For many people high pressure situations create anxiety. It could be a meeting with the personnel committee for an annual review, an appointment to let someone know their position has been eliminated, or the chance to speak at a large gathering of important and influential people. These sorts of situations–so critical to professional advancement–are emotionally and physically exhausting. They’re also anxiety producing. And anxiety has a funny way of diminishing performance. Your hands turn into blocks of ice. Your mouth dries up. Some of us start to perspire profusely. Sometimes, in the moment that demands the most of us, we choke. This article from Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge gives some tips on dealing with anxiety.
So what is performance anxiety? Basically, it’s fear of lack of control:
At its core, anxiety is about uncertainty, working us up about something that might happen rather than something that has or certainly will happen. “There is the possibility that something bad could happen, and a sense that you don’t have control over it,” Brooks explains.
Most everyone experiences anxiety about something or another. The key, according to the article, is to learn how to cope with it. One of the most powerful means of overcoming anxiety is the development of rituals:
“Rituals, thought they may seem irrational, actually reduce anxiety and have a real impact on Performance.”
We’re all familiar with the rituals so visible in baseball. Both batters and pitchers often employ a ritual before the at bat or delivery to focus their attention, remove anxiety, and deliver the best possible outcome. And while it might seem that these rituals are calming, what they really are is a funnel that directs the energy and anxiety in a positive direction.
How do you deal with anxiety?