Thursday, August 06, 2015

5 ways to Overcome Performance Based Anxiety

Anxiety sucks. It cripples, disables and renders people without hope, optimism or courage. It invades the brain and controls functionality.

Everybody suffers from anxiety to some degree or another - about something or another.

I taught a course on presentation skills many years ago. It was a small intelligent group of people and it was my first time teaching this particular thing. Very early on we did 1 minute spontaneous speaking points. The second person in the room chose to discuss his anxiety. Not a word of a lie. He changed my life. EVERY single student in that group suffered from some type of anxiety. About something. We ended up spending a fair bit of time developing strategies around anxiety reduction in general terms and then more specifically around presentations. It was an incredible group and certainly one of those times I learned as much as I taught.

A long winded way of getting to a brief list of my top 5 ways to help students reduce anxiety headed into performance based, animal partnered events. (and you might be like me - find clinics more stressful than shows!!)

5. Breathe. Good Air in. Bad Air out, Just a couple of cycles will make a difference but the quieter a place and the more time you can put into breathing properly the more significant the impact will be.

4. Get in Touch with your Senses ( See how I did that?) .  Touch. You have a partner whose therapeutic value is well documented. Pat them. Do some TTOUCH with them. Your heart rate will drop and they'll enjoy it too.  Touch is a well documented stress reduction technique. Even just the act of putting lotion on your hands or hand sanitizer or sunscreen is calming so if your animal partner is not available for a pat don't despair.
In fact think about you and your senses and see if hearing, tasting or smelling might be good to add to your arsenal as well. Hearing music evokes memories - of calm or happy states. Mints are also a calming taste according to some experts, Perhaps some aromatherapy in the car will help the journey be less stressful.

3, Count down ... pick something, anything. Birds, red cars, a breed of dog, a colour of horse - something that will be where you are. Count 10 of them (or more if you have any or are really anxious) . This will distract you from your anxiety and potential downward spiral.

2. Accept that plans change and life happens. Work hard on accepting that some things will be out of your control and that sometimes valuable learning comes from mistakes. Sigh. Sorry.Not sorry.  But in some ways this may be the most important piece of the puzzle.

1. Be prepared, Know where you are going. What you are doing. Have lists and things organized and ready Pack ahead of time. Have some cash for whatever you forgot, Identify your stressors and figure out how to address them ahead of time. You can never plan for everything but the better your plan is the smoother even blips will be.  Visual the good that will happen and use your support systems to enjoy the experience. Be prepared to celebrate the victories you have - even if it seems tiny and simple.