When I decided to pursue a childhood dream of singing and went along to my first performers evening, I was mortified when I got up to sing. As I opened my mouth I heard a weird strangled sound more reminiscent of an injured animal! My diaphragm locked up like a tight fist and my lips wriggled around independently like a pair of worms! The rest of my performance that evening is thankfully a fuzzy haze! I had the classic Fight, Flight or Freeze symptoms one might experience in the face of eminent disaster such as being attacked or having a near miss in a car.
Singing was something I wanted to do, so I decided I was not going to be beaten by this poor experience. Using my training and experience as psychotherapist and hypnotherapist I applied to myself, all the techniques and practices I might offer a client experiencing performance anxiety.
I liken public performance to standing naked in front of a group of people! You really are exposing your most vulnerable self. This means your self-esteem is very much linked to your performance. Trouble is, if your good sense of self is totally dependent on others having to like you or think well of you, then you’re even more vulnerable because that’s is something you have no control over.
Unfortunately some people live daily with anxiety and or panic attacks. I’ve worked for over 28 years with many clients and I know that these negative states can be overcome. Panic and anxiety is not natural, it’s a sign that something, somewhere is wrong.
Here are 6 steps to manage anxiety.
Remind yourself of your age and occupation
Wear a band on your wrist
Drown out the negative talk
Consciously name things
Use a mudra
Want to know why these will help? It’s a 3 minute read …
Signs and symptoms of anxiety can be psychological, physical and emotional and will range from feeling short of breath, to feeling constricted and tight in the chest. People say things like “it’s like hands squeezing me” or “a belt or band tightening around my chest.” Emotionally they feel scared and frightened or terrified and trapped. Mentally people report thoughts of death and dying or have a sense of some impending disaster.
This is a truly disabling way to be living and whilst it’s my experience that people can overcome these problems, many learn to just live with them.
Enough of the negatives, lets look at some ways to dilute the experience and get back to feeling ‘normal’ as quickly as possible.
Yes it’s that time of year again! Here are some tips to survive the revision and exams.
Many teenagers are revising at the moment and we all know how stressful that can be, so this week’s blog contains top tips for revising and staying cool, calm and confident through the revision period and beyond.
Create a timetable of study.
Set short achievable tasks for your revision. It’s important to ‘chunk’ down. After all you can’t revise the whole thing in one go! So break things down into small chunks.
For example, you could revise in 20-minute chunks, set your phone (or alarm) when it goes off, change your activity for at least 5 minutes. Get up and stretch. Go and get a drink. Play with the dog! Then go back to revising. Naturally if you’re on a roll and studying well, you can skip a break and continue on for the next 20-minute chunk.
Look at the week and decide where, when and how you are going to revise. If you’re unsure, find someone who seems to revise well. Pick their brains and find out what they do to revise, where they do it and how, then copy that formula!
On Exam Day
Plan a good routine for the day. It might sound daft but it’s important know exactly where you’re going, it has been known for people go to the wrong place, out of sheer panic! Not you though. If you have to travel to your place of exam, do a dummy run a week before if necessary. Give yourself as much chance as possible to feel confident.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
Even planning exactly what you’re going to wear so that you’re in charge of your own temperature will give you a sense of control (Layers are good).
Aim to be early and be prepared. Have your bag and any items that you might need, ready, well ahead of the exam day.
Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate!
Drink plenty of water during study periods and the exam; this has been linked to improved memory power. According to a study at the University of Wales (D.Benton, N Burgess – Appetite, 2009 – Elsevier.) ‘Recall was significantly better on the occasions when water had been consumed’.
Breathe deep then eat
Many students say they feel panicky prior to exams and suffer from anxiety. Many performers feel nervous before they perform and there’s at least one scientific study that says that nerves can help you to perform well, so maybe your anxious feelings are a good thing and they are going to help you to perform well!
Anxiety can sometimes make your tummy tense and your chest tight though and that’s not great. So try this, sit upright and rest one hand on your heart and one hand on your tummy. I call this the ‘Vagus Hug’ as it puts you in touch with a powerful nerve that runs from the brain through the heart to the gut and it is a powerful communication channel. Close your eyes and breathe in and count to 3 hold for a couple of seconds and as you breathe out to the count of 5 imagine your hands becoming warm and soothing to your tummy. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the tension melts. Don’t take my word for it, practice it and see for yourself.
Once you feel more relaxed ensure that you eat something prior to the exam. If you feel uptight make sure it’s something easily digestible. Protein is always good and can be easily digestible if it’s something light like an omelette or scrambled eggs. Plan what you will eat on the day – have everything ready.
Are your thoughts serving or sabotaging you?
Watch out for your thoughts they can either be helpful and positive or negative and damaging. Do NOT project negative thoughts into the future… that’s just daft since the future hasn’t happened yet!
You have a choice. What are you saying to yourself about your ability to study? What are you saying to yourself about the exam itself? Modern psychology and hypnotherapy knows that it is possible to ‘future pace’ suggestions.
An example of a good future paced suggestion is “I now revise easily, effortlessly and concentrate with focused attention whenever I revise.” Or “On the day of the exam I feel confident and relaxed. My recall is sharp and accurate I breeze confidently through each question.” Notice the suggestion is phrased in the ‘here and now’ which is important, since the subconscious mind doesn’t have a sense of past or future, so it prefers suggestions as if they’re already happening.
Obviously if you haven’t done the study or the revision in the first place, this can’t come true but if you’ve done the work – then trust your subconscious mind to serve you. You could be amazed by the results.
Finally, listening to Stress Free With Confidenceevery night will definitely help you to remain calm and to feel more confident. I suggest listening for a month leading up to the exam and also through your revision period. Listen on ear-phones each night as you drift off to sleep and let it work for you.
Good luck with your exams and remember you are still a wonderful unique person whatever your results.
Have you ever been around someone seemingly bright and knowledgeable only to notice them behave badly in a childish manner? Chances are something has stopped them growing up emotionally…
Collectively we still fail to understand the difference between intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence. While we grow up intellectually and chronologically, we do not always grow up emotionally. We can have gaps in our development for all kinds of reasons, but it’s often due to something that happened in childhood. For example, a child — let’s call him John — has has five blissful years on the planet when his father suddenly dies. His mother, in her grief, plummets into a depression that she never really recovers from.
John is effectively orphaned at that point. With neither parent there to attend to his emotional needs. This trauma and loss will likely effect John’s ability to learn. Unless that’s picked up at school, he could remain in that ‘state’ for the rest of his life. His development stunted, much like a scratch on a record, or a rogue program that keeps replaying. Years later, John is unresponsive and unemotional toward his partner, going through the motions but never fully connecting.