It is a privilege to perform. We give a little bit of ourselves every time we pick up our flutes. It is both a joy and a responsibility, which sometimes leads us to needing a performance anxiety fix.
- The body and the mind are linked in ways that we have yet to understand. But, we do know that scary thought equals scary breathing and scary sweating.
If you feel yourself getting nervous and it seems like your body is overreacting, take a minute to breathe. If you are taking good, deep, and proper breaths, then your body cannot be in overdrive which in turn, will make you feel more relaxed. Talk to me about good deep breaths. 🙂
It is important to recognize that sometimes your body will react without you feeling afraid. Sometimes it’s a feeling that never rises to your brain, and sometimes it happens because you think you should be afraid even if you’re not. Keep that in mind.
- Physical reactions to fear are a sign of the mind protecting itself from possible danger. Each person goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode whenever they think something dangerous is going to happen. The real question is if your body is going into one of these modes, then what are you afraid of?
I want you to think about that honestly.
What are you really afraid of?
Falling off the stage? Playing a wrong note?
Why is that possible outcome dangerous?
How is your perfect outcome going to keep you safe?
Now here is another question. What is fear? Someone once explained it to me in the form of an acronym.
This blows my mind every time. I am allowing something that does not exist to determine the outcome of my performance. Because, in the end that it what it is.
- Practice in weird places. In a really hot room, in a really cold room. Standing on a chair, lying on the floor. With eyes closed, with eyes open. In front of friends, in front of stuffed animals, in front of strangers or the television.
Also PRACTICE IN YOUR MIND! Imagine the performance in your mind with everything going the way you want it to, musically speaking. Even if you make mistakes in your head at first, keep trying, and go slow enough and repeat parts as many times as it takes for you to be able to play it in your head perfectly. And don’t stress over it. If you start getting overwhelmed, go do some physical exercise, then come back.
- It is important to understand that you CAN remove the association of fear with performing. You can change the association to be one of safety and not of danger. I’m not saying that it’s easy or happens quickly, though for some it might, but I am saying that it is more than possible.
It’s easy to be worried about our playing, about how we sound and look and If we have practiced enough, if we know the piece well enough, and so many other things fly across our brains at a million miles an hour.
If you feel yourself getting nervous and it seems like your body is overreacting, take a minute to breathe.
I think sometimes we get too carried away trying not to think those things, or trying not to feel that way, but it’s actually more important what we choose to do with those thoughts. Kind of like catching a water balloon. In order for the water balloon not to break, we have to move with the balloon. So if a worry or fear comes into your mind, instead of sending in the cavalry and putting up a wall, let it go in one side and out the other, don’t stop it, or pay it heed.
Negative thoughts are often part of releasing tension and extra nervous energy, so see it as part of the process without inviting it to stay. I know this is harder than it sounds, but if we stop labeling those thoughts as BAD then our minds won’t get defensive. Just a thought.
Most professional performers in the pop world say that they get a rush on stage. It’s a nervous-excited rush that they know will end with a sense of euphoria. That’s why they keep going back. More and More performing. They just keep getting better at it, and they start to want to move towards those situations just so they can feel the end result. Kinda cool?
You are always better than you think you are, you are stronger than know, and you’re more beautiful than you’ve ever recognized. Keep trying. You can do it.