SOME PERFORMANCE ANXIETY MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES by Vicki Eaton, MSW, MRE, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She gave a program for the Northwest Suburban Music Teachers on February 22, 1999.
Step 1. Breathing: As you breathe in, count slowly 1,2,3,4. Hold briefly. Then begin to exhale through your mouth, slowly counting 4,3,2,1. Do this at least three times before proceeding with the next steps.
Step 2. Muscle Relaxation: When relaxing a muscle group, say to yourself things as Relax, unwind, let go. Children respond to this better if you give them a mental picture such as, ask them to make their muscles like a piece of cooked spaghetti.
Step 3. Forming a Mental Image of How You Want to Perform: Recall an old memory of a time when you did very well on something. It doesn’t matter what it was or when it occurred in your life, but it needs to have been a time in which you felt a sense of accomplishment, confidence and competence. Let yourself relive the event by recalling sights, sounds, smells, and kinesthetic memories associated with it. Recall how good it felt to succeed in what you were doing. Recall your very best experience in playing music. See yourself playing in front of an audience with enjoyment and confidence. See it, hear it, and feel it happening in your body. Hold the mental image and ask your body to do whatever it needs to do to produce the image in real life.
Step 4. Encouraging Self Talk: “I have practiced well…I have ability…I choose to breathe slowly and deeply…I choose to believe in myself and in what I am doing…I love playing the piano. Soon it will become comfortable and enjoyable to play in front of an audience.”
Step 5. Repeat steps 1-4 regularly: Before you go to sleep at night is a great time for this. It is important to develop an image in your mind of yourself performing with ease, enjoyment, and confidence. You are literally programming your mind and body to begin to perform the way you want to perform. It takes time to build that up inside your mind and you probably will not see results right away.