The Secret to Overcoming Performance Anxiety
Seymour Segnit – CTRN Founder & President
In this article, I'll explain exactly how we create fear – and every other emotion – and reveal one of the most powerful known methods to overcome Performance Anxiety.
Its called Anchoring and in our work helping clients around the world we find that this one of the most effective techniques.
In fact, we find it eliminates Performance Anxiety completely for many of our clients, and significantly helps everyone else. And its very, very simple.
We've all read the regular advice – things like 'be well prepared', 'relax', 'remember to breathe' – and all this advice is great if you only have mild anxiety.
But if you are experiencing real FEAR – that overwhelming feeling of anxiety or nervousness that makes you sick to your stomach – you are experiencing an 'unwarranted automated fear response' which no amount of trying to relax or breathing will help.
Here you'll learn a technique that always helps (when properly used) because it is tapping into the very same part of your nervous system that is causing the performance anxiety in the first place.
How you Create Fear – or any other Feeling
The first thing to understand is how we create fear in the human nervous system.
The way you feel at any moment in time is a direct result of two things:
Focus and your Physiology.
Focus is the way you are using your mind; your beliefs, what you are thinking about, and the language you use inside your head to describe things to yourself.
Physiology is the way you are using your body; your posture, your breathing, and even things like how tired you are and whether you have been drinking lots of coffee (very bad) or water (very good).
Every – yes EVERY – feeling you ever have is a result of the precise recipe or 'strategy' composed of the different elements of Focus & Physiology you are using at that moment. And the good news is that you can change the recipe almost instantaneously.
For example Depression – commonly considered a mystery in our society – can only be experienced by someone running their own, precise depression strategy.
Compared to their normal non-depressing self this typically means head down, shoulders forward, shallow breathing, and – most importantly – thinking about what's wrong with life; focusing on all the evidence that life is bad, and asking themselves questions which produce answers that compound the problem.
The questions we ask ourselves are key. A question like “What will happen if this all goes wrong” will immediately generate answers that feel terrible. Ask “How can I make thisincrediblet?” or “How will others benefit when I overcome this” will change how you feel in a heartbeat.
Change the Physiology and the Focus and immediately the feeling changes. It physiologically impossible to feel depressed whilst moving around with your head up, breathing full healthful breaths and thinking and talking about what you are pleased and excited about. (If you don't believe this is true, do it now).
So the quickest way to stop fear in the short term is to quickly and radically change what you are doing. If you are sitting still thinking what will happen if it all goes wrong, then jump up, start moving or running, and remember a time when you felt incredibly powerful, centered and strong. Your feelings will change instantaneously.
The Simple Subtle Powerful Strategy for Overcoming Performance Anxiety: Anchoring
We teach this as 101 to all our VIP clients
Leaping around like an acrobat and singing your favorite song will invariably shift you into a much more positive state, but you'll probably need a more discreet strategy for use when other people are around!
The answer is Anchoring, a fast simple easy technique that rapidly taps into your neurology's automatic system for linking feelings to experience. You have already experienced anchoring thousands of times.
It works like this: whenever something unique happens and you are in an intense emotional state (good or bad) your nervous system creates a link between the two.
For example, the first time you fell in love, there may have been a song that you heard on the radio – maybe even "our song". At the time that unique song played over and over again, you were in the intense emotional state of being in love, and now whenever you hear that song that feeling of falling in love comes back.
Or maybe you've had the experience of walking into a building and suddenly it feels like you are back at school again. It's a strange feeling, and you may never even realize it is because the building has the same-smelling floor polish as the caretaker used at your school!
The unique stimulus of the smell of the floor polish fired off that feeling of being at school.
In both cases the same thing happened: your mind created a link – an anchor – between a powerful feeling (love, or being at school) and a unique stimulus (the song or the smell of the floor polish).
The way to use anchoring to transform you from glossophobe to phobia-free is to deliberately create a link between some kind of unique stimulus – one you control and can initiate whenever you want – and a powerful mixture of the kind of calm, confident emotions you want to experience instead of performance anxiety.
Then: and this is the magical part, you simply apply the stimulus while thinking about public appearance and your mind will build a new map of the emotions that belong with public appearance. Literally, your mind will create new neural pathways attaching the new positive emotions in place of the old.
