Last week I opened up for the first time about my struggles with performance anxiety. Thank you for all the messages you've sent with your experiences with performance anxiety, it's always great to hear you're not alone. This week I want to conclude this chapter with the last three points that I've found hugely helpful during my development. Again keep the comments, suggests and responses coming through.
4. Ask for help
This is crucial. Many of us hate to say the words "I have performance anxiety" or "help!". It can sometimes make us feel like we've failed or we're less than par. In reality it doesn't mean that at all. Some of the most incredible performers of our time have anxiety, doesn't make them failures. So be brave and ask for help combating it. I emailed counsellors for sessions and that was a big step but I started to get a real boost when I started asking for help from college staff. I went to performance and programming and told them I was trying to combat my nerves and if anyone dropped out last minute I'd love to perform. I also opened up to my head of department who then knew exactly what additional feedback to give during masterclasses and performance classes which proved invaluable. Asking for this didn't give me special treatment with getting opportunities but it meant that when I did, it became like teamwork to get my performance anxiety managed.
For Christmas last year my Mum gave me an affirmation stone. I'll admit when I got it, I thought it was sweet but I was sceptical whether it would help. I think we both were but my performance anxiety was worrying her as much as me so as I've said before, we were throwing the book at it. To my surprise, this little stone has become my safety blanket. Back in the UK it lived in whatever coat I was wearing so that I could always (mostly subconsciously) rub it when my mind was running away with itself. Here in a none-coat-wearing climate it lives in my purse. In April, my therapist suggested I come up with a saying, something that I repeat until I'm calm and focused for the performance. I naturally ended up basing it around my stone. The stone says "I believe in myself". My saying before I go on stage? "I am safe, I am loved, I believe in myself". It turned out to be the best present I ever received. You don't have to have a stone; a popular idea is to write your affirmations on a mirror in your room and whilst you're getting ready each morning you read them aloud to yourself. Your affirmation can be anything, it just has to make you feel relaxed and a little bit more confident facing the audience outside.
6. You Do You
Stealing words from Sarah Knight here but it's true. These are five things that have helped me. Maybe you'll read them, have done all of them and they've not worked, or you think they're rubbish suggestions. That's not the point of the blog. The point of this was to give you just an honest insight about what's helped me and let me be clear, I'm not "fixed". Just last week I had a complete mare about a piece I was recording but this time I was able to pick myself up and dust myself off quicker and with more self-respect than on previous occasions. Keep trying everything you can, it is going to take multiple attempts and it's going to take a while to unlearn self-destructive processes. Just do you, go at your own pace and do it as many times as possible until you start to feel better.
This is a journey, be kind to yourself.