Do You Recognize the Hidden Signs of Performance Anxiety? 

By  Judy Fine

Ready to learn how to manage performance anxiety?

Everyone experiences it to some degree. We know it as it's happening. You're about to go on stage and your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, maybe your throat is clenching up and you feel nauseous. These are examples of symptoms that are obvious and recognizable.

But are there signs of performance anxiety that you're missing? Keep reading to find out, because if you're misreading the cause of a problem, you are likely not properly addressing the fix.

Before we get to the signs of performance anxiety that you could be missing, let's talk more about what we mean when we say performance.

A singing performance is an obvious example. Speech-giving is another event that commonly activates performance anxiety. But these are only two of many forms of performance. How many? I can't even tell you, because just about everything is a kind of performance. Some examples:

  • Going on a job interview
  • Asking someone on a date
  • Expressing your opinion among a group of different-minded people
  • Raising your hand to answer a tough question in class
  • Leading a team project at work

If you struggle with performance anxiety as it relates to singing, there's a good chance that the same anxiety creeps into other aspects of your life. This is why I broach this topic with my students over and over again. Learning how to manage performance anxiety is an important life skill, not just a singer's problem.

Different people land at different spots along the anxiety spectrum but if you struggle to any extent, the information here will be helpful to you.

The effects of performance anxiety can be broken into two categories:

  • Real-time effects. The physical, emotional, and mental reactions experienced at the moment, or just before the moment a performance begins.
  • Preemptive effects. The physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to an impending (or even considered) performance.

Since most folks recognize the real-time effects of anxiety, I'm going to focus here on preemptive responses.

A definition of Preemptive: "Serving or intended to preempt or forestall something, especially to prevent attack by disabling the enemy."

This is what part of your subconscious is attempting to do. It views your planned performance as a kind of attack on your wellbeing and wants to "disable the enemy" (you) to prevent the perceived threat (the performance).

Your subconscious knows your weaknesses.

If you're someone who frequently gets migraines, you may find yourself coming down with one a day or two before a performance. If you're prone to depression or extreme overwhelm, then you'll probably experience those things instead. My Achilles' heal is congestion. Before I understood the workings of performance anxiety, I frequently came down with cold symptoms before a performance.

Moodiness is another preemptive symptom of performance anxiety. Impatience and arguing can increase. People may become frustrated, negative, and downright mean to others and/or to themselves.

Below are two chat videos I made discussing how to manage performance anxiety:


Click to play

There's one more video I'd like to share. This one is a presentation about performance anxiety that covers the phenomenon from start to finish.

I've shared this before, but if you haven't seen it yet and you struggle with performance anxiety, please watch it. In it, I describe the greatest tool you possess for lowering performance stress and improving assertiveness. It's the knowledge that will empower you to continue following your passion successfully.

Click to play

Two important things to move beyond your performance anxiety.

1. You have to practice performing.

You need to practice the advice I give in the presentation above regarding how to hold your body. You have to practice not completely losing your mind as you perform. And you have to rack up "wins" so that the part of your subconscious that is trying to protect you learns that protection isn't necessary. You can do this in stages: 

  • Start by practicing with a karaoke app or karaoke videos on YouTube. 
  • Sing with a karaoke track alone first.
  • Then with one or two close friends.
  • Then have a karaoke party or go out to karaoke night with some friends. 

Take whatever steps necessary to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. 

2. Find support in people who get your fears.

I have a GREAT way for you to do this. Join and participate in my private Facebook group for Singer-Athletes.

There is just one catch - a completely pain-free catch. You have to been enrolled as a student or client of mine.

But you can do this easily and without paying a single penny. Sign up below to join my email list (a fun and useful thing to do all by itself!) and you'll gain FREE access to module 1 of my online course, the Singer-Athlete Workout Program. Once you do that, you are officially a student and can join the private Facebook group - and stay, even if you never purchase the full course. 

You literally have nothing to lose, and lots to gain! I look forward to meeting you in the Facebook group!

Judy Fine

Judy Fine has been a vocal and performance coach since 2007, specializing in artist development coaching for aspiring singers and confidence coaching for everyone.

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