How to care for the human who makes the music
Performance anxiety does not discriminate. You can be in a top tier orchestra, taking a college audition or playing your first piano recital. The grip of stage fright descends - shaky hands, sweaty palms, shallow breath, defeating self-talk - and hijacks that very important performance that you have been working so hard for. Weeks of work, potentially hundreds of dollars if you’ve paid for travel and lodging, gone in an instant.
As performers, we need to actively implement strategies to meaningfully build a foundation of calm well being.
We need to retrain our bodies and minds that when we step on stage we are stepping into the fullness of who we are, not a lion’s den from which we need to run.
It is critical that we take this mental training as seriously as our technical preparation. Or we will forever be in the grips of anxiety and never communicate our voice freely and confidently.
Daily Grounding Practice
This foundation comes from a daily grounding practice. We need to invest meaningful time every day to bolster our belief of our inherent worthiness.
The thing that is so beautiful about a grounding practice is that is looks different for every person. Each of us has a different orientation, personality, wiring and it requires personal experimentation to discover which practices are most effective for you. We are not one size fits all and neither will our grounding practices be.
That being said, there is plenty of evidence that any one of the strategies I list below would be a strong jumping off point for you to develop your own grounding practice.
5 Grounding Practices
1. Journaling Journaling helps take the scramble in our heads and hearts and organize it on the page. It helps you feel grounded in your feelings and more seen by the most important person - you!
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that my Morning Pages have become a lifeline back to myself. Where I once was lost in darkness, unsure of my path or my purpose, I now have clarity and peace.
Next to working with a coach, my Morning Pages are the most powerful tool I have to dream and make those dreams come true.
2. Gratitude A robust gratitude practice retrains our brains to look for the positive, both small and large. It helps develop resiliency to challenges you encounter by equipping you to see the beautiful, the small, the everyday and celebrate it.
When your orientation shifts from looking at what is wrong to looking for what is lovely, you will find the universe bursting with moments for you to delight in.
3. Movement When we move our bodies through yoga, walking, running, biking - whatever! - our body itself is able to process feelings and release them while we receive feel good hormones to improve our mood and outlook.
When I was in middle school I remember having some pretty bang-out fights with my parents (and as a parent of a tween right now, I get it - oof!). I would go to swim team for a couple hours and come back so relaxed, calm, resolved - having completely forgotten about whatever it was that had my panties in a bunch.
Sometimes we don’t need to hash through the feelings, navel-gazing ourselves to death. We can simply move our bodies and allow the feelings to resolve themselves.
4. Meditation A practice of accepting the present moment, of acknowledging thoughts and feelings, and then releasing them. The idea of meditation is all over popular culture right now. RIght?
But I wanted to share about my dad. He has been practicing meditation and mindfulness WAY before it became culturally relevant. And meditation has changed him from the inside out. Really! I have seen fundamental aspects of his personality shift toward oneness and peace. And every performer who struggles with anxiety could use more of that!
5. Community When we build a community of loved ones, it supports us emotionally and shows us that there is something bigger that we are a part of. When you have a tough lesson, call on your community for support and encouragement. When you are scared about a concert, load that audience up with your personal cheerleaders.
We are pack creatures. We NEED a tribe. And as much as I love Simon and Garfunkel we are neither a rock nor an island. We are soft humans who need to be encircled with safety and love.
The Key is Consistency
The key to an effective grounding practice is to pursue it daily. How many of us have journaled for a week, or dabbled in meditation? Me, for sure.
It wasn’t until I found a grounding practice that was suited to my personality and life space that I was able to pursue it every day. It is my favorite part of my day, the time where I align body, mind and spirit, the time where I see myself, love myself for who I am, and build dreams for my future.
A grounding practice is a slow burn. As musicians, we get that. We understand repetition, effort, patience.
In that way, we are well suited to developing a grounding practice that is sustainable and effective. We are primed to implement this tool in a truly life changing way.
As you go through your week, I encourage you to pick a tool listed above and pursue it every day for a few weeks and see how you feel. I'll be up at the crack of dawn writing in my journal with ya.
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.
First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!
Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.
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.