As I’ve written many times before, I struggle with anxiety. Here lately, it’s been a little tougher than usual to get me up on stage. I learned some pretty interesting things last week at a performance in Washington DC I’d love to share with you.
The performance was for a charity banquet at a big hotel in DC. I knew we’d be performing 3 songs for about 1,000 people (political types:). 3 songs – 15 minutes, not too intimidating for someone whose played for lots more people and for a lot longer than 15 minutes, right? Well, my brain didn’t see it that way. We walked into the lobby outside of the banquet hall and here come sweaty palms and racing pulse. We were supposed to sit at one of the beautifully decorated tables with 10 strangers, have dinner with them and then perform an hour later. I sat down to do so, but couldn’t sit still so I excused myself and began pacing, pacing, pacing outside in the lobby, for an hour. The people coming and going to the restrooms became familiar with me because I looked like someone there to tell people where the restrooms were. I gave a lot of directions that night.
While making trenches in the carpet with my feet, I tried hard to reason with myself. “Leigh, you’ve done this a thousand times before, you can do this”. The more panicked I became, I started to actually take a threatening tone to myself “Leigh, DON’T do this, you’re being ridiculous”…these were thoughts by the way, I wasn’t talking to myself! I was seconds from texting our manager to say I was sick and couldn’t get on stage when the steely side of me kicked in and I decided I’d been braver about bigger things and that I was going to place my mind above this matter. I walked inside right before the introduction, took my place next to Matt and we walked up on stage. And guess what? I almost instantly felt like I was in my living room. It was absurdly simple because yes, I’d done this a thousand times before. Muscle memory or something like it, kicked in and I kicked all that fear to the proverbial curb.
Did you know that singing elevates the levels of neurotransmitters that are associated with well-being? All along, my body had no intention of letting me pass out up there and succumb to my fear. My brain was working overtime to warn me about something I had already figured out.
Keep this in mind next time you panic about a performance! Ignore that brain monster that says you can’t, you won’t or you shouldn’t (at least when it comes to stage fright) and get up there and succeed. Change your brain’s language to positives, and you’ll be much happier in general.
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