Previously we've touched on the whys and hows of anxiety while performing, but what if some of the simple tricks that all of us know don't seem to be working? How can we get to the root of the problem and solve these cumbersome nerves once and for all?
Before we dig too deep into really attempting to squash the beef between ourselves and our anxiety once and for all, let’s touch on some simple tips and tricks that, if we’re stuck in the heat of the moment, before being able to find a final cure and solution, we’re able to call upon these methods to gain some control back over our emotions.
So, what is anxiety anyway? The more broad definition is a genera;lized feeling of nervousness and worry, “typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” When it comes to the definition in the world of psychology, things appear to get a little more serious, as it’s often described as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.” Depending on your school of thought and philosophy, people’s opinions on anxiety can range from reliving the cycle of past traumatic events to something as simple as letting negative thoughts and emotions simply get the best of you. Have you ever heard of that quote “what you resist, persists”? Anxiety can take on this form sometimes. The more you try to ignore it, the more power you give it to control you. It can put a serious dent on your performance quality or maybe even keep you from performing all together - so let’s get to the bottom of this!
Planning around anxiety may be a necessary yet fruitful effort when it comes to handling the situation before it’s a situation. The more prepared you are, the better. If you know the time, place and all the devilish details of an upcoming performance or studio session, the more comfortable you’ll feel. A lot of our anxiety comes from a place for uncertainty, where the anticipation of the unknown leaves us with so many question marks of wonder. This is when it can take over and all of a sudden we’re flooded with racing thoughts and a rapid heartbeat and once you’re in this state, it’s incredibly hard to calm the storm. When attempting to skirt this issue physically, avoid taking in anything that can put you into overdrive, such as caffeine and sugar. You may be amazed at just how much that one cup of coffee can throw you over your emotional edge.
A pro-tip that we sincerely love is the 3-3-3 rule. WebMD reminds us that this entails “Looking around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body -- your ankle, fingers, or arm. Whenever you feel your brain going 100 miles per hour, this mental trick can help center your mind.” This is a wonderful tip that brings you back into your body when your mind has taken over the controls, as it’s now being heavily influenced by the activation of your flight or fight mode.
Your state of mind is truly an incredibly malleable place. Thoughts become things and this is why we must somehow strike a balance between being conscious of being on the lookout for potential mishaps and mistakes, while also not focusing on negativity and bad outcomes. This is where controlling your thoughts can make all the difference. It is by no means easy and the more practice, the better. Spend time meditating and if you can’t seem to reach any level of peace, then start writing down your thoughts. Try to get to the bottom of why you feel the way you do. What are you truly fearing? If you forget some lyrics or play an incorrect riff, what’s really the worst that could happen? You go viral and become the laughing stock of the world? Luckily, even if that extreme event turned into reality, the world would move on the next day and you would have to too.
It’s been said by many that the world is that which you create, to an extent. Certainly we’re bound to come across less than favorable environments, situations and outcomes, but we’ve got to roll with the punches. If we can control our own over-anxiety, then we’re more able to handle situations that we have no control over.
A simple yet incredibly underrated way of dealing with your anxiety is to remind yourself that life is for living. We’re here to have fun and not take everything so seriously all the time. You likely play music because you fell in love with it. Give yourself the gift of enjoying the passing moments, be present rather than reacting out of fear.