Performance Anxiety Redux

wpid-20150526_080944.jpgAll right. This is not an apology, this is an explanation. There’s a reason I have been so flaky lately with my posts . . . well, this whole entire month, specifically.

Last year, when I tried to crochet Christmas presents, I didn’t start working until like October or even November, and of course didn’t get finished in time. I have a large family. So this year I began in January. So far I have two granny square blankets crocheted. I just have to put them together. I’m working on my third (pictured above) which looks like snowflakes! I have 30 out of 88 squares done.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about performance anxiety, and the causes and helps for it. The three main causes of PA are:

  • Mild social anxiety.
  • Inexperience in public.
  • Strong distaste for failure

As with most anxiety problems, it’s hard to know the exact cause, but performance anxiety is also self-sustaining, because it creates a mindset that focuses only on mistakes and seeing others as judging you. One small mistake, even if no one notices, or one person in the audience that looks unhappy and all of your fears are reinforced, causing more performance anxiety to happen later. No matter the effects of anxiety, there is no denying that anxiety itself can create more anxiety. The more you are worried about your performance, the more your performance suffers.

Some strategies which can help in overcoming performance anxiety are:

  • Pre- and Post- Presentation Positive Writing Exercises – Since anxiety is a problem with negative thinking, one way to combat anxiety is to force yourself to think positively. An example of this type of exercise includes writing out 10 or 20 genuinely positive thoughts about how you performed or will perform. It’s not perfect, but it will stop you from focusing only on the negative.
  • Positive Support – You also need support from others. It’s easy to think about the negatives when you mess up – or when you have the possibility of messing up. But if you can find people in your life that are always supportive, you won’t care as much about any mistakes because others in your life will make things easier. Positive support is very helpful for this type of anxiety.
  • Happy Distractions – Much of performance anxiety is not what happens at the time of the event, but what occurs before and after it. This is when the mind can wander into negative thoughts. Keeping yourself mentally active and busy prevents the mind from focusing on the negatives, especially if you can focus on more positive activities like going outdoors and spending fun time with friends.
  • Practicing Under Pressure – It is often hard to practice under pressure, because practice itself rarely has that much pressure. But if you can get used to being under pressure situations, then when you actually face some type of pressure it won’t cause as much anxiety. For example, if you are giving a speech, do it in front of smaller crowds and work your way up to the bigger ones. If you are playing sports, practice playing where people challenge you with noise and energy – just like you would experience in a big game. This will help you get used to some of the components of pressure situations, even if it doesn’t resemble it completely.

 

Fino a domani, I miei amici! Mwah!

 

The Lake Wobegon Effect

Keillor“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” — which is the immortal question asked by the narcissistic Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Several psychological studies have shown that in real life most people have a touch of the Evil Queen’s vanity. Including a huge range of measures, from good looks and popularity to driving ability and memory capacity, the typical person believes they are superior to most others.

Our misplaced confidence is thought to explain a number of common human weaknesses, including what seem to be irrational health behaviors such as smoking (“It gives other people cancer, but I’ll be okay,”) and lateness—just think how many projects end up late and over budget.

Self-enhancement bias, as it’s known more formally, was nicknamed  The Lake Wobegon Effect after the fictional town invented by talented storyteller Garrison Keillor in which “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” 

All I have to say is, they just never talked to me, did they? Because I do not feel this way at all. Not even close.

Have a spectacular evening, my Bellas!

Ciao.

Birth Order

birth orderLast year, on one of his visits home from San Francisco, my brother Paul brought a t-shirt he’d bought which bore the saying “Mom loves me best.” He wore it to an outdoor picnic at which most of the family was in attendance; it was very funny and caused quite a lot of discussion. Even more funny, he left it with me when he went back! 😛

Paul is the second to youngest of seven siblings. I’m the youngest. My sister Carol is the oldest, then there’s Greg, Steve, Jerry, Jimmy, Paul, and me.

