How the classical musician can activate their body to shift their thoughts
You are in the midst of a frustrating practice session… Or perhaps you're in a giant warmup room with dozens of other musicians before an audition… Or maybe you’re recording for a competition and you’re not performing the way you know you can…
These are situations that require a mental reset. You need a quick way to knock your nervous system out of anxiety and into a balanced state.
Here are twelve ways to reset your mind in 5 minutes or less. (HINT: None of them involve pulling out your phone and looking at social media. Just saying…)
Splash cold water on your face. We have a mammalian diving reflex which is a psychological response to immersion in cold water. When triggered, your heart rate slows, your blood is redirected to your internal organs, and your nervous system resets taking you from anxiety to calm.
Step outside. The change in temperature, the sun, the touch of the wind, looking at trees, and hearing birdsong - all of these things help lower your blood pressure, improve your mood, and increase your ability to focus.
Deep breathing exercise. In for four, hold for four, out for four, hold for four. Diaphragmatic breathing activates your vagus nerve which signals to your brain that there is no need to be in fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Jumping jacks. A short burst of aerobic exercise will energize your body, refocus your brain, and improve your mood.
Write an affirmation. The act of putting pencil to paper and repetitively writing something positive and true draws a connection between your head and your heart. It solidifies the belief that you can do what is set before you.
Yoga pose or stretch. When we unlock the tension in our bodies through breath and stretching, we release the tension in our minds.
Speak your mantra. Activate your vocal chords and speak your mantra out loud for five minutes. It will align you with your truth and support your efforts on the instrument.
Play something you love. We all have that piece that makes our heart sing and makes us feel amazing on the instrument. Play it. Feel it. Let all that beauty soak in and remind you of your big picture.
Text some loved ones and let them know you need encouragement. You have a community, use it! There is power in asking for what you need and receiving it. You don’t have to do this all on your own. Embrace the pep talk and let other people lift you up.
Forced laughter. While you might start off feeling silly, you will 100% be genuinely laughing within 5 minutes. Your spirits will be lifted, you’ll have tears running down your face, and you’ll be ready to tackle the next challenge.
Sing along to your favorite song. I’m talking a pump you up, high-energy song that makes you feel like you can do ANYTHING. Sing along - Loud.
Hug. Your pet, a friend, or a pillow. Your brain releases oxytocin - the cuddle hormone - which lowers your anxiety and calms your nervous system. Chances are, someone else needs a hug, too!
Sometimes we can’t think our way through a problem, situation, or feeling. We have to MOVE our way through it by activating our heart, our muscles, or our breathing.
Twelve simple actions to take that will bring you into a new mindset. You do not have to stay stuck. You've got this.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset, we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.