Can Natural Alternatives to Beta-Blockers Help You Fight Performance Anxiety?
Do you suffer from performance anxiety? Have you ever considered taking beta-blockers to fight performance anxiety?
I know..you’re probably thinking, “What the heck is performance anxiety, and what do beta-blockers have to do with it?”
Performance anxiety, or stage fright, is a collection of symptoms that some people experience when they have to perform under pressure or in front of an audience.
It is often described as a severe case of the “butterflies.” To the point where it becomes difficult to perform.
It is common among musicians, public speakers, dancers, actors, etc. They might experience palpitations, a trembling voice, excessive sweating, or even nausea in some severe cases.
To combat stage fright, performers often turn to beta-blockers, a type of pharmaceutical that provides relief from the physical symptoms of performance anxiety, and helps them get through the performance.
Now, you might not be a professional performer. I’m certainly not.
But I do remember the time I had finally managed to get a date with someone that I had my eye on for months.
To say that I was excited would be an understatement!
I remember preparing for the date like it was a performance. I prepared topics of conversation, witty jokes, questions to ask that would make me seem thoughtful…you know how it goes.
But when it was finally time to bring my A-game, all that preparation went out the window. I was a nervous mess.
Point being, most of us have to perform in one way or another from time to time. Whether it’s a presentation at a client meeting, a job interview, an important test, or a date with that special guy or girl.
And if you’ve ever experienced the “butterflies” in a performance situation (like me on my dream date), then it might benefit you to learn how to avoid them in the future.
Let’s take a closer look at performance anxiety, how beta-blockers help, and some natural alternatives to beta-blockers that might help keep you calm as a cucumber next time you have to perform under pressure.
Why do some people experience performance anxiety?
Most of us experience some anxiety when we have to perform under pressure.
You’ve probably experienced an elevated sense of awareness right before you’re about to walk into an interview or a big test. The adrenaline rush may have even helped you kick it up a notch and boost your performance.
But for some, the stress of having to perform at a high level gets to be too much. Their fight-or-flight response kicks into gear, and they start feeling overwhelmed.
They fear that they will be negatively judged for their performance, and start experiencing symptoms like excessive sweating, trembling hands, racing heartbeat, etc.
Many things can cause someone to be more susceptible to stage fright, like genetic factors, being bullied as a child, or even having overly critical parents growing up.
It can get to a point where it negatively impacts one’s life, and that’s when people typically consider beta-blockers as a remedy.
How do beta-blockers help with performance anxiety?
Beta-blockers work by blocking the effects of the adrenaline hormone, which plays a vital role in the fight-or-flight response when you perceive to be in a severely stressful situation.
By blocking adrenaline, beta-blockers lower the stress on the heart, which has a relaxing effect throughout the body. It prevents the physical symptoms of performance anxiety, like trembling hands, too much sweating, or even nausea.
So, if you typically get super nervous before an important meeting and you start getting a bad case of the jitters, beta-blockers can help you remain physically calm, and maintain your composure as you get through the meeting.
Why should I bother with natural alternatives to beta-blockers
Ok, you might be wondering why you should bother with natural alternatives to beta-blockers. Do beta-blockers have adverse side effects? Are they harmful in any other way?
Actually, beta-blockers happen to be pretty safe with minimal side effects. And they don’t seem to have any long term impact on your health.
But there are some downsides.
For one, some beta-blockers require prescriptions. So, every time you run out, you’ll have to run to your doctor to refill your supply.
Also, beta-blockers can only address the physical symptoms of performance anxiety, and none of the potential underlying causes.
Natural remedies support your brain and body in a way that makes you more resilient against performance anxiety. They can be more of a longer-term solution than beta-blockers, depending on what causes you to have stage fright.
What are some natural alternatives to beta-blockers?
Beta-blockers are designed to keep you calm in situations that would otherwise make you nervous. So, a natural beta-blocker is pretty much anything that promotes calmness in a stressful situation.
One thing to note about natural remedies is that, unlike beta-blockers, you will need to be consistent with them to experience positive results.
The list below is mostly made up of dietary supplements, but I also include yoga and therapy as natural beta-blockers, and I will explain why.
1. Boost GABA levels to promote calmness and mental focus
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is an amino acid.
Not to get too science-y or anything, but just know GABA can be super helpful when it comes to reducing too much chatter in your brain. It helps you attain what many refer to as the “flow” state.
You know, that state of blissful alertness where you’re focused, alert, creative, and feel like you can take on the entire world!
Yeah, GABA is pretty awesome! And boosting GABA levels in your brain will not only make you more productive, but it might even help you feel more confident next time you have to perform under pressure.
Here is a research article talking about how disturbances in GABA levels in the brain can make you more prone to anxiety disorders.
So, how do you boost GABA?
