Pre-Performance Anxiety Reinterpreted

pre-performance anxiety reinterpreted as joy and excitement

Pre-Performance Anxiety Reinterpreted

“Research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology shows that instead of trying to calm yourself down, ‘reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitement’ is often advantageous. When you suppress pre-event nerves, you are inherently telling yourself that something is wrong. Not only does this make the situation worse, but it takes emotional and physical energy to fight off the feeling of anxiety – energy that could be better spent on the task at hand… Simply telling yourself ‘I am excited’ shifts your demeanor from what they call a threat mindset (stressed out and apprehensive) to an opportunity mindset (revved up and ready to go).” Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, Peak Performance, Rodale Press, NY 2017, p72-73

Do you ever experience pre-performance anxiety?

That feeling of nervousness before an important event? I do. Or at least I thought so until I read Peak Performance and saw that paragraph about reinterpreting that anxiety. Wow – it hit me like a ton of bricks! It was a real light bulb moment. I internalized the concept (as I often do) by creating the image you see with this blog post. Then the following words came tumbling out of somewhere:

The butterflies are swarming
The monkey on my shoulder is yelling at me
I’m in trouble; I’m not good enough
If only I had practiced more…
Too late – I’m up next.

Thoughts and words race uncontrollably through my mind,
Dancing in front of my eyes and zooming down to my toes.
Ouch – they hurt!
Damn those butterflies!
Damn those doubts!

Please stop!
I’ve got to calm down and stop that swarming
Make it all go away.
Or at least play ostrich and pretend it’s not there.
That’s it! I’ll just fake feeling fine!
I’m good at that.

But wait! I hear another voice, a little tiny whisper
It’s getting louder now, yet oh so gentle
Like wisps of wind.
Are those the butterflies talking?

Yes, and we’re here to help you, my lovely lady
To give you wings, to give you power
We’re energy in motion.
And that monkey on your shoulder is actually cheering you on!
Can you feel those funny little jitters in your muscles?
They’re not nervousness, it’s excitement!
Readiness, Anticipation of something great about to explode,
Give you positive energy so you can rise to new heights.

Reach out and grab that energy! Can you feel it?
It’s so powerful and so awesome!, Take it and hold it.
Guide it. Channel it. Focus it.

It’s yours, my lovely lady. To have, to hold, to love, to use,
and break out of that jail of limiting beliefs.
You’ll be free to perform like never before, and live your dream.

Note: This all happened before an important dance competition I was participating in. The outcome of this transformation in attitude? My best results and most first-place finishes ever! Now it’s your turn – acknowledge your pre-performance anxiety and reinterpret it as excitement and the anticipation of great things about to happen!

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