Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach before you sing in front of audience? Started sweating? Worried that someone will judge your singing like Simon Cowell judges singing contestants? You’re not alone. Depending on the study you read, between 17% and a whopping 60% of musicians experience stage fright which is also called performance anxiety. No two people experience the same cluster of performance anxiety symptoms – everyone is unique. But there are some symptoms people have in common.
Let’s break it down. The symptoms of performance anxiety fall into four broad categories: emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological.
Emotional reactions include feelings of fear, dread, or worry about being judged harshly. Behavioral symptoms include things like your posture or your vocal technique. For example, fear and anxiety can get in the way of you hitting those awesome high notes. Forgetting words, being unable to focus on the other musicians, and being a perfectionist are some examples of cognitive (or thinking) symptoms. Finally, physiological responses can include a racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, sweating, and dry mouth (HORRIBLE for vocalists). As you can see, these symptoms are all interrelated – thoughts of being judged harshly leads to fear which can cause a pit in the stomach and muscle tension that impacts your ability to do that awesome run. Then your performance suffers and your fears get worse – its a vicious cycle!
One of the things you need to understand is how the body responds to stress. The part of your nervous system that controls the fight or flight reaction is responsible for the body symptoms you experience. Way back when humans faced real dangers – saber tooth tigers lurking around the corner, the neighboring clan of cave people coming to beat the snot out of you – the body jacked itself up to either run like hell or kick some butt. Unfortunately, that reaction really isn’t helpful in most stressful situations that modern humans face.
So what’s a singer to do?
Stay tuned! We will cover that in next week’s blog entry.
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