Turns out the ‘Butterflies’ in your belly don’t know the difference between a challenge and a threat.

Getting your hormones working on your side is important when it’s time to perform under pressure!


Elite performers are familiar with “butterflies”.  The emotional feelings that precede important performances are common to business people, athletes, first responders, presenters and performers from almost every field.


These familiar feelings make your stomach do flips, your heart race, your skin flush and your palms sweat are indicators that a flush of hormones and endorphins have been released into your bloodstream just before you face a critical challenge.


Serious performers know that these nervous sensations have the potential to destroy focus, confidence and performance.  Ironically, the exact same cocktail of hormones can also help to enhance performance if they seen from a productive perspective. To that effect, it is important to answer a couple of simple but powerful questions whenever your belly starts doing flip flops before you perform:  Am I facing a threat, or a challenge? Am I afraid, or am I excited? Am I in danger, or do I have an opportunity?


Neurologists tell us that our thoughts and perceptions can trigger physiological reactions including the release of endorphins or hormones.  They can also tell us that the subjective feelings produces by this cocktail of chemicals can be interpreted as nerves, but it can just as easily be interpreted  as excitement, amp, pump or mojo. It turns out that what’s going on in our bodies when we are anxious is darn close to what is going on when we are excited! The difference in how we interpret these feelings is critical.  In other words, the difference between anxiety and excitement is, to a great extent, down to how we mentally interpret the situation.


The point is that serious performers can learn to make choices that can swing this response from one side of this coin to the other.  It all comes down to being properly prepared. Not only properly prepared for the requirements of the challenge to follow (you will have a tough time switching your anxiety into amp if you KNOW you are not ready to Rock n Roll), but also for the feelings that typically precede it.


If you expect the tingle in the tummy, racing heart rate and sweaty palms BEFORE they arrive, you can then frame these sensations to help create a peak performance mindset.  You can plan to interpret butterflies as ‘amp’, ‘pump’ or excitement in advance and begin to see that they are actually a tool your body uses to help you get keyed up and focused for the challenge at hand.


If you wait until the chemicals have arrived at your synapses, it becomes next to impossible to re-frame what you think of as anxiety, panic or fear as positive or helpful for your performance.


The next time you know are under pressure to perform to your full potential, remember, it is likely that your amygdala ( the little chunk of your midbrain that reacts to stress) to have something to say about it.  Simply make a plan beforehand to interpret these feelings to serve your focus and performance, rather than reap havoc.


The difference between ‘UH-OH’ and ‘WAHOO’ can be massive when the chips are down and it’s time to deliver the goods.  If you get used to interpreting your butterflies as a sign of positive mojo and and a helpful dose of adrenaline, you will have a much better chance staying focused and performing to your full potential when it really counts.

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