Controlling Performance Anxiety
"A diamond is merely a lump of coal that performs well under pressure." -- Anon
When you're feeling nervous, remember that even the majority of the world's greatest musicians get nervous before a big performance, too!
1. First is the most important thing- know your music inside and out! You need to be the Miss/Mr/Mrs Confident, "I Know What I'm Doing", when playing in front of others.
2. Breathe! Try and take a long, deep, slow breath in, hold it for 5 seconds and imagine all the "butterflies" moving down into your diaphragm, then exhale "letting the butterflies go". Hey, it works for me!
3. The more you play in the spotlight, your brain will send smaller amounts of adrenaline to your body, especially to those trembling hands of yours. Therefore, try and organise little performances in front of friends and family members, just to get used to playing ... In fact, playing in friends can actually more nerve wracking than playing in front of a strange audience! - So, very good performance practice!
4. Avoid drinking caffeine or eating sugary stuff, as caffeine tends to make you more fidgety. Sad but true! A caffeine fix is a definite NO!!
5. Massage your hands before you play.
6. Promoters of 'alternative medicine' suggest eating bananas before performing, because they are said to be natural beta blockers, and help control anxiety. It is certainly true that bananas are high in potassium - an essential mineral that enables the body to boost the excretion of sodium, resulting in decreased blood volume and reduced blood pressure. A boost in potassium level is beneficial for those with anxiety, because when we are under stress, our metabolic rate rises and causes a drop in potassium levels. Bananas also contain tryptophan, a protein which can be converted into seritonin. They also contain a high amount of B vitamins which can aid in calming the nervous system.
7. Try to convince yourself that it isn't such a big, important deal (even if it is). The more you get worked up about it, the harder it will be for you to calm yourself down. You don't need to give yourself more pressure than there already is!
8. Be really conceited! - Well, that really isn't a good way to put it. Just be REALLY confident! Tell yourself that there's no use being afraid because you know you're better than everyone else (even if you're not!). Don't go overboard, but you can't have a low self-esteem if you want to be able to play in front of others.
9. Make sure your hands and your flute are warm! Cold fingers just make the trembling worse, but make sure they don't get too hot either, as sweaty hands make you feel uncomfortable and won't make flute playing any easier for you!
10. Keep in mind that when a person is nervous, the body produces more adrenaline, which makes many people play faster than they normally would. This is a BAD thing for somebody inexperienced, who is likely to "trip up" as a result of playing too fast! Ensure that you have a steady tempo in your mind when you play.
11. Visualize yourself playing it perfectly and amazingly beautifully. You might surprise yourself!
12. Don't play too much before your exam/audition/concert or else you might wear yourself out! Practice makes perfect, but if you're not prepared the day before, playing too much on the day of the event will do nothing other than stress you out more. Take a deep breath, and remember that your audience is on your side! They just want to enjoy your beautiful playing, so you really shouldn't have anything to worry about. :)
© Katie Morgan.