Anxiety, simply put, is that mixture of tension, worrying thoughts and physical discomforts that arise in response to stimuli perceived as threatening. Anxiety disorders are prevalent in western society, with health professionals suffering elevated levels comparative to the general population.

Specifically, performance anxiety is related to the accomplishment of something specific. It refers to apprehension and fear of the consequences of being unable to perform a task, perform it at a desired/required level, or of performing it at a level that will raise expectations of better task achievement. Stage fright, sexual performance anxiety, athletic performance anxiety, test taking anxiety, and interview anxiety are just a few examples of performance anxiety. People can experience and develop a pattern of performance anxiety with anything.

Interactions between memories, imagination and motivation may catalyse hormonal, emotional and cognitive changes. However, there is little agreement and the ‘jury is still out’ on the exact relationship between anxiety (or emotions) and performance. It is generally accepted that anxiety characteristically impairs efficiency performance (effectiveness divided by effort) more than effectiveness (quality of performance). Milder anxiety may enhance performance in some contexts, while individuals predisposed to high anxiety may experience difficulty managing their anxiety. such that it negatively affects task enjoyment, academics, career, professionalism, empathy, self-esteem and confidence. Anxiety may contribute to poor health outcomes and/or exacerbate pathology, including presentations such as insomnia, chronic pain, asthma, depression, cancer and cardiovascular disease. So, given the negative outcomes associated with high performance anxiety, what can be done about it? Interventions include:

  • Preparation – practicing, training, rehearsing skills, memorizing, learning information, visualizing completing the task, event, or performance well.
  • Healthy lifestyle measures provide a positive context for reducing and managing anxiety – getting enough sleep, eating healthily, regular stress relief, seeking emotional support from others, learning coping techniques, relaxation activities such as yoga, muscle relaxation or breathing techniques, and laughing as often as you can.
  • Cognitive-behavioural methods including working on addressing and altering performance-related negative thought patterns, negative perceptions, beliefs and predictions. It is also important to develop self-acceptance and reduce exacting expectations, identify, and manage deeper fears related to how others perceive one, showing vulnerability, and being considered less than perfect.
  • Sometimes, if severe, adjunctive medications may be useful.
  • Psychotherapy for performance anxiety, and indeed any form of anxiety, is recommended and effective.

For further information or should you wish to discuss your own anxiety, feel free to contact MINDCHECK HP to book in an appointment.