How to help children overcome performance anxiety

High Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais, PhD explains what happens when children get performance anxiety, and what parents can do to help them overcome it
How To Help You Child Overcome Performance Anxiety
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How to help children overcome performance anxiety

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The mechanics of performance anxiety are relatively easy to understand. What’s happening for a person is that there’re feeling activation within themselves and there is either excessive thoughts which are tending and trending about what happens if it doesn’t go right, whatever it is or and their body is feeling activated and it’s uncomfortable for them. So performance anxiety is one of the two or both experiences for a person. Its’ excessive thoughts or it’s an activation that feel agitating. So what’s happening, the mechanics of this are that the pending activity, whether it’s a test or an upcoming game or it’s a public speaking event, whatever it might be, feels so big that their ability to arrive at that moment and be themselves is out of whack. Performance anxiety is just that. I’m nervous, I’m anxious that my performance will not be good enough. And so what is the struggling in this model is that the moment is too big. This pending moment, this upcoming moment is too big. And to help people through this we just need to calibrate this. You within yourself, everything you have, everything that you’re about, everything that you’ve trained, is perfectly ready and right. There’s an opportunity in front of you to go see if you can express it. Everything you need is already in you; you’re not going to do something different or tested. It’s an opportunity to express what you’ve learned, what you have access to your mind or your brain or your body. So just go see how well you can go do. And along the way, make sure that you’re using some tools to manage your mind and to manage your body. Great coaches teach us on how to manage performance and anxiety, think naturally and do it well. And so what ends up happening is that they figure out a way they understand the athlete they’re working with, just like a parent would understand their child. And they be able to shift perspective, they’ll be able to remind them that, listen, it’s already in you, everything you need is already there, put in the work and their helping the mind of the performer to be grounded in two things. The first thing is that if there’s an opportunity out there and the second is they’re well prepared for it, you’ve put in the work. And both of those have to be real and credible that the opportunity’s real and that the training has been credible. So when we do that we reinforce this idea that I’m not judged by the outcome. If it doesn’t go correctly, there might be some consequences but I matter within myself no matter what happens as an outcome. That’s a great way just to level set and to shift the perspective and to be able to remind the athletes or children that it’s grounded opportunity not about the critique and the challenges that come with losing.

High Performance Psychologist Michael Gervais, PhD explains what happens when children get performance anxiety, and what parents can do to help them overcome it

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Michael Gervais, PhD

High Performance Psychologist

Dr. Michael Gervais, a licensed psychologist and industry visionary, is a founding partner of Pinnacle Performance Center. He focuses most of his time on people at the "top of their game," from NBA players, to Olympians, to military personnel. Dr. Gervais has a clear understanding of how performers become and consistently excel at a world-class level. Spending years in the trenches of high-stakes circumstances, Dr. Gervais has developed clarity for the tools that allow people to "thrive under pressure."

Dr. Gervais is a published, peer-reviewed author and a nationally recognized speaker on issues related to high performance for those who excel on the largest stages in the world.

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