Manage Performance Anxiety With This Quick Tip

Happy Valentine’s Day / Galentine’s Day / Anti-Valentine’s Day East Bay!

Whether you are celebrating Valentine’s Day or Anti-Valentine’s Day or anything in between, I wanted to offer a tip to help us manage those pesky, performance anxiety butterflies.

Think back to group projects and school presentations. As your turn to present approaches, you feel your heartbeat getting faster and faster; butterflies start to dance in your stomach.

I'd imagine the majority of you readers can identify and relate to this phenomenon: performance anxiety.

Now think back to Christmas Eve as a child. And what happens? You cannot sleep because you are so excited to see what is under the tree Christmas morning; butterflies dance around in your stomach. As that moment of being able to run to the Christmas tree and start tearing apart wrapped present approaches, your heart starts beating faster and faster.

But wait, heart beating faster? Butterflies in your stomach? It's the same in both cases, yet public speaking is dreaded and Christmas morning is esteemed. That's because both anxiety and excitement are signaled by the same physiological sensations.

Interesting, huh? But what is even cooler is that we can use this similarity to our advantage, allowing us to feel excited rather than anxious, which 1. makes us more comfortable and 2. increases performance. Uhhh; yes please!

So, next time you have to give a presentation, introduce yourself to a networking contact, ask someone out or anything else that gets those anxiety butterflies going, try engaging in some internal dialogue like "Wow my heart is going, I must be really excited. I'm excited for..." Another tip that will be helpful in allowing you to mentally make the switch from anxious to excited, is behave like you do when you are excited. Are you someone who smiles a lot, who jumps up and down, who has a spontaneous dance party? Try doing these things when you are feeling anxious.

Changing your thoughts about what an increased heart rate/butterflies in your stomach means along with behaviorally acting excited gives your brain a plausible story of why your heart is beating so fast or why you have butterflies in your stomach. And guess what? Research shows that our brains tend to latch on to the easiest explanation and tend to shy away from doing the extra work of convincing ourselves otherwise. So, your brain in this case is helping. Yay! Love it when our brains do that!