Performance Anxiety Overview and Treatment

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Performance Anxiety

Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is a type of anxiety that arises when a person is in a situation where they are being evaluated or judged by others. This can occur in various settings, including work, school, sports, and public speaking. People who experience performance anxiety may feel excessively worried about their ability to perform well, and may feel physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, nausea, and rapid heartbeat.

Performance anxiety can be particularly challenging for individuals who work in high-pressure environments, such as executives, athletes, musicians, or performers. The fear of failure or negative evaluation can lead to a negative feedback loop, where the anxiety itself interferes with performance and reinforces the belief that one is inadequate or not capable.

Common Sources of Performance Anxiety

Some of the common workplace sources of performance anxiety include:

  • Workload: Heavy workloads and demanding schedules can be overwhelming and lead to performance anxiety.
  • Pressure to perform: Leadership roles, including executives, directors, and supervisors, are often responsible for leading and managing teams, making important decisions, and achieving goals. The pressure to perform well can be a source of performance anxiety.
  • Uncertainty: The business environment is constantly changing, and all staff, from executives to part-time employees, may feel anxious about the uncertainty of the future, including economic trends, technological advancements, and market competition.
  • Financial concerns: Executives and other leadership may be concerned about the financial health of their organization and the impact of economic conditions on their business.
  • Public scrutiny: Executives and other leaders may face public scrutiny and criticism, particularly in high-profile roles, which can be a source of performance anxiety and stress.
  • Interpersonal conflicts: Executives, board members, and staff may face interpersonal conflicts with colleagues, employees, or stakeholders, which can be a source of stress and performance anxiety.

Additional general sources of performance anxiety can come from family, friends, managing daily activities or responsibilities, including:

  • Fear of failure: Many people experience performance anxiety because they are afraid of failing or not meeting their own or others' expectations.
  • High-stakes situations: High-stakes situations such as job interviews, public speaking engagements, and important exams can trigger performance anxiety.
  • Lack of preparation: Not feeling adequately prepared for a performance can lead to anxiety and stress.
  • Past negative experiences: Previous experiences of failure or humiliation during a performance can cause a person to become anxious about future performances.
  • Social pressure: Social pressure from peers, family, or society to perform well can also contribute to performance anxiety.
  • Perfectionism: People who strive for perfection may experience anxiety because they feel that anything less than perfect is a failure.
  • Physical symptoms: Physical symptoms such as sweating, shaking, and rapid heartbeat can also contribute to performance anxiety, as people may fear that these symptoms will negatively affect their performance.
  • Personality traits: Certain personality traits such as neuroticism, shyness, and self-doubt can make a person more susceptible to performance anxiety.

It is important to note that anxiety and performance anxiety is a common and natural response to stress and pressure, and seeking support from mental health professionals, colleagues, or loved ones can help manage anxiety levels.

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Symptoms of Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety can feel different for different people, but it typically involves feelings of fear, nervousness, and worry in situations where a person is being evaluated or judged by others. Some common physical and emotional symptoms of performance anxiety include:

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Negative self-talk
  • Fear of failure or making mistakes
  • Self-doubt
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Racing thoughts
  • Panic attacks

These symptoms can be distressing and interfere with a person's ability to perform at their best. It's important to seek help if you are experiencing performance anxiety to learn effective coping strategies and manage anxiety.

What is the impact of unmanaged performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety can have a significant impact on a professional's work and overall well-being. When a person experiences performance anxiety, they may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and unable to perform at their best. This can lead to negative outcomes such as:

  • Decreased productivity: When a person is experiencing performance anxiety, they may struggle to focus on their work and complete tasks efficiently, leading to decreased productivity.
  • Poor job performance: Performance anxiety can interfere with a person's ability to perform well in their job, leading to negative feedback from colleagues or supervisors.
  • Career setbacks: When performance anxiety leads to poor job performance or negative feedback, it can hinder a person's career progression and opportunities for advancement.
  • Burnout: Chronic performance anxiety can lead to high levels of stress and burnout, which can negatively impact a person's mental and physical health.
  • Avoidance behavior: Some people may develop avoidance behavior to cope with performance anxiety, such as avoiding public speaking engagements or turning down leadership opportunities. This can limit a person's professional growth and opportunities.

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It's important for professionals who experience performance anxiety to seek support and learn effective coping strategies. This can help them manage their anxiety and perform at their best in their job, leading to greater success and fulfillment in their career.

How do I Stop Performance Anxiety?

