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Performance Anxiety Got You Down?

I started writing songs as a kid and found a place and a voice for my feelings in music.

I got a scholarship in college as a composition and piano major.

I really didn’t feel comfortable singing by myself. I froze up every time I opened my mouth, and all that came out in front of people was this whispery, powerless sound. I resigned myself to singing harmony or duets with my old singing buddy, Sean.

Trouble is, when I took my first lyric songwriting course in my first year of college, we had to sing the songs we were working on IN FRONT of people every Friday morning.

So, I woke up every Friday morning sick to my stomach. Like, literally, sick to my stomach. Can anyone relate?

I had a job on campus as a piano accompanist for students in voice lessons for ten hours a week. So, I was literally sitting through ten hours of voice lessons every week. I had NO idea what a blessing THAT was! I approached the teacher I was working for and asked him if he could help me sing. He asked me what my goal was, and I said: “I don’t want to throw up on Friday mornings”. He looked a little shocked, but I was dead serious. Facing my fears at that moment eventually led me to fall in love with singing.

The next fall, I moved to Chicago and found myself performing a cappella in front of a live audience of 2 thousand people three nights in a row.

Everyone experiences anxiety differently.

The Boston singers resource has a great article on performing anxiety that I recommend you take a moment to read. The article states: “Consider your practice room as your laboratory. This is the place you can experiment with new kinds of “self-talk,” with visualization techniques, and can simulate performance situations in your imagination so that “the real thing” goes the way you’d like”.

If you’ve discussed “self-talk” with me at any level, you know that I’m on a mission to shift our focus from the mistakes we “don’t want to make” and substitute that mental energy with a focus upon “the vocal gifts we can’t wait to give”. There’s some neuroscience to support the fact that negative thinking is actually bad for your brain.

Sports psychology has long used something called “mental rehearsal” to prepare athletes to be at their peak performance. In this practice, an athlete walks through all of the sensations of their best performance as a means of preparing the mind for success.

There was a study done with weight lifters. Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, did an experiment that compared the results of people who went to the gym with those who did a mental workout, completely in their heads. While those who went to the gym increased their muscle strength by 30%, those who did mental visualizations of weight training increased their muscle strength by as much as 13.5%. You can read the full article here.

While you can’t just “think about singing” and get great results, how you DO think about singing can significantly change the outcome of your practice.

If the only thing we focus on during our practice is “fixing vocal problems”, aren’t we effectively training ourselves with negative mental practice? We are far more likely to be paralyzed with fear of failure when it comes time to perform if all we have been rehearsing in our minds are the things that we don’t want to do.

On the other hand, if we can mentally practice all of the things we really want to accomplish with our voices, we will be more likely to deliver those things in performance. Simply put, YOUR MINDSET MATTERS.

I hope you get a chance to browse through these free resources.

We have a great workshop scheduled on performance anxiety with Shirley Stratton Dorritie, author of “Performing at the Top of Your Game”, coming up on March 26 from 9:00 am-10:30 am Pacific time.

It’s free for those of you in my studio, and only $29.95 for those of you who want to drop in for the morning. Shirley is a psychotherapist who is a leading performance coach. She enables people to move through their own fears, to achieve the highest level of performance possible.

If you’re interested in registering, send me an email to save your spot.

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