The Unseen Battle: Navigating Performance Anxiety

Amy Wilkinson shares her thoughts with us on performance anxiety and the best ways to combat it.

This month on the Oh for Foods Sake podcast we are discussing Performance Anxiety.

Performance anxiety, can grip anyone at any time. I work with women just starting out in their career, right up to Director level and it’s something we all suffer with at some time. It’s that heart-pounding, palm-sweating, stomach-churning sensation that threatens to undo all your hard work and preparation, leaving you feeling vulnerable and exposed. It might not be visible to others, but its impact is undeniable. 

It’s all in our heads, or is it?

Our minds are powerful tools, capable of both greatness and destruction. Performance anxiety often stems from our minds working overtime, spinning tales of impending failure and disaster. Our thoughts race, and it can be challenging to regain control.

But there is also additional pressures for women that we sometimes feel due to societal norms, which I wrote about recently in this linkedin post: what should I wear? 

It’s actually all in our bodies

Performance anxiety doesn’t stop at mental turmoil; it takes a physical toll too. The symptoms can range from trembling hands to queasy stomachs. The heart pounds like it’s trying to escape the chest. These physical manifestations are a testament to how profoundly our minds can affect our bodies. Have you ever thought “oh I am fine” and then looked down to see your hands shaking or notice your voice wavering?

So, what can you do about it? Preparation is a good start 

While performance anxiety can make us feel powerless, preparation becomes our shield and sword. The more we practice and prepare, the more confidence we gain. Preparation instils confidence and helps us stand our ground against the relentless onslaught of anxiety. There is a risk and a caveat here – overthinking and overpreparation is a thing. This can keep you up til midnight before a presentation or get you in a real twist, so know when enough is enough.

Just breathe

Mindfulness and breathing techniques have been a lifesaver. These tools can help us regain control over our racing minds and erratic bodies. Deep breaths and grounding exercises can anchor us in the present moment, reminding us that we are more than our anxiety. For me, mindfulness has been a massive part of overcoming my fears. But it isn’t just about being zen, as we discussed in this podcast with Mindfulness Rebel Amy Polly: Oh for Food’s sake podcast with Amy Polly 

What would you say to a friend in this situation?

Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding makes a huge difference. Embracing self-compassion can act as a soothing balm for our frazzled nerves. We tend to be our harshest critics, but it’s essential to remember that we deserve our own compassion.

Get professional help

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, performance anxiety can be too overwhelming to handle alone. Seeking professional help is vital. Therapists and coaches can provide guidance, coping strategies, and, most importantly, a safe space to share our anxieties.

You can also join my up coming Invisible to Influential course where we cover a lot about confidence, speaking up and getting your voice heard as a woman in food.

Performance anxiety is not just in your head, it’s in your body, it’s in the societal pressures we all face, so do give yourself a break. Through preparation, support, mindfulness, and self-compassion, we can face this invisible torment head-on. 

It’s okay to be nervous. It’s okay to feel anxious. It’s a part of being human. Let us embrace our humanity and find the strength within ourselves to conquer performance anxiety, one step at a time. Listen to Lucy Wager and I talk all about it on the Oh for Food’s Sake podcast.

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