Recovery from performance anxiety involves a process of identifying and addressing the underlying causes of anxiety, and learning effective coping strategies to manage anxiety when it arises. The recovery process is unique to each individual, but may involve the following steps:

  • Recognizing the problem: The first step in recovery from performance anxiety is recognizing that there is a problem and acknowledging that anxiety is interfering with job performance.
  • Identifying triggers: Identifying the triggers that cause anxiety can help individuals develop strategies to manage and cope with anxiety.
  • Seeking support: Talking to a mental health professional, trusted friend, or colleague can provide support and guidance in developing coping strategies and managing anxiety.
  • Developing coping strategies: Coping strategies may include relaxation techniques, cognitive restructuring, visualization, and other techniques to manage anxiety
  • Practicing self-care: Taking care of physical and mental health through activities such as exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction can help manage anxiety.
  • Gradual exposure: Gradually exposing oneself to anxiety-provoking situations can help desensitize the fear response and build confidence in one's ability to manage anxiety.
  • Evaluation and adjustment: Periodically evaluating progress and adjusting coping strategies as needed can help maintain progress and prevent relapse.

It's important to remember that recovery from performance anxiety is a process and may take time. With support and effective coping strategies, individuals can learn to manage anxiety and perform at their best in their job.

What are some strategies to manage performance anxiety?

There are several strategies that can be helpful in managing performance anxiety. These include:

  • Preparation: Practicing and preparing ahead of time can help build confidence and reduce anxiety.
  • Visualization: Visualizing successful performance can help build positive associations and reduce negative self-talk.
  • Relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help manage physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Cognitive restructuring: This involves challenging negative thoughts and beliefs about one's ability to perform well, and replacing them with more positive and realistic thoughts.
  • Seeking support: Talking to a trusted friend, mentor, or mental health professional can provide valuable support and perspective in managing performance anxiety.

It's important to note that performance anxiety is a common experience, and seeking support can help individuals learn to manage it effectively and perform at their best.

EMDR Treatment for Performance Anxiety

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapeutic approach that can be effective in treating performance anxiety. EMDR aims to alleviate symptoms of performance anxiety with a two pronged approach, by targeting and processing negative memories or experiences that may be contributing to the performance anxiety and desensitizing current or near future events that may trigger performance anxiety.

During an EMDR session for performance anxiety, a therapist will guide the client through a series of eye movements, sounds, or taps while they recall the traumatic or negative experience or current triggers associated with their anxiety. This process facilitates the brain's natural ability to process and integrate negative memories and experiences, as well as, desensitizing activating triggers, leading to a reduction in performance anxiety symptoms.

EMDR can also help individuals reframe negative beliefs about themselves and their ability to perform, such as "I'm not good enough" or "I will fail." The therapist can help the client distance themselves from and replace these negative beliefs with more positive and realistic beliefs, such as "I have the skills and abilities to perform well" or "I can handle any challenges that come my way." Click here to learn more about EMDR treatment.

Performance Coaching for Performance Anxiety

Performance coaching is a process of helping individuals or groups to achieve their goals and improve their performance in a particular area, such as their career, personal life, or a specific skill. The coach helps the client to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement and then works with them to create a plan to address those areas. The coach then provides guidance, feedback, and support as the client works towards achieving their goals.

Performance coaching typically involves several stages, including:

  • Goal setting: The coach and client work together to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
  • Assessment: The coach helps the client to assess their current performance and identify any obstacles or challenges that may be hindering their progress.
  • Planning: The coach and client develop a plan to address any areas that need improvement and to achieve the desired goals.
  • Execution: The client works towards achieving their goals, with the coach providing support, guidance, and feedback along the way.
  • Evaluation: The coach and client assess the progress made towards the goals and identify any areas that may require further attention.

Performance coaching can be used in a variety of settings, such as in the workplace to improve job performance, in sports to improve athletic performance, or in personal development to achieve personal goals. The coaching process typically involves regular meetings or sessions between the coach and client, with a focus on accountability, motivation, and goal attainment.

Final Thoughts on Help for Performance Anxiety

If you are struggling with performance anxiety, don't hesitate to seek help. A Virtual Therapy Clinic therapist can provide guidance and support in developing effective coping strategies and managing performance anxiety to prepare you for your next encounter. Whether you chose from EMDR to treat performance anxiety, performance coaching, or a combination, contact us today to take the first step towards recovery and greater success in your career, interpersonal relationships, or other.

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