In this post, I will share with you some of my ways of dealing with pre-performance anxiety and nerves. By performance, I am talking about any situation where you have to ‘perform’ that you are anxious about. This could include a concert, a rehearsal, a sports match, a social occasion, a meeting, a public speech, or anything at all.
I often find that I get more anxious in the lead up to events than I do during the events themselves. The hardest part is the half-hour or so beforehand. Once I am in the situation, the anxiety normally fades after a while, if not immediately.
So, on to the tips!
When I am at home
If I am at home, for example, waiting for somebody to arrive at my house or waiting to go out to a performance situation, these are some things that help me to get through that time:
- Exercise. There are many studies showing that exercise helps to stave off anxiety, and it definitely helps me. If I dance around to music, or just jog energetically on the spot or do star jumps, it keeps the anxious feelings at bay. My body is preparing the fight-or-flight response, and exercise allows my body to carry out this reaction. It burns off the excess adrenaline and gives release to the tension that has built up. Psychologically, I can tell myself that my elevated heart rate, high body temperature and other symptoms of anxiety are due to the exercise that I have just done, and that I’m not getting anxious at all.
I recommend reading ‘Spark: How exercise will improve the performance of your brain’ by John Ratey to learn more about how exercise benefits your mental wellbeing.
- Get prepared early. I find that it helps to get everything ready in plenty of time. I get the things I need including getting a drink, or I pack my bag if I am going out. Then I know that I am ready to go as soon as the time comes, so I can spend the time leading up to the ‘performance’ doing more calming activities.
When I am driving
Here are some tips that I use when driving to an anxiety-inducing event:
- Listen to the radio. Pick a channel that does not have potential anxiety triggers (such as emotional songs) and really focus on listening to the radio, rather than thinking about what’s coming up. I normally prefer to listen to music on the radio, but when I am anxious, I find that listening to talking is the best for distracting me from anxious thoughts. If the conversations are funny and light-hearted, this is especially helpful – laughter is a great remedy.
- Aware driving. Focus on your surroundings as you are driving (obviously, keep your eyes on the road!). Be aware of the trees and plants, any animals, people and buildings that you pass. This will help to distract you from your thoughts, and can help you to see the beauty in the world, and feel better.
- Leave plenty of time for the journey. Running late can add extra anxiety to the situation. I make sure to leave extra time in case of traffic or other delays. It helps me, to know that when I arrive, I will have time to sit in the car for a little while and do whatever I need to do to get calm and centred before I go in.
When I am out and about
What if I am already out and around other people, for example before a concert starts, and it’s not easy for me to start running around or doing star jumps?
- Keep busy. I find that the time goes faster if I keep busy, and it helps to distract me. Go to the toilet, walk around, drink water, reply to texts or emails on my phone, and anything else I can do to keep busy.
- Talking helps. Often I feel like withdrawing from people, but I find that often, talking to people helps me to feel less anxious. It gives me the confidence that if I can manage this conversation, I can manage the performance too. It also distracts me and makes me feel more connected to the other people involved.
These can help in many situations:
- Deep, slow breaths. This is a classic way to calm down. I breathe as slowly as I can and focus on relaxing my whole body with each out-breath.
- Yawn. I find yawning very relaxing and anxiety-releasing. I tell myself ‘I am so sleepy’ and imagine feelings of sleepiness. This works amazingly well and I immediately feel sleepy and start yawning for real. It’s difficult to be anxious and sleepy at the same time!
- Close your eyes. Closing your eyes blocks out one sensory input stream (vision) and also gives the impression of darkness. This can help you to feel sleepy and relaxed. (Obviously don’t do this while driving!)
- Remind yourself that this is the worst part. The anticipation leading up the event is almost always the part where I feel the most anxious. I keep reminding myself that this part will soon be over and that I’ll be okay in the actual thing.
I hope you found these tips useful!
Have you used any of these before? Do you have any other methods for dealing with pre-performance anxiety and nerves? Let me know in the comments!