Have you experienced the gut-wrenching, nerve-wracking, sweaty, shaky grip of performance anxiety? If so, you already know how this issue can limit your life enjoyment. You probably also know how performance anxiety can affect your thinking.
- Stress-related mental fatigue and brain fog are common precursors to physical performance anxiety symptoms.<1>
When performance anxiety manifests, it becomes harder to think straight, leading to hesitation, stammering, poor decision-making, and so on. Given the close association between performance anxiety and cognition, it makes sense that brain-boosting nootropics might help to manage some symptoms.
This guide discusses some of the best nootropics for performance anxiety, and how they might help you banish your anxiety-related self-limitations so you can enjoy life to the fullest.
How Performance Anxiety Feels
It seems like a perfectly rational sort of fear. You’re about to take an important test - like your SAT or GRE. You’ve been invited to a party full of people you don’t know. You’re trying to figure out what the heck you’re going to say before your turn at the poetry slam.
In these cases, anyone would naturally feel a little nervous. Being spotlighted can be stressful, and during stress your brain’s "fight-or-flight" mechanism kicks in, making stage fright symptoms similar to those that occur when you’re actually in danger.
Physical symptoms of performance anxiety may include:
- Dry mouth
- Cold hands
- Racing pulse
- Shallow breathing
- Vision changes
People whose careers put them at the center of attention often experience performance anxiety. Even though we can’t see it, some of the most successful athletes, actors, musicians, and public speakers get super nervous before a big performance.
But for people who just can’t seem to get it under control, performance anxiety can seem like an insurmountable hurdle that makes us miss out on activities we enjoy and even affect our careers. Some of the negative self-talk that comes with consistently avoiding public performances can result in:
- Irrational fear of being rejected, judged, or laughed at
- Fear of speaking in front of strangers
- Avoiding any kind of public performance
- Fear of failure
- Lack of confidence
- Poor self-esteem
- Missed opportunities for advancement
Entertainment and the Arts
Almost every entertainer has experienced stage fright at some time. Rapper Eminem wrote about it for the movie 8 Mile — “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti. He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready...” Yep. Classic symptoms.
When violin maestro Itzhak Perlman was asked for his thoughts on dealing with performance anxiety, his slightly tongue-in-cheek answer boiled down to “know thy enemy.” Even the world’s most accomplished artists can feel a twinge of stage fright. Perlman advises performers to understand how your nerves affect you before a performance so you can make adjustments during practice sessions rather than on stage.
Mark Twain said, “There are two kinds of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking in front of a kindergarten class or giving a big presentation to the board of directors at a Fortune 500 company. When performance anxiety strikes, you need to get out of your head and deliver your presentation with confidence.
Fear of public speaking, often referred to as speech anxiety or stage fright, involves a fear of being criticized by others accompanied by physical and emotional sensations that can seriously interfere with the ability to successfully deliver a speech or presentation.<2>
In sports, athletes sometimes refer to performance anxiety as 'choking.' Athletes experience unique mental and physical demands. Not only do they have to deal with brain stress and an overstimulated amygdala, but the extreme levels of physical activity and endurance required cause cortisol levels to rise and push the adrenal glands into overdrive.
Physiological symptoms of athletic performance anxiety may include headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal issues, elevated heart rate and difficulty breathing.
In the Bedroom
Sexual performance anxiety is the heart of one of the most common intimacy issues. State of mind can have a big impact on sexual arousal. Sex is more than just a physical act. It’s emotional too. When your brain is too stressed out for sex, your body can't get excited either.
Male sexual performance problems are talked about more often, but performance anxiety can curb female arousal, too. Too much stress can prevent women from getting lubricated enough for love-making and can take away the desire for sex.<3>
Workplace performance anxiety affects people in all types of professions. The symptoms can be the same as other performance anxiety symptoms, but the triggers can vary from using the company toilet to giving a presentation in the boardroom.
This type of performance anxiety can cause missed opportunities for advancement, pay raises, and building professional relationships. The mental fatigue and brain fog of performance anxiety can even affect the quality of your work and ability to meet deadlines.
Anxiety is a common problem on college campuses. Some studies show that 80% of college students say stress interferes with their academic progress.<4>
Anxiety itself is not a bad thing. In an academic context, it can spur motivation to study for exams, write papers, and do homework. But excess anxiety interferes with concentration and memory, which are critical for academic success.<5>
Worst Nootropics for Performance Anxiety
While some nootropics and supplements can help soothe performance anxiety, others can actually make both your anxiety and performance worse.
Caffeine is not a true nootropic, but it’s included here because it’s a common go-to for a quick pre-performance pick-me-up. But just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s the best choice.
Studies show that caffeine may heighten symptoms of anxiety in people who are prone to it. In people that are sensitive to it, caffeine can cause trembling, muscle tension, and nausea even at low doses.<6>
However, if you’re a caffeine junkie, don’t go cold turkey the day of a performance — caffeine withdrawal can cause symptoms that mimic anxiety. Just avoid overdoing it because you’re nervous.
Racetams are a class of synthetic cognition-enhancing nootropics that share a similar chemical structure and promote similar bio-effects.
Piracetam, phenylpiracetam, and oxiracetam are strong stimulants that some people compare to drugs like Adderall. Racetams could intensify symptoms of performance anxiety — especially sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, racing pulse, and dry mouth.
It’s really best to avoid any harsh stimulant before a presentation if you suffer from performance anxiety. There are nootropics that can help banish brain fog and cool your nerves without the racy side effects that can come with caffeine and other stimulants.
