Overcome performance anxiety

Performance anxiety is one of the chief complaints among performing artists, athletes, and even public speakers. Hypnosis is an excellent tool for identifying and dealing with the source of your anxiety. In this article, I discuss the factors that cause performance anxiety. Then, I explain how hypnosis helps deal with each factor, leading to more confident performances.

Re-framing the word “nervous”

In his book, Performance Success: Performing Your Best Under Pressure, Don Greene, Ph.D. states the importance of re-framing the word “nervous.” He prefers to use the term “activated.”

The word “activated” is preferable to “nervous” because it has a positive connotation. It is also a more accurate way of describing the heightened state of awareness performers experience.

I admire Greene’s approach in choosing to re-frame “nervous”. Certain words in the English Language are powerful, acting as “triggers” which stimulate specific feeling states or behaviors. “Nervous” is one of those words. Eliminate it from your vocabulary.

Does performance anxiety affect playing?

Most would say “Yes.” However, Greene says it is NOT your activation level that affects performance. Rather, it is muscular tension. According to Greene, you can still play well when activated. In fact, you can use the state of activation to perform at a higher level than you otherwise would.

Many performing artists who seek help with performance anxiety want to feel “totally relaxed” on stage. However, not being activated at all could also hinder performance. The key is to find a balance.

Now, let’s talk about the most common factors in performance anxiety.

Muscular tension

Excessive muscular tension originates from two possible causes.

First, chronic or severe tension might result from improper technique. In this case, working on technique is the first step in dealing with performance anxiety. I would recommend getting coaching on your mechanics if you haven’t done so already.

Another possible cause of tension could be over-response to the performance situation itself.

In hypnosis, you can mentally rehearse the desired level of activation. You will learn to recall that ideal state when you perform.

Relative ease of the task

Another factor in performance anxiety is the difficulty of the task to be performed. Rate the tasks you will perform on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being almost effortless for you and 10 being extremely difficult.

If you are performing a task that is a “9” or “10”, it probably won’t be your best. This is because the task is too difficult for a performance situation. However, if the task is a “4” or “5”, you will engage the situation more effectively.

Being in the moment

The ability to focus is a crucial skill for performers. To play without anxiety, one must be fully engaged in the present moment. When you are in the present moment, you’re not thinking about how you are doing. You’re not thinking about the last shot you missed, or the difficulty of the upcoming shot. You are thinking and responding in the “now.”

Hypnosis is great training for mental focus. In fact, one of the characteristics of hypnosis is increased mental involvement in the present moment. This increased awareness occurs naturally without trying or forcing, just as it should in performance. Since your mind can only focus on one thing at a time, you can’t be anxious about your performance if you are in the present moment.

How hypnosis helps you deal with performance anxiety

  • Deal with muscular tension
  • Improve confidence in performance situations
  • Recover from mistakes gracefully
  • Cultivate confident performances through mental practice
  • Learn from your own great performances and repeat them more frequently

Dealing with muscular tension

Hypnosis can help you deal with muscular tension. You will mentally rehearse what Tim Simmerman Sierra (lead instructor at Hypnotherapy Academy of America) calls dynamic relaxation. Dynamic relaxation is being as relaxed as possible, while still engaging the muscles you need for proper technique. With practice, you will achieve dynamic relaxation anytime you wish, even under stressful conditions.

Affirm your natural abilities

Any doubts about your playing are magnified in stressful situations. Through hypnosis, we boost your confidence as a performer. Improving confidence is about learning to focus on your strengths and see your weaknesses objectively.

Recover from mistakes

Some players continue to think about their missed shots long after they happen. If you dwell on your past mistakes long enough, it could lead to temporary suppression of ability. (“cold streak”) You will discover mental strategies to get out of this state quickly.

Mental dress rehearsals

According to Maxwell Maltz in his book Psycho Cybernetics (1960), the mind does not know the difference between a real experience and one vividly imagined. Your body doesn’t know the difference either. When you practice mentally, your muscles actually contract at a micro level, as if you were physically playing. Improve your performances by doing mental “dress rehearsals.”

Learning from your own “highlight reel”

Have you ever had a great performance, but then had trouble repeating it? With hypnosis, you can analyse your great performances of the past. You remember what you did to play so well. Then, you “bottle” those resources and apply them to your next game.

You deserve to be at your best

It’s frustrating to work so hard at your sport and not play your best in games/performances. Make an appointment and start getting a handle on performance anxiety today!

by Sean Maness, CHP
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