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Performance and Exam Nerves

 

Do exams or public performances stress you out?

 

Most students, young or old, experience stress before an exam. Exam anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. The same kind of stress could appear before or during a performance, such as business presentations, public speaking events, sports competitions, musical performances, acting, and many more. This could happen to anyone, including the most experienced performers. 

 

A certain level of stress is healthy because it helps a person perform better. However, when it interferes with one’s performance or incapacitates them to the point where they’d rather quit before even getting started, it could become a disorder. Some of its symptoms include:

 

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Sweating

  • Increased heartbeat

  • Headache 

  • Nausea

  • Slight fever

  • Diarrhoea or vomiting

 

Symptoms range from mild to severe and could turn into anxiety/panic attacks, become habitual and ultimately affect one’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

 

Some of the causes of exam and performance anxiety include:

 

  • Fear of failure. This has a variety of underlying reasons, and therefore, it could manifest differently from person to person. One can have a personal drive to make it to the top, or some sense of high expectations, so to speak. Others may feel the need to prove themselves to others, such as parents, siblings, friends, partner - the list goes on. Those motivations are not detrimental in good amounts. In excess, however, the fear could consequently become a hindrance to performing well.

 

  • Previous failing. A student who had previously done poorly on an exam could become anxious every time he/she takes another exam. Similarly, someone who had previous poor performance at work, or someone who made an obvious goof of themselves during a public speaking occasion might have formed a recurring fear of presenting or speaking in public.

 

  • Being unprepared. While it may sound like common sense and, most often, can be avoided altogether, being unprepared can still cause high levels of anxiety. 

 

If the nervousness resulting from these causes is not managed well and remains unresolved, the person risks losing control over their reactions and behaviour in the long run.

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Bringing Exam and Performance Stress to the Test

The first step a person with exam and performance anxiety could take is to seek the help of someone he/she already knows. For a student, support and assistance could come from teachers, school counsellors, parents, or tutors by addressing the learning difficulty or inability to take exams comfortably and with confidence. For an adult suffering from performance anxiety, help may come from a colleague, mentor, co-performer, or coach, in the form of tips and actual practise/rehearsal.

 

Help can also come from the person himself/herself by challenging their negative thoughts before the actual exam or performance, with statements such as “what if” and affirmations about their abilities. Ridding his/her mind of high expectations is also recommended. This is a discipline that could take some time and continuous effort, so patience with oneself is much needed.

How can professional therapy help?

 

The above methods may not be enough for everyone dealing with exam and performance anxiety. This is when the help of a qualified and an experienced therapist or mental health professional would come in handy. 

 

Your therapist could assist you through one or more of the following:

 

  • Easy recall of information

  • Relaxation techniques 

  • Effective preparation methods for exams and public performances

  • Eradicating negative thoughts that lead to stress

  • Building better self-awareness and unlocking your full potential

  • Building confidence and self-esteem

and many more.

 

For more serious cases, one could be given anti-anxiety medication, be assisted through hypnosis to more easily accept positive suggestions towards himself/herself, or undergo therapy, such as Clinical Hypnotherapy to correct unhealthy ways of thinking, or neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) – the application of communication strategies and behavioural tools. 

 

Taking exams, performing in public, or joining competitions does not necessarily have to be stressful. Better said, there are ways of bringing this kind of anxiety to a more comfortable and manageable level, converting it to positive triggers for better performance. If your efforts have come to a halt and you require professional assistance, feel free to check our service packages here or reach out with any additional questions.