Note: Some people claim aniracetam helps with anxiety, but there’s not enough human evidence to support the claim.
Mind Lab Pro® - Stimulant-Free for Many Reasons
Mind Lab Pro® is formulated to be completely free of caffeine and other stimulants. There are many reasons why Mind Lab Pro® is stim-free, one of which is that nootropics with caffeine can actually intensify performance anxiety -- a counterproductive effect for those who are taking nootropics for performance anxiety support.
With Mind Lab Pro®'s all natural formula, you won’t have to worry about the negative anxiety-exacerbating side effects often associated with stimulants. Let's get to the list of nootropics for performance anxiety in Mind Lab Pro®.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Performance Anxiety
Suntheanine® L Theanine
Human research shows that Suntheanine® may trigger alpha brain waves and inhibit excitatory neural states via L Theanine. The alpha brain wave state is known for its ability to elicit feelings of wakeful relaxation and help improve focus.
L Theanine is a natural amino acid contained in green tea that can bring relief to frayed nerves, reduce heart rate, and lower stress hormone levels to improve concentration, alertness, and mood.<7>
Studies suggest Rhodiola rosea may help the brain and body cope better with mental and physical stress by defusing the sympatho-adrenal-system (SAS), the body-mind chain of command that responds to extreme stress triggers.<8>
Rhodiola may help strengthen mind-body resistance to stress because it’s an adaptogen, a family of herbs known for decreasing cellular sensitivity to stress and balancing mood. By countering the brain-dulling effects of performance anxiety, Rhodiola rosea can improve cognitive function under pressure.<9>
Like Rhodiola, Bacopa Monnieri extract is a powerful adaptogen herb that helps to strengthen the mind's resistance to stress while sharpening peak cognitive function. It also helps to promote calming neurotransmitters including serotonin and GABA.
But Bacopa's biggest claim to fame is that it is believed to help with many aspects of memory, including those strongly associated with learning and new knowledge retention. For these reasons, Bacopa may be an ideal nootropic supplement for students whose performance anxiety may manifest during exams.
Evidence shows that phospholipids are crucial for brain cell membrane health and regeneration, As a phospholipid, Phosphatidylserine (PS) may improve brain function and neurotransmission.<10>
Healthy brain cells help maintain clarity, balance mood, and improve concentration and focus. By helping to promote healthy brain cell function, PS supports communication within the brain and may help improve cognitive function under stress.
Mind Lab Pro® Stack Strategy: PS + Rhodiola Rosea for Competitive Cognition in Sports
At least one study linked PS to a reduction in perceived stress levels and significant improvement in the number of good ball flights during tee-off among a group of young golfers, possibly leading to better golf scores. This research could indicate that PS may help prevent athletes from ‘choking’.<11>
Rhodiola rosea strengthens stress resistance and may also enhance athletic performance.<12>
PS and Rhodiola stacked may work to moderate stress response and augment mental clarity, helping athletes perform their best under pressure. Mind Lab Pro® contains both PS and Rhodiola for the ultimate in teamwork.
Performance anxiety is a really common occurrence among performers of any kind, no matter how big or small the audience or acclaim. Experiencing stress and anxiety before performing in front of people is a natural thing, but it can cost you if it’s left unchecked.
Performance anxiety is a mind state that’s often caused by fear of failure and negative self-talk. Confronting your fears and vulnerabilities, accepting yourself for who you are, embracing your strengths and weaknesses, and just putting yourself out there over and over can help you overcome performance anxiety in the long run.
Remember that stage fright is usually the worst before the performance and often goes away once you’re on a roll.
Nootropics can help mediate some of the symptoms of performance anxiety and help your brain work better under pressure, but remember there’s no replacement for good self-care, including proper nutrition, an active lifestyle, and getting enough sleep.
Mind Lab Pro® supplies some of the best nootropics for performance anxiety.
Mind Lab Pro®, the Universal Nootropic™ helps clear the apprehension, brain fog and recall issues associated with performance anxiety. Since it’s stimulant-free, Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for performance anxiety can help all types of performers to successfully sing, dance, speak, or compete without distracting side effects associated with some other stimulant-driven nootropic stacks.
- Mousumi B, Blanca O, Blandine L. Stress and obesity: the role of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis in metabolic disease. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2009 Oct; 16(5): 340–346. doi:10.1097/MED.0b013e32832fa137.
- The Board of Regents. Public Speaking Anxiety. University of Wisconsin. 2018.
- Meston CM, Frohlich, PF. The Neurobiology of Sexual Function. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2000;57(11):1012–1030. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.57.11.1012.
- Office of Student Success. Overcoming Academic Anxiety. Louisiana State University Shreveport. 2017.
- Learning Strategies Center. Understanding Academic Anxiety. Cornell University. 2018.
- Nawrot P, et al. Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Addit Contam. 2003 Jan;20(1):1-30.
- Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45. Epub 2006 Aug 22.
- Mattioli L, Perfumi M. Rhodiola rosea L. extract reduces stress- and CRF-induced anorexia in rats. Journal of Psychopharmacology. Vol 21, Issue 7, pp. 742 - 750. First Published September 1, 2007.doi:10.1177/0269881106074064.
- Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan; 3(1): 188–224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188.
- Hanahan DJ, Nelson DR. Phospholipids as dynamic participants in biological processes. The Journal of Lipid Research, 25, 1528-1535. 1984 Dec.
- Jager R, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine on golf performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007; 4: 23. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-23.
- Parisi A, et al. Effects of chronic Rhodiola Rosea supplementation on sport performance and antioxidant capacity in trained male: preliminary results. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010 Mar;50(1):57-63.