My sister said she prayed and prayed for another little sister and when I came it was like a miracle. We’re 13 years apart, and so I was like a little doll for her, and she loved to dress me up. I sure never suffered from lying in the crib too long, with five brothers, a sister, a mom, and a dad all eager to hold or cuddle me.

Carol did get that part of being the eldest where the parents made all their “mistakes” on her, and learned on her, and on each child to come really, so that by the time Paul and I came around they had this parenting thing down pat. Carol also still has a huge sense of responsibility, borne out of being the oldest child. She felt more was expected of her.

I thought my brother Greg would have that as well, being the oldest boy, but he has a very laid-back personality, and is never in a hurry. A story is told of Greg when he was quite little and the lady was waiting outside to take the boys to school. Everyone else is ready, and Greg is looking out the window, one shoe off, and one shoe on, marveling “Hey look! That lady is here!” He couldn’t understand why his mom was so excited. Ha ha ha

Every one of my sibs seemed so much older to me. The closest in age was, of course, Paul, and he was still five years older. So even when they tried to play with me, it felt odd, like I was playing with much older boys. When I was in grade school, they were in high school, after all. When I was in high school, they were in college, and beyond. I played by myself a lot, and with invisible friends, until I made friends in the neighborhood. After that I was rarely home before the streetlights came on.

Anyway, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the theory that birth order affects your personality. Ultimately environmental conditions, such as socioeconomic conditions, shape who we are and what we become.

(N.B.: We’re skipping neuroplasticity. Sorry for any grief this has caused.)

Have a wonderful evening!

Ciao Bella.

Venting

V (1)When I saw my therapist Wednesday he gave me a homework assignment. He even wrote it down, because otherwise, it would have gone right out of my head.

“Challenge absolute thoughts (All or Nothing thinking). Find 15 cliches that relate to adapting to uncomfortable situations. Practice squared breathing exercise three times per week.”

I’m not saying the assignment is stupid. It’s very worthwhile, actually. It’s just that I have so  much going on right now. Does he not realize that? The A-Z challenge goes until next Thursday (I think), I’m crocheting one very large granny square per day for a blanket I’m trying to complete, and I just had the piano tuned so I could learn “Joy” and “Thanksgiving,” two George Winston songs, for my mom’s 88th birthday in October–it’s been at least 20 years since I played the piano, so it will take a lot of work. That’s not nothing. And let’s not forget Lucy, who needs to go out and potty what seems like every 15 minutes. We don’t have a fenced in backyard, so I need to literally take her out on a leash.

There. I just vented. I don’t do it often on my blog, because what I try to do here is help other people, and it doesn’t help you to know about my troubles. But once in a while, venting helps, because people can relate. It’s certainly better to talk about negative emotions, properly, than leave them bottled up inside. If we vent to someone who genuinely cares about us, it can make us feel better. Sometimes we may need a second ear to make sure we heard what we think we heard right. Venting instead of directly confronting the source of our frustrations is a much safer bet.

I hope you have a grand day, and don’t  be too shocked this is so early! ha ha

Ciao Bella.vent

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

O (1)Most people, when they think of OCD, imagine the comedic detective, Monk. While he shows some of the fears, obsessions and compulsions that may indeed be typical, I think it’s mainly a caricature. It was still a wonderful way for people to be exposed to this particular illness.

The obsessive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: fear of contamination, having things in order or symmetrical, strong or horrible thoughts about harming yourself or someone else, and unwanted thoughts, especially sexual.

The compulsive part of OCD symptoms usually includes: washing or cleaning, counting, checking, asking for reassurances, following a strict routine, and being very orderly.

The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications. Obviously, the best treatment would be a combination of the two.

I have never heard it called this, but ERP (Exposure and Response Prevention) therapy is supposed to be the most effective treatment. It involves gradually exposing the person to the feared object (dirt, etc.) and talking about whatever comes up as you go; being in the anxiety and not running away.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has also been suggested for individuals who don’t respond well to either psychotherapy or medications. People should be warned it hasn’t been thoroughly tested.