Well, you can take a GABA supplement. You can also go with the next natural remedy on our list, which just so happens to boost GABA as well.
2. L-theanine may help shake off the “butterflies”
L-theanine, another amino acid, has also been shown to help you feel calmer and more relaxed. L-theanine boosts GABA levels in your brain, which is an excellent thing for all the reasons I explained above.
One thing about L-theanine that makes it especially compelling is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier, even in a supplement form. In simple terms, L-theanine is more easily absorbed by your brain, increasing its effectiveness.
In fact, L-theanine has been having a moment recently. In an interview with Elle Magazine, Taylor Swift revealed that she relies on L-theanine supplements to fight anxiety.
Let’s face it. If it helps T-Swift perform in front of sold-out stadiums, then surely L-theanine might be good enough for you and me to get through a meeting or a date without getting too jittery.
Green tea, black tea, and oolong tea are all great sources of L-theanine. Otherwise, you can take a supplement to make sure you get a high enough dosage of L-theanine to have a calming effect.
3. L-arginine can promote relaxation through improved circulation
L-arginine is another amino acid that could help you fight the jitters when you have to perform at a high level.
There is evidence to suggest that L-arginine might help improve blood circulation within your body by relaxing your blood vessels. Improved blood flow could have benefits, like more stable blood pressure.
So, in a way, L-arginine may have similar effects to beta-blockers which also relax blood vessels and bring down blood pressure.
Although there isn’t a ton of scientific research on L-arginine and anxiety, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it may promote relaxation and calmness.
If you eat enough protein, which you definitely should for a variety of reasons, then you probably already get a good amount of L-arginine. You could also take a supplement, but you might want to check with your doctor first.
4. CBD may prevent performance anxiety
You’ve probably heard of CBD (Cannabidiol) in the news, about how people are experiencing all kinds of benefits from it. Or you may even know someone who has mentioned how CBD has helped her get the best sleep she’s had in years.
But what exactly is CBD? Is it similar to marijuana, and will it get you high?
CBD is a non-psychoactive (it doesn’t get you high) compound of the hemp plant. Recently, it became legal under federal law to purchase CBD derived from hemp plants in the US.
People are taking CBD for all kinds of reasons. And one of them is that CBD may help you remain calm in stressful situations.
CBD could act as a natural beta-blocker. It promotes calmness by bringing balance within your body, and by helping you better utilize the resources already available within your body.
CBD does not make you sleepy, although it may promote better sleeping habits.
Be sure to buy CBD only from brands that get their CBD from organic, American-grown hemp, and ones that provide third-party lab tests to prove the purity of their CBD.
5. Yoga can act as a natural beta-blocker by improving your response to stress
I don’t know about you, but for me, there is nothing better than a good yoga session to melt the stress away.
After about an hour of holding and breathing in various poses that I can’t pronounce, I feel renewed and reinvigorated. Turns out, there is actually some science to back up my feelings of post-yoga bliss.
According to one article by Harvard Health, yoga increases your heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measure of how you respond to stress.
When you experience butterflies, it’s because you’re overwhelmed by the stressful situation of having to perform under pressure. So, by improving how you respond to stress through yoga, you’ll be better equipped to handle the jitters.
Obviously, you have to do yoga regularly for this to be effective. But don’t worry, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get addicted to yoga pretty quickly once you start.
6. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for severe performance anxiety
CBT is technically not a natural beta-blocker.
And if it’s merely a case of the annoying jitters for you, then some of the natural remedies like L-theanine and yoga might be enough, assuming you’re consistent with them.
But I decided to include CBT in this list because, in some severe cases of performance anxiety, the other remedies simply might not cut it.
Yes, beta-blockers can provide temporary relief to help you get through a critical moment, but they can’t address any underlying issues that cause you to have stage fright in the first place.
The way CBT works is this. Your therapist will find out what situations you find overwhelming, and then help you break those thought patterns down into smaller pieces. Then your therapist will work with you to replace those negative patterns with positive ones.
One interesting thing about CBT is that it seems to work better if you have a positive mindset about it. So, if you’re really into it, and complete all your homework (yes, sometimes there is homework), then there’s a better chance that CBT will be successful.
If you do stick with CBT, there is evidence that suggests that it can be a long-term solution to anxiety in various social situations.
Closing thoughts on natural beta-blockers
Performance anxiety, if severe enough, can be a major problem. It can affect your life in a significant way.
If you’re repeatedly too jittery in pressure situations, it might keep you from getting your ideal job, from landing that big client, or from getting a second date.
If you suffer from performance anxiety, consider one or more of the natural remedies listed above.
If your problem is severe, you should first talk to a licensed medical professional, so they can assess your situation, and recommend a treatment plan accordingly.
In the meantime, if you need a quick-fix, you can always ask your doctor if a beta-blocker might be right for you.
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