When Anxiety Hits at the Worst Time – How to Stop Anxiety Ruining Your Performance

Why we make mistakes or stumble during a performance – on the field, on the stage or in front of an audience. Here’s how to stop it happening, so you can make an impression for all the right reasons.

Transcript

  • We’ve all had times where we’ve practiced for days or hours to do something, and we know everything we need to know, or we have everything in us to do a brilliant performance because we’ve worked so hard preparing – and then we mess things up. Some people call it ‘choking’, but really, it’s anxiety. It’s happened to all of us, and if it’s happened to you, know that you aren’t alone and that these stories will be gold one day.
  • Understanding why this happens can help to minimise the changes of it happening again.
  • When your mind starts focusing on what could go wrong, your brain starts to organise your body to deal with the potential threat – and embarrassment, humiliation – all counts as a threat. It does this by surging your body with a neurochemical fuel to get you ready to fight the threat or flee from it. This neurochemical surge is designed to make you stronger, faster, more alert, more powerful – more able to deal with the threat. It’s meant to be a good thing, but if there isn’t a real threat then it can really trip you up.
  • When these neurochemicals are surging through you, one of the things that happens is the thinking part of your brain can actually get overwhelmed and it can shut down. This is an instinctive, automatic response designed to keep us safe. If there is an actual danger, your brain (specifically, the amygdala) doesn’t want you to take too much time thinking about the consequences or being too logical or rational. It just wants you to get safe, so it takes over down that thinking part (the pre-frontal cortex).
  • We know you’re not in danger if you, for example, go on stage, take to the field, sit the exam, but your brain doesn’t know that. The part of your brain that is responsible for the fight or flight response is the amygdala.  It’s very primitive and very instinctive. It’s a doer, not a thinker, so it will act first and it will think later.
  • To stop anxiety from getting in your way, it’s important to make sure that thinking part of your brain – the prefrontal cortex – doesn’t go offline. A powerful way to do this is to keep your focus on what you have to gain from the experience and how you want it to end up, rather than the things that could go wrong. 
  • The more you focus on the things that could go wrong, the more likely your brain will get anxious, and the more likely it will send thinking, planning part of your brain offline. This is when you’re more likely to stumble or make mistakes – and we’ve all done this before.
  • So, whenever your mind starts to wander to what could go wrong, bring it back to focusing on all of the things that could go right, and the great things that could come from your experience. 
  • Practice also strengthens the pre-frontal cortex so it can keep working hard for you. It’s important for strengthening your brain so it can do what you need it to do – which is to keep you strong and calm, and to stop anxiety causing trouble for you.

 


 

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The move towards brave doesn’t have to be a leap. It can be a shuffle - lots of brave tiny steps, each one more brave than before. What’s important isn’t the size of the step but the direction.

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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #neuronurtured #anxiety #anxietyinchildren
You know who I love? (Not counting every food delivery person who has delivered takeaway to my home. Or the person who puts the little slots in the sides of the soy sauce packets to make them easier to open. Not counting those people.) You know who? Adolescents. I just love them. 
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Today I spoke with two big groups of secondary school students about managing anxiety. In each talk, as there are in all of my talks with teens, there were questions. Big, open-hearted, thoughtful questions that go right to the heart of it all. 
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Some of the questions they asked were:
- What can I do to help my friend who is feeling big anxiety?
- What can I do to help an adult who has anxiety?
- How can I start the conversation about anxiety with my parents?

Our teens have big, beautiful, open hearts. They won’t always show us that, but they do. They want to be there for their friends and for the adults in their lives. They want to be able to come to us and talk about the things that matter, but sometimes they don’t know how to start. They want to step up and be there for their important people, including their parents, but sometimes they don’t know how. They want to be connected to us, but they don’t want to be controlled, or trapped in conversations that won’t end once they begin. 

Our teens need to know that the way to us is open. The more they can feel their important adults holding on to them - not controlling them - the better. Let them know you won’t cramp them, or intrude, or ask too many questions they don’t want you to ask. Let them know that when they want the conversation to stop, it will stop. But above all else, let them know you’re there. Tell them they don’t need to have all the words. They don’t need to have any words at all. Tell them that if they let you know they want to chat, you can handle anything that comes from there - even if it’s silence, or messy words, or big feelings - you can handle all of it. Our teens are extraordinary and they need us during adolescence more than ever, but this will have to be more on their terms for a while.  They love you and they need you. They won’t always show it, but I promise you, they do.♥️
Sometimes silence means 'I don't have anything to say.' Sometimes it means, 'I have plenty to say but I don't want to share it right here and right now.' We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety are thoughtful, observant and insightful, and their wisdom will always have the potential to add something important to the world for all of us.

 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting #adolescence #positiveparentingtips #heyawesome #mentalhealth #heysigmund #motherhoodcommunity #parentingtips #anxiety #anxietysupport #anxietyrelief #parentingadvice #anxietyinchildren #heywarrior #childanxiety #anxietyawareness #mentalwellness
Rather than talking to them about what they can’t do (and they’ll probably want to talk about this a lot - that’s what anxiety does), ask them what they can do. It doesn’t matter how small the step is, as long as it’s forward.
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The idea is to gradually and gently expose them to the things that feel frightening. This is the only way to re-teach the amygdala that it’s safe. Let them know you understand it feels scary - they need to know you feel what they feel and that you get it. This will make your belief in them and your refusal to support avoidance more meaningful. Then move them towards brave.
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This can be tough. To move our children towards the things that are causing them distress pushes fiercely against our instincts as a parent - but - supporting avoidance, overprotecting, over-reassuring, the things we do that unintentionally accommodate anxiety over brave behaviour will only feed anxiety and make it more resistant to change. (And as a parent I’ve done all of these things at some time - we’re parents, not perfect, and parental love has a way of drawing us all in to unhelpful behaviours in the name of protecting our kiddos). .
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The point is, moving our children towards brave behaviour can feel awful, but it’s so important. When they focus on the fear and what they can’t do, try, ‘Okay, I know this feels scary. I really do. I also know you can do this. I understand this step feels too big, so what little step can you take towards it? What can you do that is braver than last time?’

 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #parentingtip #childdevelopment #braindevelopment #mindfulparenting #adolescence #positiveparentingtips #heyawesome #mentalhealth #heysigmund #motherhoodcommunity #parentingtips #anxiety #anxietysupport #anxietyrelief #parentingadvice #anxietyinchildren #heywarrior #childanxiety #anxietyawareness #mentalwellness
We can’t decide the lessons our children learn and we can’t decide when they learn them, but we can create the space that invites the discovery. We can do this by making it safe for them to speak, and to wander around their own experiences so the lessons and wisdom can emerge.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #adolescence

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