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Turning Off Performance Anxiety
By Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, C.Ht

Many fears inhabit the workplace & most individuals look to hide these behind different "self-masks." These masks not only take away from the ability to produce, but can lead the individual down the problematic paths of life. This is a two part wake-up article, providing actual tools for solving these multi-faceted problems. Each separate article is written to stand on it's own.

When Jack walked into my office, I couldn't help but admire his self-confidence. It was evident in his dress, the way he walked & spoke. Despite his appearance, Jack suffers from performance anxiety. He simply freezes at the idea of making a presentation at work, placing phone calls & this set of fears, or "phobia" is threatening his chances for performance.

Something tells me there are plenty of people who will feel a level of kinship with Jack. As I interviewed him, I found other examples of his problem. He shared his history of shyness, self-consciousness, low self-esteem, an active fear of embarrassment & even a fear of success. The Jack who walked into my office was in his "imposter mode" & not at all who he was under the surface. Jack actually suffers from a group of fears known as "social anxiety."

Jack needs to develop mind-body skills for managing his thoughts, emotions, body sensations & past subconscious mind programs or patterns. He also needs to develop a self-discipline in relation to these tools & then he will be able to access a self- controlled & focused mind-state whenever he chooses; right in the moment when he needs it. In sports this is sometimes called playing in "the zone." Jack needs to work & perform in his "zone."

For many, getting to this physiological/psychological state is a bit of a mystery. A consistent winner does know how to access this mind state at will & so will Jack.

Focus & level concentration skills are learned & practiced daily. While they do not take a lot of time, commitment to the process is absolutely a necessity. Just like a football player would not consider learning new plays in the middle of a game, neither should Jack consider learning to manage his mind-body connection in the middle of a stressful situation. All skills are built away from the anxiety-provoking activity, be it a golf course, tennis court, or the meeting room.

When the body is experiencing stress reaction, the muscle tension is greatly increased. Most of us are completely oblivious to this tension unless we begin to experience "screamers." Some popular ones are neck & back tension, headache, gastrointestinal symptoms, tightness in the chest & shallow breathing. These symptoms are often the triggers causing the performance anxiety. And sometimes, just expecting them will bring them forward. As Jack becomes aware of his inner body sensations & continues to focus in the direction of these sensations, his body actually increases the amount of tension in each area.

The chemicals & hormones that are actively produced under these circumstances, not only affect the working of small & large muscle groups of the body, but also impair & interfere with the ability to concentrate, to retrieve necessary information from the subconscious mind that are needed to assess the situation & to adapt the needed skills to meet it. The body & mind are now in active stress-reaction.

The first order of business for Jack will be the training of his mind to scan his body in a very relaxed state. He will learn to observe, focus & diminish the sensations & then to let to of them. Jack will develop confidence in managing his body & his mind performance & will bring this confidence into the board room & to other areas of his life. He will free himself as he takes charge.

In the second part of this article, Jack will be working in the area of thought & emotional focus. He will be learning to spot the trouble makers & be able to diminish them with the tools of interactive self-hypnosis. He will be learning to locate his positive state emotions & work to enhance them. Jack will be contracting his "inner coach."

Just as the sports coach brings attention to the technical problems of the athlete, the same quality of attention must be brought to the thought processes & emotional states. It is the same in the business world. Without these abilities one often works from the position of overload, setting the mind up for confusion & difficulty in making quick, spontaneous & correct decisions. Sounds like a proposal for burnout to me!

Part 2

Many fears inhabit the workplace & most individuals look to hide these behind different "self-masks." These masks not only take away from the ability to produce, but can lead the individual down the problematic paths of life. This is a two part wake-up article, providing actual tools for solving these multi-faceted problems including physical stress management, thought & emotion management & programming the mind for change. Each separate article is written to stand on it's own.

In the first part of this article on Performance Anxiety, I introduced you to Jack. You might remember that when he walked into my office, I couldn't help but admire his self-confidence. It was evident in his dress, the way he walked & spoke. Despite his appearance, Jack suffers from performance anxiety. He simply freezes at the idea of making a presentation at work, placing phone calls & this set of fears, or "phobia" is threatening his chances for performance.

Jack is working with special mind-body communication tools known as mental biofeedback, heightened awareness for emotional & thought management & special mind programming tools called "interactive self-hypnosis." I developed these tools many years ago to help my patients & students get "into the moment" where they could change both the body & mind physiology right then & there where it mattered the most.