The job here is to bundle together a collection of overwhelmingly positive powerful emotions you can call up whenever you want. Now when you are in a situation in which you would previously have experienced negative feelings, just 'fire' the anchor and your mind will 're-code' the situation with the new feelings, so it first becomes neutral, and then maybe even a positive experience.
Anchoring is one of the processes we cover in detail in our programs for performance anxiety
Here is the process in detail:
1: Decide the state or emotion you want to anchor You can anchor any positive states you like. You need to be sure you are anchoring pure positive states, ones that are only totally positive for you. Here are some suggestions that are very powerful for many people. Pick ones that work for you, and add your own:
Powerful, Centered and Strong. The feeling of "I RULE!" you get when you have just triumphed at something... Totally Calm. Totally Relaxed. That feeling you know of lying somewhere, perhaps with the sounds of nature surrounding you... Excited Anticipation. The feeling of excitement just before opening a large Christmas gift! Perfect Love. The feeling you have when, forgetting all else, you think of how much you love and are loved... Falling about with Laughter. The feeling of unstoppable hysterical laughter!
2: Choose a unique part of the body to which you will attach the anchor. Anchoring works by linking strong emotions to a unique stimulus. This means a stimulus you can create easily whenever you want – and one that doesn't happen normally in day-to-day life. Squeezing a tight fist with your non-writing hand is a good one. Its unique, because you 'don't normally do it in day to day life, and it can be done discreetly if there are other people around. As long as it is unique you can anchor anywhere, as long as you can repeat it again accurately. Pinch an individual knuckle, your earlobe, a freckle on an arm, etc.
3: a: Remember a time when you felt that state or emotion, and imagine 'floating' back into your body at that time. See the things you saw through your own eyes, hear the things you heard, smell any smells, taste any tastes, and really allow the feelings of that time to flow throughout your body. Breathe the feelings into every cell from head to toe. Repeat this process over and over and you may increase the intensity as you relive the experience.
Or b: Just create the state in your body. Perhaps imagining a situation - and really allow the positive feelings to flow throughout your body. Breathe the feelings into every cell from head to toe.
Or c: Anchor when you are in a Naturally Great State in Day-to-Day life. This is the most positive of all, and is of course the way your nervous system is creating anchors all the time. Its when you are naturally feeling great in day-to-day life - when you are running, loving, laughing, whatever...
4: As the feelings reach their PEAK, press on the anchor for 5-10 seconds Make sure that the stimulus you create is UNIQUE and can be replicated easily. Then, as the feelings reach their strongest, apply the anchor for 5-10 seconds. This is the part where you are creating the link in your nervous system between the stimulus and the feeling.
5: Let the feelings return to normal
6: REPEAT a number of times
Repeat a number of times to make the anchor more and more powerful. It works like a savings account. The more you put in, the more useful it becomes. Use other examples of the same state/emotion to build a 'pure' anchor (eg Pure Love, or Pure Motivation) AND stack a collection of different positive states in the same place to make a powerful 'Resource Anchor'. The more you do this, the more powerful the anchor will become.
To use your Anchor
To use your anchor, 'fire' it (ie squeeze your fist or pump your fist if that feels better to you) for an extended period, if required all the way through the challenging situation. Even though we only build the anchor for 5-10 seconds when creating it, you may need to use it for longer than that. The rule is: Build a strong anchor, then use it for as long as required.
Build your anchor often (remember, its like a bank account, you need to make deposits, not just withdrawals!), and always use it move yourself to a positive state when you catch yourself less than resourceful, or you just need some extra resources in a situation.
To summarize, the key to managing your emotions is to understand that you and you alone are responsible for them – you are creating them every minute of the day with your Focus & Physiology. To feel different all you need to consciously change what you are thinking about and how you are using your body.
To make fast changes at your unconscious level, use Anchoring diligently and you will amaze yourself with how easily you can become the master of your emotions.
And if you need help...
As simple and powerful as this process is sometimes – especially if overcoming Performance Anxiety is critical for you – its better to work with and expert not just in Anchoring, but a complete system of techniques for 'rewiring' your response every time in situations where you used to feel the fear.
If you'd like to discuss your options, please call us 24 hours a day 7 days a week if you would like to set up a free consultation.
Toll-free at (800) 828 7484
Or from outside the US: +1 (650) 249-5120
Or learn more about Performance Anxiety: