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Perfomance Anxiety

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  • Mark Cipra
    I teach a class called Frighted Out of Fear: Managing Performance Anxiety , and I m always looking for more techniques and anecdotes. Here are the topic areas
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 2, 2011
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      I teach a class called "Frighted Out of Fear: Managing Performance Anxiety",
      and I'm always looking for more techniques and anecdotes. Here are the topic
      areas I cover, and I'd welcome any thoughts these kick off, either here - if
      you think it would be of general interest - or privately at
      cipram@...

      *****
      Who gets it? Many, many performers; athletes; speech-makers, (me)

      Symptoms

      Medical background: Fight or Flight, role of body chemicals

      Dealing with it: medically; through body-control exercises (tai chi, yoga);
      through rehearsal and practice; many techniques performers use. Controlling
      and using the tension.

      *****
      Your thoughts would be appreciated.


      Llywelyn Glyndwr (Mark Cipra)
      __
      "Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself
      up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration." Steve Martin
    • Justinos Tekton called Justin
      ... Deep breathing is a very useful technique to control stress. When I trained as an EMT back in the 1990s, one interesting thing we learned was that one
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 2, 2011
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        On Wed, 2011-03-02 at 07:46 -0500, Mark Cipra wrote:
        > Your thoughts would be appreciated.


        Deep breathing is a very useful technique to control stress. When I
        trained as an EMT back in the 1990s, one interesting thing we learned
        was that one reason for giving supplemental oxygen to trauma patients,
        even if they were breathing normally, is that there are physiological
        benefits to breaking the stress cycle.

        What happens in the body is this: Your blood O2 level is just *slightly*
        low. Your body reacts by feeling just slightly suffocated, but not
        enough to register as such on a conscious level. Breathing increases in
        rate but perhaps not in depth, so you don't really get more O2 into the
        tissues. This is one reason why anxiety is an early sign of after injury
        -- the patient is reacting to the lowered blood O2 saturation (which
        could for instance be due to blood loss, or to poor breathing as a
        result of pain, etc.), but not on a conscious level realizing what the
        cause of their anxiety is.

        From a performer's standpoint, then, deep, relaxed breathing is a more
        efficient air exchange, allowing the lungs to do a better job of
        swapping O2 and CO2, thereby reducing the body's subconscious, vague
        feeling of "something wrong" that it can't really identify.

        This phenomenon is also one of the reasons why almost every first aid
        course contains phrases like "calm and reassure the patient". You break
        the vicious cycle of anxiety leading to poor air exchange leading to
        more anxiety, and you help prevent shock.

        Justin

        --
        ()xxxx[]::::::::::::::::::> <::::::::::::::::::[]xxxx()
        Maistor Justinos Tekton called Justin (Scott Courtney)
        Gules, on a bezant a fleam sable and on a chief dovetailed Or two keys
        fesswise reversed sable.

        justin@... http://4th.com/sca/justin/
      • Justinos Tekton called Justin
        ... That should read, early sign of shock after injury . -- ()xxxx[]::::::::::::::::::
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 2, 2011
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          On Wed, 2011-03-02 at 17:32 -0500, Justinos Tekton called Justin wrote:
          > This is one reason why anxiety is an early sign of after injury

          That should read, "early sign of shock after injury".

          --
          ()xxxx[]::::::::::::::::::> <::::::::::::::::::[]xxxx()
          Maistor Justinos Tekton called Justin (Scott Courtney)
          Gules, on a bezant a fleam sable and on a chief dovetailed Or two keys
          fesswise reversed sable.

          justin@... http://4th.com/sca/justin/
        • Mathurin Kerbusso
          ... Our lizard brain tells us that to look into another s eyes -- other than close friends and family -- is a challenge. So when we do it, even when we know
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 2, 2011
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            Mark Cipra wrote:

            > Your thoughts would be appreciated.

            Our lizard brain tells us that to look into another's eyes -- other than
            close friends and family -- is a challenge. So when we do it, even when we
            know there is no danger, the R-complex starts the flight-or-fight
            sequence.

            A trick I was taught mumble mumble years ago, that has been successful for
            me, and that I include whenever I teach a class on performance, is "power
            points". (And, yes, that is where the name for the presentation software
            came from) The idea is simple; pick four points in the audience, in an
            approximate rectangle that is within within its bounds but near the
            periphery. Scan constantly between those four points, in different
            patterns. You never directly look into anyone's eyes, but everyone in the
            audience believes you have made direct eye contact with them.

