In this article, I want to give a bit of insight on what can potentially cause anxiety before performing and share some tips and exercises to help overcome it. Performance anxiety is a natural response that can affect artists of all skill levels. You are not alone. By understanding the underlying causes and implementing effective coping strategies, you can learn to manage and even overcome performance anxiety, allowing your creativity and talent to shine through. Why does it happen though? Here are some things that can trigger it:

Vulnerability and Exposure: Artistic performances can be deeply personal, involving the expression of emotions and inner thoughts. The vulnerability that comes with sharing intimate or meaningful work in a public setting can heighten anxiety and a fear of being emotionally exposed.

Self-Criticism and Perfectionism: You might set high standards for your work and be overly critical of yourself. The fear of not meeting your own expectations or creating something that falls short of your vision can lead to anxiety before and during performances.

Fear of Judgement and Rejection: When you put your work and creative expressions on display, you expose yourself to evaluation by others. The fear of being judged or criticised by audiences, critics, or peers can create anxiety and self-doubt, making it challenging to perform with confidence.

High Stakes and Pressure: You may face pressure to deliver exceptional performances, especially in competitive environments or important events. The weight of expectations, whether self-imposed or external, can contribute to anxiety.

Fear of Mistakes or Failure: Striving for perfection in your craft can lead to a fear of making mistakes or failing to meet your own or others' expectations. The pressure to create a flawless performance can be overwhelming and hinder your ability to fully express yourself.

Lack of Confidence or Self-Belief: Struggling with self-confidence and doubts about your abilities can intensify performance anxiety and make it difficult to showcase your work with conviction.

Previous Negative Experiences: If you’ve had past negative experiences, such as poor performances or critical feedback, you might carry those memories and anxieties into future performances. These experiences can create a fear of repeating past mistakes or facing similar negative outcomes.

Understanding these triggers is the first step towards managing performance anxiety effectively.

Techniques to Manage Performance Anxiety:

Deep Breathing Exercises: Calm your nervous system and reduce anxiety by inhaling deeply through your nose for 8 seconds and exhaling slowly through your mouth for 8 seconds. This can be done backstage or right before going on stage to regulate breathing and promote relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): Reduce stress and anxiety in your body by slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This exercise helps create a sense of relaxation and well-being.

Visualisation and Mental Rehearsal: Visualise yourself performing confidently and successfully. This technique creates a positive mental image of the performance, reducing anxiety and building self-belief.

Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations: Replace negative thoughts with positive and realistic ones. Develop affirmations that focus on your strengths, capabilities, and past successes. Remind yourself of your talent and preparation to boost confidence and reduce anxiety.

Grounding Techniques: Stay present and focused during performances by grounding yourself. Practise techniques like feeling your feet on the floor, sensing the touch of your instrument, or focusing on a specific point in the audience. This shifts attention away from anxiety and into the present moment.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness or meditation practices into your daily routine to cultivate a calm and focused state of mind. This helps manage anxiety during performances.

Pre-Performance Rituals: Establish a pre-performance routine to create a sense of familiarity and control, reducing anxiety. Stretching or listening to calming music can be included in this routine.

Remember, different techniques work better for different individuals, so experiment and find what works best for you. Managing performance anxiety is a process that requires practice and patience. Seek support from professionals if needed.

Cognitive Reframing and Positive Self-Talk:

Cognitive reframing is a powerful tool to change negative thoughts and beliefs about your performance. It involves consciously identifying and challenging negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive and constructive perspectives.

Here's how cognitive reframing works:

Identify Negative Thoughts: Become aware of negative thoughts or self-defeating beliefs related to your performance, such as self-doubt or fear of failure.

Challenge Negative Thoughts: Question the validity and accuracy of those thoughts. Challenge the evidence behind them and consider alternative explanations or perspectives. Reframe mistakes or setbacks as learning opportunities.

Focus on Growth and Learning: Adopt a growth mindset, emphasising that abilities can be developed over time. View mistakes as opportunities for growth and progress.

Keep a Thought Journal: Maintain a thought journal to track negative thoughts and the reframing process. Recognise patterns, monitor progress, and reflect on the effectiveness of reframing techniques.

Remember, cognitive reframing takes practice and consistency. Be patient with yourself and persistently challenge negative thoughts. Over time, it can help you develop a more positive and constructive mindset towards your performances.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." — John Wooden

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