There is nothing wrong with you. Even regular performers and professionals feel nervous and anxious before a show. It’s part of the process and the journey of being a performing artist. I’ve never spoken to any performer who didn’t feel some anxiety. It just comes with the territory. Having regular shows makes it easier, but there is always some level of nervousness.
As the show date creeps closer you feel the anxiety more intensely and it permeates even the most mundane activities like cooking or cleaning or even washing your face. All of a sudden you are gripped by the terror: oh my god, the show is in __days.
That is usually followed by:
Will I mess up?
Will people think I sound bad?
Will I look stupid?
Will I be ready?
Will I make a fool out of myself?
Will people judge me?
Will I forget everything I’ve worked on?
Will I disappoint myself after all the effort and work I’ve put in?
And those thoughts can easily make you start:
Feeling anxious and losing sleep.
Numbing anxiety with TV, food, drama making, social media, shopping, and other distractions.
Not eating, or not eating well.
Neglecting exercise or avoiding taking walks or connecting with your body.
Getting edgy and easily irritated with other people.
Feeling body tension and tightness and being ‘wound up’.
Having difficulty breathing deeply and exhaling.
You can’t relax.
You kind of want to cancel the show and run away.
Here’s the thing to know:
You’re just scared. That’s all. You’re just scared. Everyone is scared a little bit. It’s ok if you are too.
So what can you do about it? Well first of all, understand yourself and have compassion.
When you perform you are stepping into the unknown. You won’t know what will happen until you get there. No matter how well you prepare, no matter how much you worry about it, you can’t control or plan for or anticipate what will happen. That can feel scary and that can bring on anxious thoughts.
On the flip side, the unknown is also very exciting and it’s what draws you to the stage. It’s fun because you don’t know what’s going to happen.
The truth is that you actually don’t want to control everything about it because if you did, it would be boring and you wouldn’t even want to do because it would lose all beauty and joy and magic.
Yeah, that’s nice Ruth but I’m still freaking out.
I know. I get it. Magic Shmagic.
The best way I have found to best handle anxiety is to accept its existence and to shift my focus from the unknown which I can’t control to the things I can control right now:
1. What I’m thinking.
2. What I’m doing.
And then let go and relax about everything else.
So how do you control your thoughts and actions? With one simple phrase: “Work more, worry less.”
When you are working on your music and doing your due diligence, you will feel more confident and in the zone and therefore worry less and lessen your anxiety.
Worrying serves no purpose except to stress you out and waste your energy. It distracts you from what you need to actually do which is focus and use the remaining days before your show to work on what you need to.
Be smarter than the anxiety. Buckle down and do the work you need to do. Work on that part of the song you always avoid. Slow it down. Work patiently and thoroughly. Do all the stuff you’re scared about. Face every high note and bumpy area. Don’t be afraid to work hard and stretch yourself a little. Obviously don’t hurt your voice, but give all the effort you can now. It’ll pay off. And it really calms anxiety.
Another thing I’ve found that also really helps is to significantly up level your self-care. Make it a priority. Say no to things that drain you, set boundaries, be your own best friend and do what you know you need to do to relax. Most of the time we know what will help we just don’t do it. Pay attention to what you need for your self-care and gift yourself with it. Be large with yourself and get that massage or take a nap, soak in a nice luxurious bath, eat a good meal, have a fabulous nights sleep, meditate, watch an episode of a funny show you like. No one knows what your soul needs better than you, and only you can give it to yourself.
Since you sing from your soul, and music is all about listening listening deeply, responding kindly to yourself pre-show is a really good idea and will make your entire experience so much sweeter.
Lastly, putting yourself out there is scary. It’s helpful to remember why you are doing it in the first place-especially when you’re freaking out.
Hopefully you are performing because you want to.
Because you know in your heart and have always known that you belong on stagesinging, connecting to people and sharing music you are passionate about.
And because it’s when you are on stage that you are your best and highest self.Empowered, free, joyful, courageous, generous, fun and open.
When you focus on what you love about it all, your anxiety won’t have such a hold on you. And you will feel much more centered and ready to shine from the inside out.
Take a few minutes now and write down why you love to perform. Really feel it. Breathe it in and out. Know it. Keep reminding yourself of the fun you’re going to have doing what you love. And have a great show!