Performance and Pandemic Anxiety: How I Cope
What helps me with performance and pandemic anxiety.
Let me preface by saying I'm mostly writing these things down to remind myself and encourage myself to live by my values, no matter what happens in this crazy world. I hope that you will also read this, so you can remind me of this. If it benefits you too, that will be a great gift to me, but knowing how hard it can be to actually practice this, I'm focusing on what I can do.
Learning how to respond to fear has been a major theme in my life. I've performed in various situations: speech competitions, singing competitions, acting competitions, musicals etc. You never totally get rid of the fear and anxiety. This is part of being human. You DO however get better at what you do with all that extra energy moving through you. You get better at how you respond and how seriously you take it. So today I want to share some handy things I've learned in singing that may also help you take a step back and not lose perspective on your life when it seems like it revolves around this virus and the fear-provoking news surrounding it.
Step 1: You don't have to feel happy right now, or psychologically comfortable.
First of all, don't believe in the Happiness Trap. I have found a lot of comfort from the book "The Happiness Trap" by Russ Harris. In the book, he describes how we believe and have been sold a lie: that you are supposed to be happy, and if you don't feel happy, then something is wrong. In reality though, doing things that matter requires discomfort. Do you have kids? Do they always make you happy? No. Do they bring meaning and purpose to your life? You betcha! Want to ride a roller coaster but you're terrified? You'll have to feel the discomfort of the terror and get on board anyway to have the most fun.
So you want to perform? Accept that you don't have to feel comfortable or confident to perform. Accept that you can feel like a nervous wreck. You also feel that way and STIILL perform really well! In fact, my worst performances were the ones that I didn't feel nervous about...I didn't really have a lot of energy or interest in communicating my song. My best performances, I was shaking in my boots. I knew I was taking a risk, jumping into the pool, asking the girl to dance, so-to-speak.
Step 2: It doesn't matter if it's true: is it helpful?
This is what has been helping me with the anxious thoughts and worry that have come up with this pandemic. I'm so grateful that I've had practice on something more fun and easier: singing and performing.
When my mind is telling me stories about how badly I will do, how terrible of a singer I am, etc. etc, I take a step back and ask myself "is this helpful"? Does this thought help me take actions in this moment that reflect what's important to me? If the answer is no, then I ask myself, what can I actually do in this moment that will move me closer to my goals and values?
Then another thought pops up "what is this is true though? You really did miss that note" even if it's true, does this help you do what matters now? Well if you are refocusing your attention on the skills needed to hit the note, then you can take that thought as information and practice. The thought however, is not center-stage. Action is. You keep directing your attention to actually doing what matters, no matter what your mind says.
Likewise, when I was looking through the news of this virus, at first I was getting information. Soon though, I started reading stories that weren't actually helping me making decisions right now on what I needed to do, but instead just helping me imagine a bleak view of the world. Does a bleak view of the world help me right now? Nope.
So in response, I'm set a timer every time I started looking at the news. I have 10 minutes to get the information I actually need, and after 10 minutes I ask myself the "okay but is that actually helping me?" question. Then I ask myself: What can I do right at this moment to do what matters to me?
Step 3: Open up to the world around you: make sure you have room for peace and joy.
I'm deeply grateful for singing: it has been an emotional refuge for me my entire life and continues to be. It has helped me make room for and give myself a chance to actually FEEL my feelings and create something out of them. Right up there with singing, gardening in all its forms has helped me make a space for peace and joy in may life. No matter how bad things get, nature as a way of re-assuring you that there is still room for peace and joy in your life.
Just like you don't always have to be happy, you don't have to only focus on what's wrong with the world, yourself, etc. You can have room for all of it. Like the sky, it always has room for whatever passes through, the sunshine or the storms. This all sounds nice, but you don't really feel this in your soul until you're at the garden, picking sugar snap peas, getting your feet wet in the mud, hearing the birds sing and feeling a natural sense of peace, joy, and gratefulness slowing creeping into your tight and anxious brain and fearful heart. Nature has a way of helping you take a step back from the scary stories your mind likes to tell you.
In future courses and programs, I want to show you how singing can do that for you. How it can help you take a step back from your chaotic mind and make room for all your emotions, pleasant or unpleasant. For now though, think about what activities in addition to singing or nature that help you specifically take a step back from you phone, your racing thoughts, etc and see the beauty that is still in the world.