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What’s the deal with performance anxiety?

It’s normal to want to do well. And that’s a good thing! But if you want to do well all the time and it becomes an obsession, that’s what we call performance anxiety.

What is it? 😧

Performance anxiety is when we want to succeed so much that it makes us anxious. We’re simply terrified at the idea of making mistakes or failing.

Of course, it’s normal to feel stress before an exam or an important sports competition. After all, we want to succeed; we want to win! On the other hand, someone who suffers from performance anxiety will experience too much stress and have intense physical and psychological reactions, such as feelings of panic, anxiety, heart palpitations, and negative thoughts.

Good or bad? 👍 ❓ 👎

Wanting to win and succeed isn’t necessarily negative. Sometimes it can encourage us to make our best physical and mental efforts, and that strongly increases our chances of succeeding at what we undertake. We’re motivated to act!

On the other hand, this thirst for victory or perfection can be harmful if it makes us unable to cope, impairs our ability to act or our personal skills, or prevents us from starting or completing anything at all. It’s also important to realize that succeeding at all costs, aspiring to be the best at everything, or demanding perfection right from the start isn’t realistic. It’s no surprise that such expectations become a real burden. It’s better to adjust your expectations of yourself and give yourself a chance to learn.

👉 Advice for living with performance anxiety

First of all, you need to set limits. For example, plan to stop studying when you have a good understanding of certain material. You’ve done what you need to do to prepare well, and you won’t gain anything from studying compulsively and keeping your stress level high.

Another important step is to manage your expectations so they’re more realistic. Examine your strengths and weaknesses and set yourself goals that take account of them. Maybe it’s not possible for you to come first in the class in French but you might be able to do it in math...

Finally, when you feel your stress building, relax by breathing in slowly and deeply, then breathing out as if you were emptying out all your stress.

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