In surveys of what Americans fear the most is not death. Americans are more fearful of public speaking than death. Do you remember when you had to step into the spotlight?
Your heart was pumping as if you had just sprinted a quarter of a mile. Your mouth turned to cotton. Butterflies were having a party inside your stomach. Your armpits became faucets. Your hands were shaking as if you were holding your phone vibrating. Even if you performed well, the prospect of going to such an experience again causes even veteran performers to have “performance anxiety” (a.k.a. “stage fright”). Justin Beiber throws up before almost every appearance on stage. He even once threw up during a performance, but managed to turn his back to the audience. The primary reason for Jane Fonda’s quitting acting for good was stge fright, she became so anxious before each performance that as she walked to the theater each night, “I was praying I would get hit by a car”. This type of stress is the reason psychologists devised all sorts of techniques to “manage stress”
Working on techniques to manage stress can be compared to swapping a powerful V-12 engine for a V-4 because it offers a “quieter ride”. You wouldn’t do that, not if you were looking to win the race. No superstar is about to give his opponents an edge. Nor should you by trying to relax when the pressure is on.
Great performers welcome pressure. They thrive on it. Instead of trying to control or erase pressure they use it as their pre-workout. The best players in any high-stakes field—business, entertainment, law, surgery, as well as sport—recognize that.
PRESSURE OCCURS AT THE MOMENTS WHEN MEANINGFUL ACCOMPLISHMENT IS POSSIBLE.
In fact, that’s the reason why performers perform: For the opportunity to tackle challenges head on, do do something significant, to demonstrate what their talent and hard work can produce. Those who perform well consistently‚—the superstars— are always looking for the opportunity to take their game to the next level.
This partnership with pressure is also the reason superstars tend to find an excuse to be absent when a psychologist visits. They know that their ability to consistently perform well has nothing to do with imagining themselves on a peaceful island, reminding themselves to be cool-headed, or relaxing. They don’t want to relax. For them, pressure is a doorway to success. Someone lying on the floor with their eyes closed, trying to make the nerves go away is someone easy to beat.
The techniques designed to allay stress become an obstacle to getting better. To truly shine you don’t only have to live with the butterflies that come with high-pressure jobs, you also have to embrace that kind of physical response, enjoy it, get into it.
At high level business, medicine, entertainment, and sport, learning how two relax when the pressure is not, will not improve performance—it will cause slumps. In order for you to thrive under pressure, there are some distinctions between what you feel that you must recognize
Everything your body does to you when you’re under pressure is good for performance
Pressure is different from anxiety
Nervousness is different from worry.
What is really happening to your body when you’re under pressure to perform?
Like almost any animal, we humans have bimodal sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
One stimulates the heart, lungs, eyes and muscles; the other suppresses them. One directs basic bodily functions such as digestion and processing water and waste.; the other system shuts these systems off. They work in tandem. The the sympathetic system is crucial for finding food, being on the lookout for dangerous predators, and defending against enemies, while the parasympathetic system keeps the body fueled. warm. Working efficiently and prepared for reproduction. When one turns up, the other turns down and vice versa.
Under pressure, the brain switches the body to red alert/ This activates the sympathetic nervous system, and energy is redistributed from parasympathetic tases to maximize sympathetic tasks.
The mouth goes dry, sometimes called “cotton mouth” because the body is channeling effort into tasks more important than producing saliva.
The sensation of “butterflies” occurs in the stomach resulting from excess stomach acid because the digestive system is shutting down.
The stomach cramps because the stomach lining is shrinking. The body has stopped producing bile and is trying to get rid of any remaining food.
Sweat flows, a safety mechanism to prevent the body from overheating.
Hands, feet, or knees begin shaking. That's the body sending faster motor signals from the cortex through the motor neurons out to the extremities.
The heart beats faster to get more blood through the arteries carrying nutrients and oxygen to the workout muscles and brain cells so they can perform at a higher level.
The eyes dilate and vision becomes more acute.
The mind races, processing greater amount of information in a shorter amount of time.
All of these adaptations are the body's way of making us perform more efficiently when we're under the gun. When humans face stress, we are wired to respond favorably. Our Bodies know what to do.
The reason that most of us panic when we feel these emotions, goes back to the very first time we had to present or speak in front of an audience. We had never felt any of these sensations before, the fact that we had never felt any of this before most likely scared us. Our own panic to these strange sensations is what prevented us from performing at our best, or even utterly fail. We formed the false assumption that these sensations were due to our nervousness and were a detriment to our performance.
What would your life be if when you were a child, your parents or the teacher warned you about these sensations and instructed you not to panic, just to feel them and harness them to help your performance shine?
Butterflies, throwing up and what feels like heart palpitations right before performing are a good thing. Practice using them for your benefit, specially since what they're there for.
In good health,
Efren G. Rodriguez
High Performance Training.