Defusing Performance Anxiety 101

Defusing Performance Anxiety 101

Tips for handling performance anxiety
Defusing Performance Anxiety 101

Quite a bit of my lecturing is about how to handle performance anxiety, and I’m excited to be able to post about it in my blog! This will be one of several posts on this topic.

First of all, are you a nervous person to start with?

A nervous person will always be nervous in the face of stress. I am like this too. This is normal and to be accepted, because we can’t change our core nature.

What we can change is our attitude: we can accept we are the way we are, and contemplate our history of performance for what actually transpires when you’re on stage. This is kind of like a risk assessment: What do you actually do under stress? How have you handled failure, humiliation? Sit with the painful feelings. Observe where they appear in the body—the heart, the stomach, the chest usually, knocking knees etc. Take 3-5 breaths into those feelings and observe how they dissipate a bit as soon as we give them some mindful attention and tolerance. Express compassion for your suffering, like a mother would hold a crying youngster.

What’s the worst that can happen if you mess up? Unless it’s an important audition…usually there are no consequences. And if it is an important audition, you must practice and try again! Like a toddler who doesn’t give up learning to walk. Our errors can be teachers: they also teach us that have what it takes to try again, set new goals, adjust, move on. Adaptability. Essentially facing our fears teaches us how to cope with change, and gives us the confidence of knowing ahead of time that we CAN indeed cope with change.

Our reptile brain always thinks survival is at stake when we screw up. Our first response to any stress of any kind—whether at work, the rink, at the piano, on the playground– launches all of our stress hormones. Our mammal brain guides us past our instinctive response to stress; the mammal brain observes, takes a step back, and reminds us we are safe, we are loved and it’s ok to make mistakes, we will just adjust and move on.

Finally, with music, a key aspect of handling performance anxiety is the commitment to service – you are merely giving away what is given to you, in service of beautifying the planet. Providing service always gets us out of the ego’s “me, me, me” traps!

More again soon; thanks for listening!

Kind regards, Rosanna