Anxiety In Performance: Dealing With Stage Fright In Music
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Anxiety, where does it come from all of a sudden? That moment comes when you or your band finally get the chance to perform live. You’ve been rehearsing and preparing and you are as ready as you can be. But for most of us, there is this moment once you see the stage set up and ready. And then the crowd starts to gather. And something happens. You start being a little irrational here: what if you forget the words, what if you hit the wrong string, what if you press the wrong key. Overwhelming, isn’t it? Completely normal though. And not only the first time. There isn’t really a rule for performance anxiety. You could say stage fright can be very unpredictable. Nobody really likes it, but it’s there for a reason. How do we deal with it?
First of all, I’d like to give this a dose of a positive outlook, so..
What is the good side of performance anxiety?
See, performance anxiety in small doses is actually a good thing. So it doesn’t mean you should totally get rid of it. While you are nervous and anxious, your attention is drawn more to the activity that you’re anxious for. Let’s just say that you become more aware of the situation. This makes you more careful. Fear, or stage fright in this case, simply makes us aware. So in normal doses, it is always okay to be a little nervous. I know it sounds weird.
Now on how to reduce it to a level where it won’t wrap us in a ball of irrationality:
It is soooo hard to convince someone that is freaking out why they shouldn’t. I know this from personal experience. But anxiety results in simply irrational thinking. If you think about it some more, you will understand that it isn’t that scary. Remember a few things:
You are here because you are ready to be here
You practiced, you have it all prepared the best you could. You’re in front of the audience because you finally got to a point where you are ready for this step. So don’t let nervousness ruin that for you.
Nobody is ever fully and totally prepared to go out there
During your rehearsals, especially as time runs out, you might realize some things aren’t really going the way you planned them to go. So, they might not turn out exactly the way you wanted them to be. But this shouldn’t discourage you or disappoint you. All you have to do is give your best. It happens to all of us.
Mistakes might happen but that is totally okay
What matters is that you don’t think about these mistakes before they even happen. Cause at the end of it all, they might not.
Learn to identify your performance anxiety when it strikes
You know best what you’re like when everything’s vanilla. But it is much harder to recognize when things spin out of control. Performance anxiety comes with symptoms, and you can probably see them if you pay more attention to your behavior. When we are overwhelmed, our bodies give out a physical reaction, something that might not be visible at first sight, but it is there. So..
Lip biting, sweating, feeling your heart beating faster, dry mouth, nausea, feeling of weakness in your knees or your stomach, feeling dizzy..
These are only some of the symptoms you might experience. People who are diagnosed with anxiety have experienced this before. But some people never experience anxiety until they hit the stage. If you are one of them, then these symptoms can be very overwhelming for you.
On the other side, something happens in our head, too:
Rushing thoughts, not being able to follow up with your surroundings, being extremely self conscious, feeling like everything around you is pressuring your ability to think straight.
And this is where things unwrap and we start to throw a fiesta of irrational fear.
It is important to be able to identify these and similar symptoms, so we can help ourselves.
When this happens..
Sit down for a minute and take a deep breath
Start breathing in and breathing out slowly to calm yourself. Try to catch up with your thoughts. Drink some water, let go of the situation for a moment. Think it through calmly. It’s not as scary as it seems.
If you’re already on stage and the game is on
Don’t panic. Even if your legs are shivering and your voice is shaking. If you feel like you need to recollect take it easy, there is a way to do it. In moments like these, especially if you are in a band, you should all try and develop a method to cover for one another if one of you starts to get nervous. If you are performing by yourself, you should always focus on what is in front of you. The audience isn’t going to bite you, and at the end it is only your attitude that determines the outcome. It is all about how you handle the situation.
Do things that relax you before you perform
Yes, rehearsal is important. But too much rehearsal can really make it worse. So, even a day before the performance, do things that relax you and make you feel good. Especially about yourself. Confidence is important, and anxiety can make us feel very insecure about ourselves. Avoid doing things that make you stressed or take away your energy the day before you step on stage. Sleep is very important, so make sure you get enough rest.
Remember that it is you who has the situation in control. So when stage fright strikes, you can always pull the last string and turn it into your gain. Remember to enjoy your performing. That’s why you’re there. Cause you love performing. Let that stick with you.