I didn't know that! Issue #15- Anxiety part 2_

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Two kinds of anxiety
The relationship between performance and the performer’s arousal level is the result of the interaction between two kinds of anxiety: cognitive (mental) anxiety and somatic (physical)anxiety.


Cognitive anxiety results from concerns and worries about the demands of the situation. This fosters a lack of confidence and self-belief, and an inability to concentrate. As a rule, this type of anxiety manifests itself days or weeks before the performance.

Somatic anxiety results from the information given to the performer by the body: butterflies in the stomach, sweaty palms, muscle tension, and frequent visits to the bathroom. This type of anxiety shows itself much closer to the beginning of the performance, might even disappear after that.

An eminent British psychologist, Lew Hardy, has discovered that performance depends on a complex interaction between your two levels of anxiety. Given a relatively high physical anxiety but little worry, performance can have a steady decline. Given a high level of mental and physical anxiety, your arousal will reach an optimal level, after which the bottom will dropout, hence the word catastrophe in the title of Hardy’s study. Recovery from catastrophe takes longer than recovery from a slow decline.



The term “arousal” describes the result of interaction between the two types of anxiety. This interaction will produce either a state of emotional readiness or one of instability. At one end of the arousal scale the performer will be highly charged and “psyched up,” perhaps even aggressive. At the other end the performer will be calm and very relaxed.

There is no standard ideal level of arousal for everyone. Each person requires a specific arousal level of his/her own to perform well. The first thing performers should do is to identify their own ideal level of arousal. This could vary depending upon the nature of their coming performance.