Musician performance anxiety (MPA) is the anxiety and panic caused by the negative thought of performing.
The German University of Paderborn found that nearly ⅓ of all orchestra musicians suffer from stage fright, or musician performance anxiety (MPA) and 13% of them said their symptoms are severe, yet they seldom mention it because it might hurt their opportunities. There are several things you can do to prevent your nerves from progressing out of control.
Some common symptoms include:
- Racing pulse and rapid breathing
- Dry mouth and tight throat
- Trembling hands, knees, lips, and voice
- Sweaty and cold hands
- Nausea and an uneasy feeling in your stomach
- Vision change
While you may assume performance anxiety is relatively rare, it’s actually one of the most commonly reported symptoms among all social fears. According to a Gallup poll, about 40% of U.S. adults in suffer from stage fright to some degree. Here are several things you can do to prevent your nerves from progressing out of control.
1. Keep track of your routine before stressful performances.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol consumption.
- Stay hydrated.
- Sleep on schedule for a focused mind.
2. Learn to accept nervousness.
- Figure out your symptoms of performance anxiety.
- Channel it into the music.
- Start to practice performing with that extra energy.
3. Be prepared.
- Do a mock dress rehearsal with family and friends.
- Feeling prepared always boosts confidence.
- Learn breath techniques to calm your nerves.
4. Try VR treatment
- VR treatment imitates realistic 360-degree visual immersion into a given performance situation.
- The virtual performance will help desensitize the psycho-physiological activation that produces symptoms of anxiety.
5. Stay positive
- Avoid self-doubt
- Think your audience as your friends
- Shift your fear to enjoyment by imaging cheering audience
The take-away message is that MPA is treatable—with or without beta-blockers—but it’s important to acknowledge it and cope with it.
However, musicians with severe and persistent MPA need to prioritize finding the best treatment for themselves. MPA can become worse if it’s not properly treated.
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