Elevated heart rate and abdominal pain before a presentation? This is how you deal with performance anxiety | Health

Elevated heart rate and abdominal pain before a presentation? This is how you deal with performance anxiety | Health
Elevated heart rate and abdominal pain before a presentation? This is how you deal with performance anxiety | Health

An important test, a sports match or giving a presentation. For one person it is easy, for another it causes fear, pressure and uncertainty. What can you do against performance anxiety?

By Naomi Defoer

Increased breathing and heart rate, abdominal pain, intestinal complaints and excessive sweating. All symptoms of fear of failure, or as Van Dale puts it: the fear of failing. Fear of failure is normal at first and can actually be motivating, but sometimes the fear is so great that it has the opposite effect.

Nico van Yperen is a psychologist and blogs about fear of failure. “Someone with performance anxiety is distracted by their emotions and thoughts. As long as those thoughts do not influence a job application, sports competition or work appointment, those thoughts can be useful. If they are, it can lead to excessive nervousness, stress and pressure to perform.”

In the first case, you can use those distracting thoughts as a resource. “This allows you to push those negative thoughts away and focus on your task.” If your worries take over, it will only increase your anxiety. “You notice that in your muscles that stiffen, the fatigue that strikes and a cramped posture.”

Lack of preparation

Van Yperen mentions a lack of preparation as the biggest cause of fear of failure. “If you don’t read carefully for your application, there is a greater chance that you are afraid of failing”, the professor gives as an example. “Practice and competence also play a major role in this. A challenge is fun, but it must be feasible and match your level of knowledge and skills.”


The main thing is to accept the fear of failure and not to crowd the thoughts.

Nico van Yperen, psychologist


According to van Yperen, fear of failure can never be completely overcome, but you can learn to deal with it. “Every person has their own mental skills,” explains the sports psychologist.

“For one person it helps to do breathing exercises, listen to music, meditate or think about a relaxing situation. For another person dancing, jumping or singing can help. The most important thing is to accept it and not let the thoughts jostling.”

What if fear dominates

When fear dominates, according to Van Yperen, it can help to follow cognitive behavioral therapy. “To weaken or make the irrational and distracting thoughts disappear,” he clarifies.


With hypnotherapy you return with the knowledge of now to the event that caused the fear of failure.

Edwin Selij, hypnotherapist


If your fear of failure is caused by traumatic events from the past, it can help to choose an alternative route, explains hypnotherapist Edwin Selij. “In hypnotherapy you return with the knowledge of now to the event that caused the fear of failure.”

Replace old memory with a new one

Selij continues that it is possible that as an adult you view the situation very differently. “You replace an old memory with a new one. For the brain it is then as if that unpleasant event never happened. This ensures that the additional negative emotions disappear, so that the fear of failure disappears.”

It is good to mention that hypnotherapy falls under the heading of alternative care. According to Independer, this form of therapy is in some cases reimbursed under additional health insurance.

According to Van Yperen, a fear of failure training can also offer a solution. “There you will practice with six skills, with the focus on acceptance.”

You will also work on distancing yourself from your negative feelings. You also learn to deal with certain thoughts by not repressing them, but at the same time not identifying with them. “I would not recommend medication, because it has a flattening effect,” says Van Yperen.

Beeld: Getty Images


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The article is in Dutch

Tags: Elevated heart rate abdominal pain presentation deal performance anxiety Health

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