Planning to Manage Performance Stress
We all know the feeling of sickness in our stomach before an important presentation or performance.
We have all experienced the sweaty palms, the raised heart rate, and the sense of agitation that we feel as these events approach. We have probably all also experienced how much worse this becomes when things go wrong in the run up to an event.
This article helps you deal with this by helping you to prepare well for future performances.
The Thought Awareness, Rational Thinking and Positive Thinking technique may be enough to help you manage the fears, anxieties and negative thoughts that may arise in a small performance.
For larger events, it is worth preparing a Performance Plan. This is a pre-prepared plan that helps you to deal effectively with any problems or distractions that may occur, and perform in a positive and focused frame of mind.
Using the Tool
To prepare your Performance Plan, begin by making a list all of the steps that you need to do from getting prepared for a performance through to its conclusion.
Start far enough in advance to sort out any equipment problems. List all of the physical and mental steps that you need to take to:
- Prepare and check your equipment, and repair or replace it where it does not work.
- Make travel arrangements.
- Pack your equipment and luggage.
- Travel to the site of your performance.
- Set up equipment.
- Wait and prepare for your performance.
- Deliver your performance.
Next, work through each of these steps. Think though:
- Everything that could reasonably go wrong at each step with equipment and arrangements.
- Any distractions and negative thinking that could undermine your confidence or stop you having a positive, focused frame of mind at the start of and during your performance.
Work through all of the things that could go wrong. Look at the likelihood of the problem occurring. Many of the things you have listed may be extremely unlikely. Where appropriate, strike these out and ignore them from your planning.
Look at each of the remaining contingencies. These will fall into three categories:
- Things you can eliminate by appropriate preparation, including making back-up arrangements and acquiring appropriate additional or spare equipment.
- Things you can manage by avoiding unnecessary risk.
- Things you can manage with a pre-prepared action or with an appropriate stress management technique.
For example, if you are depending on using a data projector for a presentation, you can arrange for a back up projector to be available, purchase a replacement bulb, and/or print off paper copies of the presentation in case all else fails. You can leave earlier than strictly necessary so that you have time for serious travel delays. You can also think through appropriate alternatives if your travel plans are disrupted. If you are forced to wait before your event in an uncomfortable or unsuitably distracting place, prepare the relaxation techniques you can use to keep a calm, positive frame of mind. Research all of the information you will need to take the appropriate actions quickly, and ensure that you have the appropriate resources available.
Also, prepare the positive thinking you will use to counter fears and negative thoughts both before the event and during it. Use stress anticipation skills to ensure that you are properly prepared to manage stress. Then use thought awareness, rational thinking and positive thinking skills to prepare the positive thoughts that you will use to protect and build your confidence.
Write your plan down on paper in a form that is easy to read and easy to refer to. Keep it with you as you prepare for, and deliver, your performance. Refer to it whenever you need it in the time leading up to the event, and during it.
Performance Plans help you to prepare for an important performance. They bring together practical contingency planning with mental preparation to help you prepare for situations and eventualities that may realistically occur.
This gives you the confidence that comes from knowing you are as well prepared for an event as is practically possible to be. It also helps you to avoid the unpleasant stresses that come from poor preparation, meaning that you can deliver your performance in a relaxed, positive and focused frame of mind, whatever problems or upsets may have occurred.
Stress can cause severe health problems and, in extreme cases, death. While these stress management techniques have been shown to have a positive effect on reducing stress, they are for guidance only, and readers should take the advice of suitably qualified health professionals if they have any concerns over stress-related illnesses or if stress is causing significant or persistent unhappiness. Health professionals should also be consulted before any major change in diet or levels of exercise.