            We are simple creatures, easily fooled. :-)

            --
            Mathurin
            "Non nobis solum"
          • Sharon Vasquez
            ooh, love the power points suggestion--easily fooled for them or for me, still love it. Thanks, Gillian ________________________________ From: Mathurin
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 3, 2011
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              ooh, love the "power points" suggestion--easily fooled for them or for me, still love it.
              Thanks,
              Gillian


              From: Mathurin Kerbusso <mathurin@...>
              To: SCA_BARDS@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wed, March 2, 2011 4:49:46 PM
              Subject: Re: [SCA_BARDS] Perfomance Anxiety

               


              Mark Cipra wrote:

              > Your thoughts would be appreciated.

              Our lizard brain tells us that to look into another's eyes -- other than
              close friends and family -- is a challenge. So when we do it, even when we
              know there is no danger, the R-complex starts the flight-or-fight
              sequence.

              A trick I was taught mumble mumble years ago, that has been successful for
              me, and that I include whenever I teach a class on performance, is "power
              points". (And, yes, that is where the name for the presentation software
              came from) The idea is simple; pick four points in the audience, in an
              approximate rectangle that is within within its bounds but near the
              periphery. Scan constantly between those four points, in different
              patterns. You never directly look into anyone's eyes, but everyone in the
              audience believes you have made direct eye contact with them.

              We are simple creatures, easily fooled. :-)

              --
              Mathurin
              "Non nobis solum"


            • Hilla Hamasdohtor
              I used to get terrible performance anxiety. My mouth would go dry, my body would shake, my heart would pound. Nowadays I don t have as much of an issue with
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 3, 2011
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                I used to get terrible performance anxiety. My mouth would go dry, my
                body would shake, my heart would pound. Nowadays I don't have as much of
                an issue with it, but I still experience it from time to time,
                especially when performing a new song, at a huge feast, with Royals there...

                I have a few techniques that I use to deal with this anxiety. I'll try
                not to be too windy-wordy.

                1. Embrace the feeling. Get comfortable with that adrenaline rush, and
                welcome it as a positive thing. Anxiety feeds on anxiety. We get more
                anxious trying to get rid of the feeling, to avoid it. In time you'll
                get to your own comfort level. Instead of being anxious, be excited.
                2. Bring the audience into your world. I teach this in my Bardic Arts
                for Beginners classes. If you are able, introduce yourself and the song.
                This helps you and the audience to be in the same 'world', as it were.
                It's also creating a psychological space where it's perfectly right to
                perform.
                3. "Soft Focus". There is a reason I don't wear contacts when I am
                performing. I can make a certain level of eye-contact, but not an
                overwhelming amount. I can let my visual focus go fuzzy, so that I can
                read them and yet keep things to a bit of an anonymous blur if I get too
                nervous. Choose the level of interaction you will allow.
                4. Props / tactile stimulation. I have my staff. It is wonderful for
                keeping a beat, and it can be used to create emotion within the song.
                Bit it has another purpose. The tactile stimulation helps deflect the
                focus on anxiety and back onto the singing where it belongs. It's kind
                of like someone who is lost in being scared or sad and someone else
                takes their hands or hugs them. Though the other feelings don't vanish,
                the spiral of emotion feeding on emotion is broken and the mind can
                focus on something else. A staff works well. So do beads. Anything you
                can hold in a hand. Barring anything else, slapping your thigh with your
                open palm is a decent substitute.
                5. Practice. Someone else also mentioned this. The more you perform, the
                less frightening it gets.
                6. Embrace the failure. I forgot the words to a song I wrote in the
                middle of my singing it during a feast. My mind went completely blank. I
                coped with that and just made a comment to the crowd, rather humorous,
                and sang something else. Since then, well, I figure, it can't really get
                much worse, so what's there to be nervous about? Get comfortable with
                the eventuality of screwing up and it gets a lot less scary.
                7. Aromatherapy. Sometimes a lavender sachet or a dab of lavender oil
                can help. Substitute whatever soothing scent works for you.
                8. Booze. I'm not advocating getting drunk here. But if you're not a
                minor and it's not a dry site, if all else fails, a small portion of
                wine, ale, beer, or mead can be comforting. barring the booze, chamomile
                or mint tea also can be soothing.

                I think that's pretty much it. Hope it helps.

                Yours in service,
                Hilla
              • Mark Cipra
                I wanted to say an intermim thanks to everyone for the replies so far. Some of this I already have in my course, of course, but some of it s new, and all of it
                Message 7 of 9 , Mar 3, 2011
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                  I wanted to say an intermim thanks to everyone for the replies so far. Some of this I already have in my course, of course, but some of it's new, and all of it is a fresh take. Keep it coming!

                   

                  I had a private reply that mentioned many of the same things.

