The things mothers have taught every generation will help you … and your playing
There is some wisdom that is universally true and has been a part of our cultural consciousness for eons. And for good reason! It may not be sexy, it may not be revolutionary, but it is one hundred percent foundational to being a successful, productive human.
While it might be fun to play your favorite pieces for the majority of your practice sessions, every classical musician understands that diligent time Must be spent refining the fundamentals. Sound, dynamics, color, articulation, even technique, intervals, intonation, and on and on and on. It is work that equips you to make the music in your head come out of your instrument.
The wisdom we’re talking about today is kind of like that. Fundamentals for being a human. These are the simple actions we can take that support our bodies, our minds, and our spirits.
When the vessel that the music is made from is healthy and nourished, there will be increased productivity, resilience, and creativity.
These actions will provide an internal buoyancy while supporting you in the beautiful and challenging work of making music.
However, these actions are also the first we allow to slip when stress or anxiety creeps in. And, just like your mom told you when you don’t take care of yourself, everything else becomes much more difficult. While you don’t need to perfectly implement these actions (we believe in balance, not perfection here at The Musician’s Mindset!), relatively consistent habits in each of the following areas will absolutely serve your overall mindset.
And you know what that means … better performances!
Daily Movement (with added bonus points for being outdoors in nature)
Our bodies are designed to move within space. Walking, dancing, playing, squatting, swimming, or stretching are simple, natural ways to activate your physical being. We have been taught that movement happens in a gym on a machine. While that certainly can be one method we use for movement, all your body really needs is nothing more than an internal desire to get moving along with, possibly, some music or a trail in your neighborhood park. When you find movement you enjoy, the pleasure of the experience is heightened AND your sensitivity to finding joy in other aspects of your life also increases. Your levels of dopamine rise, blood flow to the brain increases, your heart becomes more efficient, and your mood is lifted. Win, win, win!
When I was in college, I used to pride myself on never getting more than 6 hours of sleep a night. Staying up late with friends, going to practice at 7:30am … it gave me a sense of pride and purpose. Little did I know that my practice sessions would have been much more efficient if I weren’t groggy and unfocused and that I didn’t need the caffeine jitters to keep me on my toes during afternoon orchestra rehearsals. Culture tells us to push the limits and medicate with caffeine. It is simply not a winning strategy.
When we value sleep and create meaningful space for it within our day, our quality of life improves. We have better concentration, activated creativity, resilience to challenges, perspective, better control over our mindset, and enhanced productivity… This is what we need as musicians! Move toward creating a consistent sleep routine - whether that is as simple as a regular sleep and wake-up time or is more elaborate including evening meditation, bath, and stretching. Whatever you need to get the sleep your body deserves.
Feed your body real food. Food that grows in the ground, food that is as close to its natural form as it can be. Whatever that looks like for you - vegan, paleo, Mediterranean, it doesn’t matter to me. Just chose to give your body nutrient-dense fuel that balances your blood sugar and keeps your energy level even. Being a musician is like being an athlete and our physical and mental output thrives when our bodies are fueled with nourishing food. Eat your greens. Drink lots of water. You can do this.
Remember the end of summer break when you were a kid? You were bored, cranky, not wanting school to start, and also not wanting to be stuck at home watching Goonies again on HBO. Daily rhythms give us a built-in structure through which we can walk through our days. And while your work schedule may dictate the level of flexibility you can have in your routine, a gentle order to your day provides your mind with stability and predictability.
When you know what to expect within your day, you are relieved from having to make an excessive amount of decisions. We have a set amount of decisions we can make throughout a day - that’s why decision fatigue can be so taxing! Choose to save your decision making energy for things that matter - artistic choices in your concerto, how best to share feedback with a colleague, or actively listening to the recording you just made - and let the simple choices of what to eat for breakfast or when to go for a walk be baked into your daily schedule. No deciding required.
Listen to your mom and all the moms that have come before her and implement these healthy habits. Great art does not come from stressed-out, exhausted humans. Give your body and mind fuel so that your creativity and imagination can soar.
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.