How to overcome Performance anxiety

I started playing classical guitar at a very young age.

It’s been almost 18 years,i have performed well over a hundred concerts and gave at least fifteen musical examinations.

But,there was a time were i was trembling before a concert,blurred vision,flight or fight response,the whole 9-yards.

I screwed up many live performances and probably lost 1-2 job opportunities.

The funny thing is that everything started with ZERO anxiety.My first performance went extremely well and everything kept going well with very minor anxiety until i changed conservatoire.

In college,things got serious.The teachers were different,the environment was different,the vibe was different.

New students had a trial period were you would play in front of a teacher and if he thought you could fit,you were enrolled.

I sucked.I played like garbage,BUT the teacher wanted me in ,because of my excellent cover letters.

Over the next 2 months,my teacher thought of me as a musical genius and praised me to everyone.When i got more comfortable with him,i played very good.But only when i was alone with him.

It was time for a performance for the patrons of the conservatoire.

I fucked it up.I couldn’t stroke a string.I walked off the stage in pure embarrassment.

This kept going.My anxiety was on and off and i couldn’t seem to control it.

Until i did.

Two years in,i finally did it.It didn;t went away all at once,but it was at least contained.

Why only 2 years ago i didn’t have THAT much of a problem,but now i couldn’t perform at all.

First job.Examine when you are feeling anxious.

  • New environment.Of course,if you are not familiar with your surrounding you could feel uncomfortable.
  • Vicious circle.One bad performance and the phenomenon perpetuates.The fear of another one makes you even more anxious.
  • Too much in your head.
  • Dependent on the outcome.Fear of failure.
  • Eyes on you.You are in the center of attention when you are playing solo.
  • Bad feedback.My teachers would butcher me after the performance.
  • Too serious.
  • Finally,general anxiety.

Then i thought the times i didn’t have anxiety.How i felt,what i did that day etc etc.

Maybe ate a little better?No.Drank coffee?No.Ate chocolate?No(although this does help a little).

Wait.I remember!One day i was so sick,had a fever and everything.I had to play at a concert and i couldn’t cancel it because they didn’t have another guitar.

What the hell!I didn’t have anxiety at all!Why i didn’t just pass out?I felt like garbage physically the whole time,but i was great!

I know what it was.

     1)’FUCK THAT SHIT’.I remember saying after they told that i had to go.I cared more about myself and my well-being,than a stupid concert.I didn’t care about how i would performe.What is the worst thing that could happen?Could i die?No.Some people will be dissapointed?Fuck them.

I know this is an i don’t give a fuck attitude and that it’s a whole nother story.But remember,care about what it is important.You are more important and these people have the privilege to attend one of your speeches,performances,games etc.Be a narcissist.

This attitude isn’t always healthy to use(well…),but keep in mind that always in these situations,everything is gonna be fine at the end.

Anyway.I couldn’t replicate that same ‘effect’ every time i had to play,so i kept digging.

2)No one really cares.They don’t care about you.All they care is about themselves.They won’t get up and yell at you (if they do,well ,that’s funny).They will not go home and grief about how useless you are.THEY.DONT.CARE.

You missed a note.No one noticed.Your voiced crack.No one will ever remember it.Life is not a hollywood movie.People don’t seek drama.If you work at a company,your boss isn’t gonna fire you because you were a little nervous at your meeting.

3)My performance anxiety was building when i was waiting backstage.I was mostly thinking how anxious i would be on stage,so it made it worse.I wanted to go NOW.

So,I made sure that i would always be a little late.I would come in 10 minutes before it was my turn,so my brain didn’t have the time to get nervous.

I am not saying be so late that everyone is waiting you.Be enough late so you can practically go right up on the stage(or do your thing,whatever it is).You can’t do this every time,but if you get the chance try it.

4)Get comfortable with the environment.Get cozy.

If you are performing,the day before the show go and see  the place,have a feel.Get to know the people in charge.The day of the show,if you can’t do #3,mingle with the crowd.Believe me,people in the crowd will be more that happy to chat with one of the performers.That way,when you go on stage ,you will see familiar faces.

Same goes for public speaking,playing some kind of sport etc etc.Mingle,chit-chat,inspect the area.

Also,keep your focus on one person,like everything you do is for him.Don’t stare at him,just keep it in the back of your head.You are performing for one.

  Now are things that you could do before hand.

  5)Meditation.Big part of anxiety,is irregular breathing.

Meditation also will calm you and clear your brain.Do your normal regime half an hour before you got to perform.

Also be mindful of where you are and what you are doing.When you are nervous your mind is restless and you are trapped in it.Take your time up there.Observe,listen,feel and mentally tell yourself:’I am about to perform and i will do great!’.This will put you mind in the right place,ready to go.

  6)Practice.Although this is common sense,i want to give it a twist.

In my case,the more i practice and learn a piece,the better i perform,but still the anxiety was there.But when i played pieces that are under my level,enough easy so i could play them effortlessly,i had none.

Don’t make this hard.Until you have ZERO performance anxiety,do stuff that you are extremely comfortable with,even if they are way too easy.A high performance of an average play,is better that a crappy performance of a great play.

Stick to the basics.

  7)Surround yourself with friends.As i said,when i played with other people i had zero anxiety.But also when i had friends there attending my concerts,i felt at ease.

Have someone you trust with you.This goes hand in hand with #4.A little friendly talk beforehand is very good.

  8)Eat a lot of complex carbs.

Although,carbs may spike your insulin levels,carbs with a lot of fiber,can reduce you cortisol levels,thus reduce anxiety.

  10)This may sound controversial,but this is the most effective thing on the list that can eliminate the anxiety right away.It is the secret big name solistas, actors,dancers and public speaker have.Even surgeons.

BETA BLOCKERS.People use them to treat arrhythmia and hypertension,but research and anecdotal evidence has shown,that it eliminates the flight or fight syndrome,increases focus and lowers your heart rate.

Some say that it reduces the body’s natural responses so much that hinders some elements of a performance.This is to mask the problem not solve it.

You could use this to build some positive feedback though.One good performance,leads to another then another…

*Medical disclaimer*:This is for entertainment purposes only.Please get advice from a medical practitioner,before using any drug.*

If you generally have anxiety,know that it would be much harder to kick off PA,so if it’s something physiological,get it fixed asap.

Keep in mind,that a little anxiety isn’t always bad.Under pressure,people have achieved great things that couldn’t be done without this adrenaline rush.

It is a perfectly natural response,but when it becomes so bad that prevents you for performing at your full potential then you have to do something.Remember,in the modern world,you don’t have to face life or death situations.

That’s it folks.

What do you do to prevent PA?




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