Overcoming Anxiety in Performance

Hello everyone. After reading Tofugu’s article today “How Should Someone with ADHD or Asperger’s Learn Japanese“, I decided to talk about something that’s rather close to me. Blogging is after all based off of keeping a journal, so here we go.

Now a days you here a lot about stress and anxiety, people having problems, and whatnot. A lot of people think this is bs, especially about those who suffer from severe symptoms. Well, if you are of that mind, there will be nothing to change that and this is probably not an entry for you. 😛

So what exactly is Anxiety? A good ol’ web search can find nice and easy definitions for us: ” (psychiatry) a relatively permanent state of worry and nervousness occurring in a variety of mental disorders usually accompanied by compulsive behavior or attacks of panic)… a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune[1]” or simply “a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, or worry.[2]”

Of course everyone experiences these things. That’s really normal. If you didn’t feel anxiety in one point or another in life, you are not normal! lol. Well, so what’s the difference? When does it become a problem. It becomes a problem when your anxiety becomes permanent and debilitating to your daily life. If you cannot cope with even simple situations, you’ve got a problem.

Where does this fit in with Education? Everywhere of course! Every time an expectation is made of you, it will cause you worry. Maybe not a lot, especially if you’re able to brush off things, or are confident in your own self. But maybe you’re one of the few who practically pass out trying to get an A, or that nod of approval. Whether it is yourself demanding this A or if it is your parents/boss/significant other, either way, you’ve got to try another approach before you kill yourself.

It is no joke. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of adolescent and young adults (15-24) deaths in the world. 30% of all suicides come from people who suffer from disorders like stress. It isn’t something to take lightly, especially if you’re one of the people suffering from stress and anxiety.

So lets look at ways of de-stressing your learning.

  • Grades don’t matter, effort does!

I often talk to my significant other about this. He works at a slower pace than others. It’s not that he’s slow mentally or anything, he just takes his time. When he is forced to rush things, he will often make mistakes. He gets teased a lot about being father time, and even I jest with him once in a while about it. However in the end of the day, he’ll sometimes ask me things like, “I really worry today that I didn’t get enough done, and that in the end, I’ll get fired from my job, which will leave you and Vivian in the streets.” This is when I say, “Did you do your best?” and he’ll always think for a moment about it, and reply “well, yeah”. And sappily I’ll kiss and hug him and say “Then that’s all I can ask for and it is all that I need, I love you.” While you may be internally retching at this overly sappy love moment, I’m simply trying to show you an example of acceptance that not everyone in the world can be number 1 at everything. He never has to ask me if his leet gaming skills as a dps master in WOW is enough. He knows it is because he beats almost everyone he comes against.

We tend to be self conscious only when it is about something we compare to other people and find lacking. This is reinforced by school’s grading system. Heck, we even try to say we’re smarter than each other with numbers (IQ tests) even though they’re inaccurate! I dare even say that the winner of races, of games, of anything isn’t the one at the top in terms of scores (which is fun and has its place) but rather those who came out having done everything in their ability to do it, had the most fun, had the most excitement.

To me winning is based on effort, not on grades. If Bob scores 1st place in a run, but didn’t enjoy himself, he kinda lost to me. If Jenny scored 2, but got to the end hair blazing, sweat pouring, with all that effort in every step with enjoyment, then she won. This brings me to my second point.

  • Redefine what winning is to you.

I had someone ask me once why I was so smug one day after audition results were posted. I had made 19th chair, or something silly like that in middle school’s region competition. I simply replied, “I did my best, and for once I didn’t freak out in the audition room”. I was so proud of myself for having gotten through the audition without freaking out, had fun playing those boring scales and practice music that I didn’t even care that I wasn’t first place. This was a pivotal moment in music for me. When I stopped putting my chair placement ahead of my enjoyment, I actually got 1st chairs and even made it into exclusive events for musicians. It was if going for enjoyment should have been the goal all along, rather than a specific chair/grade.

I’m not trying to brag, but rather show you that I stopped caring about where I placed. It took all the stress off me (at least, the stress from myself) because I defined having Fun as winning. I am not saying you’ll be number 1 if you’re having fun, but it could be the bi product of it.

It is also the reason I left the band in my senior year. I found that 95% of all the musicians around me didn’t actually care about having fun, making music with emotion, or even simply the music at all! It was politics, chairs, who knew who, ect. Once I left that behind, and played just for me, I improved so much still, had so much fun, dude, I was winning!

  • Stop keeping score.

Hanging around people who’re judging you based on scores and such isn’t really going to help you. This actually applies to everything, including religion. I use to be a Bible Thumper. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it just means someone who is extremely into Christianity and they usually turn to the Bible for everything. While this isn’t a bad thing, I’m certainly not that anymore. However near the end I had a friend who was also very religious, who had always looked up to me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she felt I was holier because I went to church more, read the Bible more, spoke more words about it, prayed more, ect. She was tallying up our religious activities and basing our spirituality on it. I didn’t realize it until my numbers went lower than hers. She stopped talking to me because apparently my God score sucked. lol!

This same concept applied to all sorts of things. I didn’t realize it until then, but even I was keeping up with little mental scores against people. “they did this mistake x times, therefore I am better” and visa versa. It was a roller coaster of who was better than who scores that I was totally unaware that I was doing in the first place. My opinions of people had been colored by these scores too.

Even today, its hard to stop this. It was so drilled into me during school that its hard to fill that hole in. Sometimes I have to step back and stop tallying the number of words or phrases, or hours studied with Japanese. While comparing is a natural thing to do, we shouldn’t base our self worth off of it.

  • Hang out with people who think the same.

