Social Anxiety Disorder is a condition in which people fear what their peers, family members and friends might think about them. In this situation we are dealing with a form of social anxiety for musicians known as performance anxiety or stage fright.
The fact is everyone experiences performance anxiety. I heard a story about the TV personality Johnny Carson who had been on the Tonight Show for 25 years. He had problems with his heart so they hooked a heart monitor up to his chest to see when he experiences a change in his heart rate. Before the curtains opened his heart rate was normal but when the curtain raised his heart rate climbed over twice the normal amount. Imagine still having the anxiety after being on TV for 25 years. This articles aim isnt to be taken as cure for stage fright but it will hopefully reduce it dramatically.
Below is a list of ways to reduce the feeling of stage fright:
- Accept that you are going to have some level of anxiety. As in the story about Johnny Carson had been on tv for 25 years and still experienced levels of anxiety
- Do not think about messing up-fact is everyone messes up no matter how professional they are.
- Get rid of perfectionist thinking- no one is perfect all you can do is all you can do
- Do not resist looking at the audience-Not looking at your audience causes a pattern of avoidance and avoidance causes even more anxiety
- Do not try to “feel” certain emtions when you play just let it happen
- Do not try to psyche yourself up as this creates even more anxiety because you are still resisting the feeling of anxiety
- Accept that people might make negative remarks- You dont want it to happen but you cannot stop people from being negative Do not resist the remarks and do not think of ways of getting back at them for saying negative remarks it just causes lots of distress
- Accept that not everyone is going to like your type of music
- Do not think that everyone there is to see you fail. Do you think that when people pay $70 to see Metallica they are there to see them fail? Of course not those people are there to see them play.
- Do not make fun of someone else if they feel anxious or make mistakes this only means that you feel people are going to be judgemental of you
- Be your own best friend by not being so hard on yourself. Alot of people get in the habit of saying they are their own worst critique. STOP THIS NOW!!! BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND instead.
- The main points are to not resist what happens. Let go of whatever emotions you may feel.
In the event you still experience panic attacks or any other serious forms of anxiety please seek professional help.
Affirmations are a good way to install good self talk to help block out some negative thoughts or doubts you might have
One of the affirmations i use starts with “It Might Be True” For instance
“It might be true that people might make negative remarks but i will still maintain my peace”
“It might be true that i might feel anxiety but so does everyone else”
“It might be true that i might make a mistake but i still love myself regardless”
The key here is accepting what is which allows you to stay in the present because avoidance only causes more anxiety. Avoidance does not let you stay in the present moment. Ever played a show and you experienced a feeling as if you werent there.
Examine areas where you are avoiding the present moment when you perform. Are you trying to “feel” emotions because you dont want to feel anxious? Are you avoiding looking at the crowd because you feel anxious?
These tactics can be used in any form of areas that you might experience anxiety. If you play sports or a public speaker these will also work.
Accept what happens
Treat yourself lovingly even though you make mistakes or feel anxiety
Treat others lovingly even though they make mistakes
And most of all enjoy yourself. After all music is supposed to be enjoyable
There is a method that you can use called the Linden Method that you can use to cure your anxiety. For more information see the Ad on the side.