Feeling anxious in high-pressure situations is a normal human response.
The classic occasions that many people dread include the best man’s speech, final round interview and public speaking. We’ve all been there with at least one of these.
Whilst some people thrive under such circumstances, those of us that aren't used to these situations can have a stronger natural response and this can prevent us from performing at our best.
Here are three tips as to how not to crack under the pressure…
Change the narrative: Try to re-frame the anxiety into excitement as much as you can. Ask yourself how you can look upon it as an opportunity as opposed to a threat. Think about what you can get excited about. Think about how you can enjoy the process instead of focusing on potential failure.
For example, if it is the best man’s speech, focus on the honour of being best man and the joy of the occasion. Focus on the fact that the audience will be welcoming and supportive of you. They will want you to succeed.
Focus on the upside: Prepare well but focus on the present and enjoy the process. If you spend too long with the ‘what if’ thoughts, anticipating bad things happening, it can increase your stress to such a degree that it has a detrimental effect on your performance. The ‘what if’ thoughts are only helpful if they lead to a plan of action.
If it’s a speech at work, think about what happens if it goes according to plan and you hit the ball out of the park. An address to an audience of peers is a great chance to raise your profile and come across as competent and astute, as well as amicable and well intentioned.
Prepare by practicing: Get practice at making mistakes. If your big challenge is a public speaking event, you may want to take classes in improvisation or public speaking so that you get the chance to have a go at making mistakes (in a safe environment), laughing at them, learning from them, moving on from them, so that once you get to do the bigger event, it doesn’t seem so threatening.
Often in the lead up to the specific event or situation the psychological symptoms, such as worry and sense of dread, can bring about a range of verbal and physical symptoms.
The verbal symptoms can include dryness in the mouth, a weakened tone of voice, subconscious stammering, as well as a shaking or quivering voice.
The common physical symptoms can include a pounding heart, heart palpitations, nausea, trembling as well as sweating (particularly on the hands and forehead).
At Man Behind The Mirror we offer a treatment called propranolol, a prescription-only medicine that helps to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety. It can be taken 30 - 60 minutes before a stressful situation to provide up to 4 hours of symptom relief.
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Written by Mike Firth, GP and Medical Director
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.