How to Use ‘Mental Rehearsal’ to Overcome Performing Anxiety


Prior to performing, what you “see” in your mind, 
whether its weeks or just days before, 
will tend to become who you are in that situation.”
~ Don Greene, Ph.D.


Have you ever had a performance situation in which you pictured it going poorly?

Maybe you were going to speak in front of a large group, go to a possible career-changing interview, play in an important golf tournament, ask someone on a date or audition for a part in a theater production.

As you began to see it going poorly you became more and more anxious.

The ability to perform at our absolute best, when it really matters, is often a result of how we anticipate and ‘visualize’ the situation.


I have found that Mental Rehearsal is a performance enhancement skill that is very powerful when it is practiced and applied. It is a skill that allows you, as a performer, to rehearse, review and focus on optimal performance.

Ironically, many performers use imagery in a negative way, that is, they ‘picture’ themselves performing poorly and subsequently express this negative rehearsal through an anxiety-filled performance.

Mental Rehearsal is one of the most effective techniques for you to use in preparing for optimal performance. If you cannot imagine performing well then you have very little chance of actually doing that, especially during a pressure situation.

Enhancing your performance includes practicing the technique of mental rehearsal to achieve your best. I will use the fear of public speaking (which creates anxiety for most people!) as an example to describe the 6 key steps to practice:

1) Start with a clear intention. What is it that you intend to achieve in your performance? For example, is your intention to give your speech in a relaxed way, feeling in complete control of yourself?

2) Center yourself physically and mentally. Take a slow, deep focused breath to slow down any anxiety or stress during your mental rehearsal.

3) Imagine what your intention would look like. Try to see, feel, and hear yourself doing well as you give a powerful and effective presentation. Break up your mental rehearsal performance into segments, i.e. see yourself preparing to give you presentation, then picture the next segment as you are being introduced, then as you walk up to present, etc. Picture each of these segments as clearly as possible.

4) Use all of your senses. Picture yourself walking up to speak, feel your hands on the podium, hear yourself as your words come out smoothly and effortlessly, listen to the audience applauding your speech, feel how great it feels to walk off knowing you did a great job!

5) Correct your mistakes. You will discover that even during mental rehearsal you will find yourself visualizing making a mistake or becoming afraid. So you need to stop the tape and rewind! Yes, go back in your rehearsal to the spot where you ‘messed ‘up’ and continue from there with a picture of you doing well. Correct your mistake until you can clearly see yourself doing well.

6) Be creative and have fun! Mental rehearsal is a very powerful technique that can be used in any performance situation. Expand using this technique in new situations until you become better and better at it.

Practice mental rehearsal and make it a valuable skill in you performance enhancement ‘toolbox’.

Your real-life performance will continue to improve the more that you can ‘experience’ (see, hear and feel) the performance in your mental rehearsal. Have fun rehearsing!

Question: In what upcoming performance situation could you apply the skill of Mental Rehearsal?
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