It's no secret that anxiety can be one of the biggest inhibitors to having a great experience in singing. We've all been there...
*The Sweaty Palms
* Weird hard swallow thing where your voice just kinda stops
* rapid breathing
*Dry mouth & throat
*Shortness of breath
You get the picture... and I bet your tummy is turning just thinking about it.
Take a second and feel what's happening in your jaw. I guarantee it's clenched just reading the list of effects that anxiety can bring.
Before I go on, I have to give the obligatory disclaimer that I am not a therapist, and can't replace one - But! These are emotions and challenges that I deal with on a daily basis both as a voice coach & as a performer, myself and have had much experience and training on the matter that I can share with each of you!
So here we go!
Anxiety is similar to fear.. but it's more complex.
Fear is associated with a real, concrete, identifiable threat that you can perceive with your 5 senses.
If you can SEE a Lion about to eat you, so you run away... you are experiencing FEAR.
But ANXIETY, is dealing with a threat that may be unseen, unexpressed, or unidentifiable. The threat is not present physically. It is a mental block that prevents you from moving forward with a certain action.
In daily life, generalized anxiety may disrupt our daily activities with a constant sense of forgetting something, a foreboding feeling, and a nervous jitter that ranges from mild discomfort to complete inability to function normally.
It's important to remember that EVERYONE at some point in their lives will face both FEAR & ANXIETY!
You are not "lesser" or "weird" for experiencing these emotions.
So now that i've got you worked up... here's a couple quick things that can help you deal with your anxious emotions.
First. Let's do a scan.
close your eyes. (well first read the instructions, then do all of this)
Imagine a print scanner (you know that thing you used to scan your face and print pictures of) Imagine that light scanning from the top of your head down to the bottom of your toes.
As that scanner moves through each of the parts of your body - say out loud what you are feeling.
Example: I have some brainfog, rushing thoughts. My jaw is clenched and my tongue feels tight. My neck and shoulders are heavy. I have a little pit in my stomach. My hands are sort of tingly. my thighs and feet are also tingly.
4. Once you have felt these things, name the emotion you think those feelings may be trying to inform you of.
This is a feeling of __________.
Example: my tummy is twisting, my palms are sweaty, my neck and jaw are tight. This is a feeling of fear & sadness.
5. Take a nice DEEP breath and let it out very slowly.
By doing this exercise, you will find yourself a little bit more calm and able to make a more rational judgement of your situation you are in. With that mindful moment, you will be able to distinguish between FEAR (a tangible threat) and Anxiety (an intangible threat).
Emotions are just information. They are your body's way of letting you know something is going on. Your brain is constantly scanning for threats so that it can protect you. Sometimes our brains do a little too good of a job at alerting you of danger! So be aware that not everything you think is true.
Let me say that again...
JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE THOUGHT DOESN'T MEAN IT IS TRUE.
With the information your body is giving you, you will be able to examine what IS, not just what you think. With that reality check, you'll be able to better respond to your situation.
Let me give you an example I had with a recent student of mine :
We'll call my student Lindsay.
Lindsay was auditioning for a group she really wanted to be in. All of her girl friends were in the group and she was really excited for the songs they were planning on performing that year. Lindsay had a beautiful voice. She was still working on some old singing habits that weren't serving her voice properly, but on the whole was sounding really good and was feeling generally confident in her singing and in her progress.
As the audition date got closer, Lindsay's attitude changed. Her body language became more closed, she was visably tense, and began having problems in her voice caused by tension.
In a lesson setting, Lindsay did a body scan. She noticed a lot of brain fog, really clenched jaw and fists, tummy turning, tingly thighs & feet.
As she scanned her body, she realized she was feeling anger, fear, and sadness.
She took a deep breath and opened her eyes.
When I asked her about each of these emotions - she shared that her anger was the thought that she may not have practiced as much as she wanted to over the past few weeks and wishing that she had done some things differently to better prepare.
Her fear was that if she didn't make the group and all of her other friends did, she would be rejected from her group of friends and looked down on for not making it.
Her sadness came from her self-bashing, preemptively not feeling good enough as if she had already not made the group.
As we dissected her thoughts - we realized many of them were actually false assumptions.
Does low practice hours in the past necessarily mean failure in the future? No! With some diligent practice, she could still master the necessary skills for nailing her audition. While she may not have known the song as well as she could have by that point, she had been practicing skills her whole singing career so far that would help her be able to deal with whatever the audition threw at her that day.
Her prior assumption was FALSE.
Does not making a group mean end of social interactions? No! Just because you don't make the group doesn't mean you can't be friends with those who do! You can have friends that aren't tied to a certain program or group! And who's to say that your friends are all going to make it and you wont? This is a prejudgement of a situation - you can't make an analysis until you have results!
From her sadness we learned that in an effort to not feel a blow when she didn't make it, she was giving her the blow ahead of time.
But does playing small make you more likely to get in? NO!!! it's just preparing yourself for failure! What if instead, lindsay had focused all of her energy into celebrating her strengths, the things she had already learned and getting excited for the opportunity to learn, grow and sing again.
Her attitude would have totally changed.
By believing every thought she had, lindsay had become stuck. Often times, it takes a detailed look into what our body is trying to tell us to realize that our thoughts may not be correct.
When you zoom out and look at the situation from a wider perspective, you can see what thinking errors you may be having that are triggering that emotional response.
Well... I bet you're wondering what happened with Lindsay.
Lindsay went into her audition and it wasn't perfect. She got distracted by some unforeseen circumstances and didn't do her very best. She still was asked to come to callbacks and was able to sing with her friends and have a good time at the callback setting. She had a great time meeting new people, learning new music and just enjoying herself doing the things she loved to do best- perform!
Lindsay didn't end up making the group. All of her girl friends who had been in the group previously were still in.
When I asked Lindsay what she had learned from the experience - she had this to say:
" I realized that performing really is a gift. It's what I love to do! Instead of worrying about losing my friends at the audition if they all made it and I didn't, I focused on having fun with them and making memories AT the audition. They were all already in the group before, and I wasn't and we were still friends! Sure, I feel jealous that they'll get to have experiences that I won't. But i'll get to have my own experiences and do what I love in different settings. It wasn't a perfect audition, but that doesn't mean I'm a bad singer or not meant to perform. It just means that situation wasn't the right fit for me right now. The right opportunity, with the right friends will come along when I'm ready."
And wouldn't you know it! Just a few weeks later, she ended up auditioning for a community theater show. It wasn't as glamorous or as flashy as the group she had wanted to be in, but she ended up getting a really great part in that show and making a whole new group of friends that she wouldn't have had if she had made that performing group. She stayed friends with the girls in the group, and though she wasn't with them all the time, they remained friends! She was genuinely happy for their good experiences and though she was jealous from time to time she recognized all of the good opportunities she was also having that maybe they weren't at that time. She was also able to discover a new hobby of music recording in the extra time that she had because she didn't have as rigorous of rehearsals. Music recording is now one of her biggest passions... one she wouldn't have had probably if she had made the group!
So you see, if we believe every thought we have... we live in a state of fear & anxiety. If we listen to our bodies information system ... our emotions, and we find the thinking errors we may have our performance and life journeys are so much smoother.
This will definitely not be the last post on this subject - but there's a start. :)