do just the opposite and jazz ourselves up.  The idea is to reframe the energy associated with anxiety into a more productive state – excitement. As the researchers point out:

“Since both anxiety and excitement are emotional states characterized by high arousal, it may be easier to view anxiety as excitement rather than trying to calm down to combat performance anxiety…”

Start by using a simple affirmation – “I am excited” or “This is exciting because….”.  Rather than resist feelings of anxiety step into the energy it offers by repeating simple but positive mental self-talk. It takes a bit of practice but it works.

I am very interested to hear from readers that have developed ways to get the most out of mental performance anxiety.