How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

//How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

Feeling nervous for recitals? YOU have the ability to shift your perspective, gain confidence, and enjoy the experience of live music making. Overcome your performance anxiety by embracing your “magical” powers!

  1. The Power of Positivity
    Your thoughts have the power to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think you’re going to play poorly or that you’re somehow less-than, your playing is probably going to reflect that negativity. However, by changing your thinking pattern, you have the ability to speak positivity into existence. Performance anxiety coach Helen Spielman says, “Whatever we feed, grows. If a plant is watered, it thrives; otherwise it withers and dies” (2009). In that similar vein, if we encourage negativity, we invite anxiety to take over our performing experience. Spielman suggests that we instead replace unconstructive thoughts with affirmations. For example, instead of telling yourself that you’re less talented than a friend, or that you don’t practice enough, choose to believe that you’re making progress and appreciate how far you’ve come since you started.
  2. The Power of Preparation
    Frequently, anxiety comes by to visit when we feel unprepared. Maybe you didn’t have enough time to practice last week because you were juggling sports, dance, homework, family, friends, and any number of other things on your plate. The first step to feeling prepared and ready to perform is to make sure you have adequate time set aside to practice, not just musically, but mentally. Prioritize important and urgent activities, and free yourself from those that don’t bring you joy. Reflect on your practice and most importantly, always have a goal in the back of your mind for your next practice session. The feeling of accomplishment when you’ve achieved your goal will help to reduce your anxiety.
  3. The Power of Acceptance
    OK, so you just played a piece for someone and it was not up to your standards. Can you truly take a step back to give yourself constructive feedback, or is your reaction self-criticism and feelings of discontent coloring your perspective of your performance? If it’s the latter, perhaps you need to take a few moments to re-examine your goals. Musicians are some of the biggest perfectionists, and the idea that your music needs to be perfect to be acceptable is unrealistic. While it’s great to stay motivated, expecting perfection only invites failure. In fact, the stress from striving from perfection creates tension that exacerbates performance anxiety. Instead, use failure as a part of the learning process. By letting go of this idea of “perfect”, since perfection is a subjective concept anyway, we allow ourselves to feel free of stress, and can actually begin to enjoy making music.

We talked to some ISM faculty about how they cope with their performance anxiety and put together some tips here:

  • Prevent the fire before you fight the fire. Play for small groups of people you trust and work your way up to larger groups. Even performing takes practice!
  • Trust what you know. Mentally run through the beginning in your head to reassure yourself that you’re ready.
    –Matt (piano, voice, guitar) and Eric (piano)
  • Rehearse the logistics. Practice how you will walk on stage, where you will stand, what you’re wearing, and any other non-music parts to the performance so you can be prepared for the entire performance.
    –Chelsea (woodwinds)
  • “I never perform anywhere without a banana!” If there is a food that helps you feel more grounded and prepared, make sure you have it with you when you need it!
    –Sophie (violin)
  • Focus your mind and body. Stretch and take a moment to center your focus.
    –Siena (violin)
  • BREATHE! Take slow, full, purposeful breaths to calm the adrenaline rush.
  • Distract your muscles. Try doing something physical to release tension and relax your muscles.
    –Allison (voice)

If you are interested in scheduling a trial  lesson or getting more information on our program, please contact us today at 301-365-5888!

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