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8/15/2000

Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Cheryl A. Thompson

You're once again speaking in front of a diabetes self-management class, all the while fidgeting with your bottle of water, stumbling through the explanations you memorized, and wishing this was just a bad dream.

Face the diagnosis. You have performance anxiety, a distressing and sometimes debilitating condition that you need to overcome. 

Psychiatrist Richard Rabkin, M.D., who specializes in the treatment of affective and anxiety disorders, advises people who have performance anxiety to: 

Change your assumptions about your performance by visualizing a positive scenario—imagine yourself as confident and in control. 

Put your fears into words (when talking with friends, colleagues, and family) rather than pretend these fears don't exist. 

Repeat calming phrases in your mind, such as "easy does it" and "take one minute at a time." 

Steer clear of catastrophe by asking yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" 

Consider medical help if preperformance jitters affect your overall quality of life. 

Try using the above suggestions instead of reinventing the wheel and getting stalled in your process to cope. 

Review your progress, and give yourself credit. 

More detailed advice from Rabkin, a faculty member at New York University School of Medicine, can be found in his online article, "No More Sweaty Palms: You Can Tame Performance Anxiety."