Understanding Performance Anxiety
Suppose you could unhook from all your thoughts about how bad or unpleasant fear is and how much you hate it?
All it would take is being able to nonjudgmental notice the physical sensations, without trying to make them go away!
Trying to get rid of your fear takes up a lot of energy and keeps you from fully engaging in your life, because you are so busy struggling with your feelings.
WHAT ABOUT PERFORMANCE ANXIETY?
Most of you probably believe that high levels of anxiety will hurt your performance, so you need to reduce it to perform well.
Interestingly there is a lot of research that shows just the opposite….
In 1988, Psychologists Rich and Woolever showed that most people taking tests have similar anxiety levels.
What determines their performance is not their anxiety levels, but their ability to fully engage in the exam without getting distracted by their thoughts and feelings.
They performed well no matter how anxious they were.
This also applies to athletes and lovers – those who fully engage in the the task perform best.
Those who get distracted by their thoughts and feelings perform worst.
So if you practice mindfulness skills, learn to unhook from your negative thoughts, get good with your feelings and fully engage in the task at hand you will perform well.
In my last blog, I spoke about how trying to avoid your fear will only cause it to amplify.
Instead of avoiding, you first will need to engage by being fully present in whatever is happening right now in your life.
The next step is expansion, which means to open up and make room for whatever is happening.
You don’t have to approve or want what is happening, but you stop fighting it.
The more you can allow your difficult feelings just to be, the smaller their impact and influence on your life.
A HINDU FABLE
There’s an ancient Hindu story that illustrates this very well…
An old master wanted to teach his negative student a lesson.
He asked the lad to go fetch him a bowl of water and some salt.
When the student returned with the water he instructed him to add a big handful of the salt to the bowl of water.
The master swirled the bowl of water with the salt until all the salt dissolved and then told the student to drink it.
The student took a sip and screwed up his face in disgust. “Horrible,” he cried.
The master laughed and agreed, “Yes, it is very unpleasant.” He beckoned him to follow to a nearby lake.
The master told the student to throw another big handful of salt into the lake.
The master said, “Now taste the water from the lake.” (Back in the days when you can drink safely from a lake I imagine.)
The student drank from the lake and smiled. “Not so hard to swallow this time I presume” said the master.
“The salt is like the inevitable pain you will encounter in life.
In both situations, the amount of salt was the same, but the smaller the container, the greater the bitterness.
So when life gives you pain, instead of closing in around it, like this bowl, you can open up and enlarge it like this lake.”
In the next blog I will share exactly how to do that…