                   

                  For my part, I'll add that I rarely get performance anxiety in Society settings; but I also perform mundanely, and I find that routine helps. I find that I can channel the anxiety-energy better if I always do the same preparation - vocal exercises, physical warmup, run through my part. (I have had non-speaking roles where I thought I could forego the vocal warmup; turns out it helps, although it freaks out the rest of the cast.)

                   

                   

                  Llywelyn Glyndwr (Mark Cipra)

                  __

                  "Through the years, I have learned that there is no harm in charging oneself up with delusions between moments of valid inspiration."  Steve Martin

                   

                  From: SCA_BARDS@yahoogroups.com [mailto:SCA_BARDS@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Hilla Hamasdohtor
                  Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2011 6:45 AM
                  To: SCA_BARDS@yahoogroups.com
                  Subject: Re: [SCA_BARDS] Perfomance Anxiety

                   

                   

                  I used to get terrible performance anxiety. My mouth would go dry, my
                  body would shake, my heart would pound. Nowadays I don't have as much of
                  an issue with it, but I still experience it from time to time,
                  especially when performing a new song, at a huge feast, with Royals there...

                  I have a few techniques that I use to deal with this anxiety. I'll try
                  not to be too windy-wordy.

                  1. Embrace the feeling. Get comfortable with that adrenaline rush, and
                  welcome it as a positive thing. Anxiety feeds on anxiety. We get more
                  anxious trying to get rid of the feeling, to avoid it. In time you'll
                  get to your own comfort level. Instead of being anxious, be excited.
                  2. Bring the audience into your world. I teach this in my Bardic Arts
                  for Beginners classes. If you are able, introduce yourself and the song.
                  This helps you and the audience to be in the same 'world', as it were.
                  It's also creating a psychological space where it's perfectly right to
                  perform.
                  3. "Soft Focus". There is a reason I don't wear contacts when I am
                  performing. I can make a certain level of eye-contact, but not an
                  overwhelming amount. I can let my visual focus go fuzzy, so that I can
                  read them and yet keep things to a bit of an anonymous blur if I get too
                  nervous. Choose the level of interaction you will allow.
                  4. Props / tactile stimulation. I have my staff. It is wonderful for
                  keeping a beat, and it can be used to create emotion within the song.
                  Bit it has another purpose. The tactile stimulation helps deflect the
                  focus on anxiety and back onto the singing where it belongs. It's kind
                  of like someone who is lost in being scared or sad and someone else
                  takes their hands or hugs them. Though the other feelings don't vanish,
                  the spiral of emotion feeding on emotion is broken and the mind can
                  focus on something else. A staff works well. So do beads. Anything you
                  can hold in a hand. Barring anything else, slapping your thigh with your
                  open palm is a decent substitute.
                  5. Practice. Someone else also mentioned this. The more you perform, the
                  less frightening it gets.
                  6. Embrace the failure. I forgot the words to a song I wrote in the
                  middle of my singing it during a feast. My mind went completely blank. I
                  coped with that and just made a comment to the crowd, rather humorous,
                  and sang something else. Since then, well, I figure, it can't really get
                  much worse, so what's there to be nervous about? Get comfortable with
                  the eventuality of screwing up and it gets a lot less scary.
                  7. Aromatherapy. Sometimes a lavender sachet or a dab of lavender oil
                  can help. Substitute whatever soothing scent works for you.
                  8. Booze. I'm not advocating getting drunk here. But if you're not a
                  minor and it's not a dry site, if all else fails, a small portion of
                  wine, ale, beer, or mead can be comforting. barring the booze, chamomile
                  or mint tea also can be soothing.

                  I think that's pretty much it. Hope it helps.

                  Yours in service,
                  Hilla

                • bryan gibson
                  A technique I usd was aform of tough love from an instructor, who believe dthe cure to performance anxiety was performing. start small - perform for freinds,
                  Message 8 of 9 , Mar 3, 2011
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                    A technique I usd was  aform of tough love from an instructor, who believe dthe cure to performance anxiety was performing.
                     
                    start small - perform for freinds, and in a comfortable venue - such as shire or group meetings, where everyones  a known quantity. It engenders a " safe zone" that allows one to move from.
                     
                    practice in public - at the time I lived on campus. He had me do my practicing on the green. Once youve broken the idea of practicing ( and fumbling) in front if god and everyone, performing for a freindly crowd is much easier.
                     
                    be active - if youre nervous, move around. In feasts, walk the aisles a syou sing. If on stage, pace the stage ( taking care to face the audience, of course!) It will alleviate a lot of butterflys to move around, hides nervousness, and besides, often its better performing to boot rather than standing there with the deer in the headlights look.
                     
