Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Anxiety and Stress into Success

For a performer, handling stress can be as challenging as perfecting your craft.  But not everyone takes time to anticipate stress and prepare for it in advance.  Anxiety and stress stems from internal pressures, such as self-doubt, fear, anger and sadness or from external pressures, such as the expectations of others.  Physiological factors can contribute to stress as well, like hormones, colds and headaches. 

It is natural to experience some stress or anxiety prior to a competition, performance or event garnering public attention.  The more important something is to you, the more you are likely to worry about it and become tense.  In fact, a certain amount of stress can enhance your focus and performance, but substantial stress can cause out-of-control symptoms that can wipe out years of practice and preparation.  You cannot totally eliminate anxiety or stress, but you can get a grip on it by exploring different coping strategies and finding the ones that are right for you.  Follow these suggestions to learn how you can get over your performance anxiety and stress.

  1. Vent. Share your feelings with a loved one, family member, friend, coworker, trainer or teammate.  This technique, known as venting, helps the stress and anxiety escape.  After you vent your emotions, try to think of a positive way to view your experience.  If you can take your mistakes in stride, you may even learn to turn an embarrassing moment or mess-up into a laughing matter. 
  2. Envision Your Performance. Close your eyes and envision performing your routine, delivery or presentation flawlessly, step-by-step.  Top sport psychologists recommend this technique for elite athletes to enhance their performance in competition.  The visualization of success often results in success, as well as reduces stress, because it inspires confidence.  Learn to expect a good performance from yourself, and you will be more likely to deliver a good performance.
  3. Write Down Your Feelings. Record your feelings in a diary or journal.  Write down experiences or thoughts that caused your anxiety during your last performance.  Psychologists call this a “thought journal.” Read each entry a few days later.  Analyze the validity of each thought and fear.  You’ll find that yesterday’s unforgivable blunder is today’s barely-memorable slipup.  Having a different perspective on your stress habits can help you change them. 
  4. Practice Deep Breathing. Just before a performance, or at any point that stress is interfering in your daily life, practice the relaxation technique of deep breathing.  Scientific research supports deep breathing as a bona fide technique to reduce stress and anxiety. Slowly breathe in trough your nose and out through mouth.  Expand yours tummy when you inhale, so you can take in a full breath.  Let your belly deflate as you exhale.  You will find it is almost impossible to remain tense while completing this exercise.
  5. Play.  Walk, run, jump rope, or play ball to release stress and pent-up energy.  Take time to exercise in a way that is unrelated particular craft.   Try yoga or boxing as efficient alternative to your normal training.  If yoga or boxing is not your cup of tea, go to your local park and swing on the swings.  Playing and having fun act as a distraction to your racing thoughts and worrying. 
  6. Watch Your Diet. Eat a balanced diet.  Avoid caffeine and sugar.  Caffeine increases your heart rate and contracts your veins, which may exacerbate your feelings of stress and anxiety.  A quick sugar burst of energy is followed by a drop in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling anxious, dizzy, tired and fatigued.  Drink plenty of water and consume high-quality protein and nutrient-rich vegetables and fruit. 
  7. Laugh. See a funny movie or watch a goofy sitcom.  Get silly with a friend, pet or family member… anything that can give you a chuckle.  Laughter is said to be the best medicine.  Laughing reduces stress and staves off depression.  A good laugh put your worries into perspective and decrease anxiety.
  8. Cry.  Sometimes anxiety and stress can be so overwhelming and cause emotions to mount.  A good cry can help you vent your tension.  Sometimes the only way to relieve stress is through a complete emotional release.  Crying actually boosts your immune system shortly after the release. If you’re not the crying type, try shouting into a pillow.  The important thing is to just let out everything that you have been holding in.
  9. Accept Your Fears.  In number 3, you were asked to write down your thoughts and feelings surrounding your anxiety and stress when it came to your performance.  Sometimes these thoughts can spiral out of control and lead to “what if” scenarios.  For example, “What if I fall?”, “What if my mind goes blank?”, “What if I come in last place?” or “What if I cannot remember what to do?”  All of these are self-defeating thoughts and will drain you emotionally.  They can consume you.  However, what if you learned accept that these are possibilities and each of these scenarios can happen?  Rather than fearing the possibility, accept the possibility.  Take control of the situation by accepting that each of these is a real possibility and cultivating a solution to each scenario if the situation occurs.  This prepares you and provides you with a sense of control.  Regardless of the outcome, you have tackled the situation and are no longer paralyzed by fear. 
  10.  Aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy is gaining support in the scientific literature as a way to truly decease your stress.  Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils and herbs for healing.  Some scents inspire relaxation, while some scents stimulate energy and improve mental focus.  Use scents to improve your mood and reduce tension.  Relax in a warm bath scented with your favorite fragrance or burn scented candles or incense.  To soothe emotional of psychological stress, use frankincense, geranium, rose, peppermint or sandalwood.   To ease your tension and relax your muscles, try lavender or sweet marjoram.  To decrease fatigue, use basil, geranium, rose, sandalwood, juniper, berry or rosemary for a quick energy boost.   

Incorporate these top 10 ways to relieve stress and anxiety to determine how to get over performance anxiety and stress.