Coping with OCD can be difficult. There are things we can do to help us get through, such as: join a support group, find a healthy outlet (like a hobby), or learn relaxation and stress management.

Hope this was helpful. Have a wonderful Friday!!

Ciao, Bella.
bother you

Managing

`M (1)P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it. —Daneille LaPorte

Well, it turns out I’m not the best sort of person to do this sort of thing—-the A-Z Blog Challenge. See, besides writing the blog post itself, we’re supposed to comment on each other’s blogs. But I can barely keep up with posting every day. It hasn’t become a habit yet. Who knew? Well, all I can do is my best, you know?

As I was reading through the articles I had marked about managing the symptoms of anxiety, I just got overwhelmed and all of it started to not make any sense at all. So I thought, what the hell? I’ll just write down what do to try and manage my own anxiety. That way, after you read it and it makes no sense to you, you can substitute in what you do! Ha ha ha.

Remember to breathe. The first thing that happens to me when I get anxious is I forget to breathe or I start to breathe really shallowly, which amounts to the same thing. So, I have to actually remind myself.

If I’m feeling worried/bad/sad/mad/frustrated, change the thought. Works every time. Change how I’m thinking, and I’ll feel differently.

Crochet/meditate through the problem. The repetitive nature of crochet lends itself to meditation very easily. While I’m crocheting I can think through a difficulty, or–better yet–let my mind empty itself and sort of rest.

Relaxation. I usually do deep breathing while I sit in a comfortable chair, eyes closed, but I breathe differently than most people tell us to. I breathe in through my nose (through the diaphragm) and back out through the nose (not the mouth).

Reading. This is just a really fun escape, because it takes me so far away from anything and anywhere I was before I started reading. It’s tough to be anxious when you’re in the middle of a thriller or a romance. Really. Try it.

Color-by-Number and Dot-to-Dot. I went to a Michael’s art store and found these intensely intricate adult color-by-number and dot-to-dot books. Except I’m too intimidated to start them, because I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want to make a mistake. LOL! How insane is that?!

Television. It goes under the escapist column, but it’s also very educational. I learn how other people act in similar situations, too. And we got the Amazon Fire Stick recently, so have been stuck on Mad Men (we’re on Season 4–there are I guess 7 seasons), for real.

Doing my best. It’s all I can do. It’s all any of us can do. ifeel

Just Relax

RelaxThere must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. ~Chinese proverb

Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at other times move forward with it. ~Ray Bradbury

It seems like everywhere I go people are talking about relaxation these days. My therapist asks me about my stress level, like it’s something that can be quantified, measured on a daily basis. lying down

I probably mentioned already that I’m participating in an study for bipolar disordered people on a site called Optimism. I love the name, but the site is both complicated and ambiguous.

The site tracks your mood every day, how well you coped, hours slept, quality of sleep, whether or not you exercised, and took medications, if relevant (here’s where I find some ambiguity. It doesn’t ask if your meds make you feel like you’re on auto-pilot, or so thirsty you could drink a gallon of water and it wouldn’t be enough, so tired you’d just run a marathon…only you hadn’t). It then goes into three different categories: stay well strategies, triggers, and symptoms. 

Relaxation fits under the Stay well strategies, along with adequate sleep, plenty of water, and routine, just to name a few. I use a relaxation cd daily. One of the choices on the cd is A Walk on the Beach. The narrator uses the elevator technique to take me deeper down, until I’m so relaxed I’m actually somewhere way in the basement. Ha ha ha

If only it would stay. Not minutes after that, I checked my email, and there was something from an editor or promoter of a book I’ve signed up to read on Netgalley. Now, I love reading more than anything, and I just finished my third book for them. I have three more books in the queue before the book this promoter spoke of. All the relaxation I’d just had given to me went right out the window. I had no idea what to say to this person, so I took my usual route. Say nothing, and keep plodding along. My dog, Lucy, would have peed on the email and gone on her happy way. 😀 We should all be so lucky.

dog