Helping Your Teen Cope With Performance Anxiety
There are various different types of anxiety disorders ranging from social anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder. One that is often mistakenly overlooked is performance anxiety, especially in our teens. They’re hit with so many changes and uncertainties during the teenage years that anxiety seems to just join in on the journey. Performance anxiety occurs when the pressure to do something becomes too unbearable and often fearsome. This disorder does not discriminate. It can happen to athletes, musicians, public speakers, and even become an issue with test-taking. It can prevent our children from doing what they love, and even go so far as to negatively affect self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run. Although it may be impossible to completely eradicate performance anxiety, there are things we can do to help our teens overcome these emotions and encourage them to still perform the things they love. Dr. Allison Chase offers various way to alleviate performance anxiety: Talk about things. If your teen is willing to talk opening about their performance anxiety, take full advantage. Listen very carefully and patiently without any judgement. By being patient and consistent, you can help your child cope with these fears instead of completely avoiding them. Focus on the process, not perfection. As Dr Chase often reminds her patients and their parents, “that “perfect” is not a word that should even been in our English language – it’s not real and it doesn’t exist. It is about striving for one’s best – whatever that may be. Teenagers often remember very specific moments during their performance where they’ve either succeeded or failed. Help them see the bigger picture rather than focus on incremental moments that upset them. Even though they might have missed one goal, they played a great game overall which helped build character. Avoid negative thoughts. Any time your child is feeling anxious or expresses feelings of self-doubt, turn it around. Focus on the positive much like the above paragraph. Practice controlled, relaxed breathing. Teens (and adults) can get so anxious before a performance that they have difficultly breathing, which only prolongs that anxiety response (i.e. heart beating fast, sweaty palms, feeling dizzy) in their bodies. There are various breathing techniques that can be done to help relax and redirect thoughts. Even if they don’t have a performance that day, breathing techniques are beneficial to practice each day. Exercise. Much like any other form of anxiety, a healthy lifestyle can be a large contributor to success. Regular exercise, a healthy diet and adequate sleep can help your body cope with anxious feelings. Seek professional help. If these methods don’t produce results and you see your teen limiting their activities due to anxiety, it’s okay to see a professional. A licensed professional will be able to evaluate symptoms, social context, and triggers, and can provide the necessary treatment to ensure your child isn’t hindered by their disorder. *Dr. Allison Chase is a Licensed Psychologist in private practice in Austin, Texas. She works with children, adolescents, young adults and families specializing in mental health issues, eating disorders, parental training and education, and family or team-based therapy.