Jack needs to develop a high level of mastery with these skills. He also needs to develop a particular self-discipline in relation to these tools, so that he will be able to access a self- controlled & focused mind-state whenever he chooses, as well as work tore-program his mind for what he wants; an active goal picture that is much better than his current expectations & one without a smattering of fear phobia.

For many, getting to this physiological/psychological state is a bit of a mystery. A consistent winner does know how to access this mind state at will & so will Jack.

Jack is learning to spot the trouble makers & be able to diminish them with the tools of heightened awareness & interactive self-hypnosis. He will be learning to locate his positive state emotions & work to enhance them. Jack will be contracting his "inner coach."

After getting in touch with the body communication center, Jack's second order of business is learning to manage his thoughts & emotions. Self-Awareness is key to optimum performance. Just as the sports coach brings attention to the technical problems of the athlete, the "inner coach" must bring the same quality of attention to the thought processes & emotional states. Without these abilities one often works from the position of "overload." This sets the mind up for confusion & difficulty in making quick, spontaneous, & right decisions. This is where a good portion of the previously discussed 90% is lost. When the focus is narrow & inward, the subconscious mind can not function. Stress chemicals are being produced at high levels, muscle tension is mounting, metabolism changes, & the brain is not well oxygenated.

As Jack learns to become aware & observe the mind processes, the ability to release is developed. Again, one cannot release what one does not see or observe. The winning professional knows himself well, & is on the alert for emotional states which are not skillful for him/her at that time. Emotional states can be high charged chemical concoctions, interfering with all mind-body functioning. Those looking to get & stay at the top must be willing to face & work with the truth. If they frequently house an emotional state that is detrimental to their sport, awareness of this & immediate release is a vital part of practice.

The better one is trained in managing thoughts & emotional states, the more consistent one becomes in winning. Skill building in this arena is known as "awareness meditation" & precedes "interactive self-hypnosis", or the ability to program the mind for improved consistent performance. Often times these steps are excluded, & the individual becomes critical of the use of self-hypnosis. The problem, in my experience, is not with the hypnosis, but with missing very important parts of the inner work, that of releasing muscle tension, managing thoughts & certainly emotional states.

The Third Order of Business for Jack is learning to exit mind programs that are not goal positive & to enter new programs that speak to high level success. Self-hypnosis is an extremely valuable tool for individuals across the board, children included. It's important to realize that if the mind is playing negative pictures, the results will be the same. What ever the mind perceives as true, becomes true.

We image all the time, whether we plan to or not. As we learn to respect the workings of the mind, & become aware of the connection to the body, we can utilize this powerful mechanism to improve any & all areas of our life. There are often self-imposed roadblocks, old beliefs, thought patterns, & automated emotional responses which keep the professional sidelined & off the path leading towards the goals. Once it is made clear that all is ready to move through the blocks, not only will this occur, but the subconscious mind will assist in making suggestions & plans.

Jack will be learning to work with re-framing & re-programing his inner library for success. When one is trained & practices interactive self-hypnosis, it is relatively easy to reassess a situation in the moment, & program the change right then & there. One also has the ability to request suggestions from the subconscious mind, as to possibilities for management of a situation. It is tantamount to having a powerful "inner coach" right there, in every moment, moving the individual towards the planned goal, whether it be making the presentation, cold-calling prospects, hitting the ball or maneuvering the entire self done a patch of icy slope. Whatever the situation, the answer is at hand, right up on the thought mind screen.

Jack had actually been programming himself for what he didn't want & this is exactly what he received. As you develop awareness techniques, start listening to "casual mind-talk" of others, pick out the negative programming, & observe what happens.

Many people looking for magic. They dream of a quick results Without putting in the work required. Those who achieve excellence know that the way to the top, & the way to stay there is through consistent work & commitment. Playing the mind game is not different, & for those who do commit, the benefits are pure gold!

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Holisticonline.com Anxiety Infocenter

Elizabeth Bohorquez, RN, SRN, CPH is a Workplace Health Educator, President & Program Designer, Sarasota Medical & Sports Hypnosis Institute located in Sarasota, FL & online at www.hypnosis-audio.com & www.sugar-addiction.com. She specializes in stress management, high level health & achievement for adults,children, executives & athletes.

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