                    I won't say its the easiest, or even the best, but this was how I was taught and it DOES work.
                     
                    Bran Buchanan

                    To: SCA_BARDS@yahoogroups.com
                    From: hilla@...
                    Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2011 05:44:37 -0600
                    Subject: Re: [SCA_BARDS] Perfomance Anxiety

                     
                    I used to get terrible performance anxiety. My mouth would go dry, my
                    body would shake, my heart would pound. Nowadays I don't have as much of
                    an issue with it, but I still experience it from time to time,
                    especially when performing a new song, at a huge feast, with Royals there...

                    I have a few techniques that I use to deal with this anxiety. I'll try
                    not to be too windy-wordy.

                    1. Embrace the feeling. Get comfortable with that adrenaline rush, and
                    welcome it as a positive thing. Anxiety feeds on anxiety. We get more
                    anxious trying to get rid of the feeling, to avoid it. In time you'll
                    get to your own comfort level. Instead of being anxious, be excited.
                    2. Bring the audience into your world. I teach this in my Bardic Arts
                    for Beginners classes. If you are able, introduce yourself and the song.
                    This helps you and the audience to be in the same 'world', as it were.
                    It's also creating a psychological space where it's perfectly right to
                    perform.
                    3. "Soft Focus". There is a reason I don't wear contacts when I am
                    performing. I can make a certain level of eye-contact, but not an
                    overwhelming amount. I can let my visual focus go fuzzy, so that I can
                    read them and yet keep things to a bit of an anonymous blur if I get too
                    nervous. Choose the level of interaction you will allow.
                    4. Props / tactile stimulation. I have my staff. It is wonderful for
                    keeping a beat, and it can be used to create emotion within the song.
                    Bit it has another purpose. The tactile stimulation helps deflect the
                    focus on anxiety and back onto the singing where it belongs. It's kind
                    of like someone who is lost in being scared or sad and someone else
                    takes their hands or hugs them. Though the other feelings don't vanish,
                    the spiral of emotion feeding on emotion is broken and the mind can
                    focus on something else. A staff works well. So do beads. Anything you
                    can hold in a hand. Barring anything else, slapping your thigh with your
                    open palm is a decent substitute.
                    5. Practice. Someone else also mentioned this. The more you perform, the
                    less frightening it gets.
                    6. Embrace the failure. I forgot the words to a song I wrote in the
                    middle of my singing it during a feast. My mind went completely blank. I
                    coped with that and just made a comment to the crowd, rather humorous,
                    and sang something else. Since then, well, I figure, it can't really get
                    much worse, so what's there to be nervous about? Get comfortable with
                    the eventuality of screwing up and it gets a lot less scary.
                    7. Aromatherapy. Sometimes a lavender sachet or a dab of lavender oil
                    can help. Substitute whatever soothing scent works for you.
                    8. Booze. I'm not advocating getting drunk here. But if you're not a
                    minor and it's not a dry site, if all else fails, a small portion of
                    wine, ale, beer, or mead can be comforting. barring the booze, chamomile
                    or mint tea also can be soothing.

                    I think that's pretty much it. Hope it helps.

                    Yours in service,
                    Hilla

                  • storybard@aol.com
                    I think there are two things that bring on performance anxiety and both have to do with perspective. 1. do you know your material well enough 2. will you be
                    Message 9 of 9 , Mar 3, 2011
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                      I think there are two things that bring on performance anxiety and both have to do with perspective.
                      1. do you know your material well enough
                      2. will you be good enough
                       
                      To address each:
                       
                      1. Singing and poetry is much more difficult than storytelling when it comes to forgetting material, unless you are good at covering up the flubs. If you are a storyteller then remember it isn't about memorizing your material. It is about internalizing it. I recommend not doing a new piece in competition, it should be one you have been able to practice before a live audience a few times. I'd say that about musical and poetic too.
                         If you are doing a set of stories, songs whatever, you can sandwich the new material between pieces that are really comfortable for you.
                         Lastly, if you are a storyteller and realize that it isn't about memorizing but internalizing the story then you can create parts of the story as you go. A story is a living thing anyway. It changes with each telling and each teller.
                       
                      2. This is hardest for new bards but once you understand that you are giving the gift of your art, it doesn't become about "you" anymore. Will you be good enough doesn't matter because it is #1 about the audience and #2 about the piece you are presenting. If you do your best to honor those, then you can't be nervous about your performance. I would add, that seasoned performers still often get most nervous when performing for their peers, but again if your art is about the sharing then that will help alleviate fears.
                       
                      I will once more be offering the storytelling academy at Pennsic if you want a safe and supportive place to hone tour skills.
                      Mistress Gabrielle d'Auvergne
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