Just like my friend who thought my God score sucked stopped hanging out with me, I’ve stopped hanging out with all sorts of people who felt that my mentality wasn’t right. Who needs billions of friends anyways? I’ve always found having 1 or 2 that share my concepts of life to be far more rewarding than having 30 who didn’t.

If you feel winning is fun and doing your best, then hanging out with someone who feels only placing 1st is winning probably isn’t going to make you happy. They’ll probably just keep calling you names and discouraging you without even realizing sometimes. In fact, I’ve seen people arguing their heads off over stuff like this and that just takes away from what you could be doing, learning Japanese!

Either way, its been the advice of centuries, but that doesn’t mean you cannot try to meet your current friends halfway, or find kinky ways to exist. But just remember that friends aren’t living your life. No one is, no one but you. So your decisions should be based on that.

  • Catchy quotes may help you!

Fancy word orientated people have meshed together some really fun and often inspirational quotes. Maybe surrounding yourself with them can help you! I find quotes like

you told me
live as if you were to die tomorrow
feel as if you were to be reborn now
face as if you were to live forever (Gackt’s “Redemption”)

to be a lot of fun. Yeah, its song lyrics, got a problem with that? Well if you do, take a hike! bwuahaha, seriously though, it doesn’t matter where you get it from. Whether it be your ma, pa, some old dead person, or some snazzily dressed sexy man/woman leering you in with their hawtness!, it doesn’t matter. So long as the words stir something inside you that preferably isn’t your gag reflex.

Some people read motivational material like self help books and whatnot but that’s not necessary either. Lots of great stuff here on the internet anyways. I’m all about the free anyways. Here are some niffy Japanese sayings of inspiration:

継続は力なり。 Continuance is Strength

七転び八起き   Fall 7 times, get up 8

雨降って地固まる After rain, earth hardens (Adversity builds character)

These points aren’t anything special or new out there, and in the end if you disagree with it all, its okay anyways. This worked for me, and finding what works for you might be a little different. If you are someone who is facing debilitating stress problems, especially ones orientated around performance, this might help you, and I hope it does, as it helps me with my anxiety issues.

Maybe one day our educational system wont be so grade orientated, but rather lets learn and have fun orientated. I’m not sure how to change that honestly lol, but maybe if enough of us get outraged by it we’ll go about changing it. If you’re out there though, studying Japanese (or anything for that matter) ask yourself this one question.

Are you having fun?

5 Responses to “Overcoming Anxiety in Performance”
  1. Demitas says:

    This post really resonates with me!

    I stopped playing in band in college, for mostly the same reason – it just turned into a giant competition. Even worse, I felt like I was looked down on for not being a music major, like because I was playing music for fun I was somehow less than everyone else. That’s not a good environment to encourage a love of music!

    I’m still working on not feeling guilty if I don’t make progress in a specific book in Japanese – which is dumb. If I’m not having fun reading it, I need to go do something else! It will still be there when I want to come back to it later.

    • mikotoneko says:

      While I didn’t mind friendly competition (because it made me improve my musicianship), I didn’t like that it was put more into focus than creating music as a group. I think playing music while doing another major is awesome, but I can see how people with purist like attitudes would treat you crudely. blah, I remember those days well lol.

      I really made this post out for those who suffer from anxiety disorders relating to performance (not necessarily like stage performance), like myself, so I didn’t think that this would apply to everyone, but I’m glad that it helped you out. I feel like I put a secret out there lol.

      Is your specific book fun to read? I find that if the topic isn’t something I’m interested in, it’ll be hard to get through. You also might want to try and skip around. I don’t think it’d be bad to go ahead and skip a bit. When I read Japanese, I read like I did when I was young. I read what I know, skip what I don’t, only looking up when I really want to know what is happening in the story. I feel I don’t get bogged down as much that way. Sometimes I even skip whole paragraphs and pages lol -.-;; I always come back to it and then I find I know more, and understand even more.

      • Demitas says:

        I do have some anxiety problems, but it’s not nearly as bad as most of my family, and hasn’t been debilitating in many years. 🙂

        The book is fun to read – it’s the next in the 炎の蜃気楼 series, which is basically the reason I started learning Japanese in the first place. I think I just plowed through too many of them too quickly, and need a little bit of a mental break.

        I think part of the problem is that I don’t feel like I have enough time lately to sit down and read through a good chunk of it, and the half hour blocks I can squeeze in here and there don’t get me as engrossed in the story as a longer time period (and thus more pages) would.

      • mikotoneko says:

        I know what you mean about the timing. I find it kinda hard to get into books now that I’ve had a baby. She tends to make all my free time into mad dashes to get things done and study! haha, well I will interject this in if you’ve not thought about it, but the bathroom is a great place :D. Nothing to do while you’re sitting there anyways, might as well read! Though that doesn’t really give you a lot of time, little things like Manga or short stories might be nice for it. Popcorn books (romance like novels, you know, the little dirty ones XD) are great for that time.

  2. Demitas says:

    Haha, I should totally start leaving a book in there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Read More or Die! 2011

    _2011 End Results_
    Total read for Tadoku:
    __433.3 pages!__
    Placement: 115/188
    October 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 97/120
    End Tally: 59.2
    July 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 86/142
    End Tally: 195.6
    April 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 62/106
    End Tally: 154.5
    January 2011 Contest:
    Placement: 84/99
    End Tally: 24
    August 2010 Contest:
    Placement: 20/41
    End Tally: 160

  • Read Or Die 2013

    Goal: 600
    Total: 906.26
    blew my goal outta the water!

    March 2-Week:
    Goal: 125

    Goal: 250
    Total: 314

%d bloggers like this: