I don’t claim to be the kind of person that has it all together. In fact anyone that really knows me, understand that the confidence they see is just a facade. So it may come as a surprise to many that even though I perform music often, I still get quite nervous.
Most performers or public speakers understand the kind of nervous I am referring to. The kind of uncomfortable that comes every once in a while, when you are put into an unfamiliar situation. Or worst, when you know exactly the position you will be in and you know it’s not going to be good. What ends up happening to some is well known as “The Shakes”.
There are ways of combatting this problem. First, is knowing what happening to you. Understanding that your body is flooding with adrenaline as part of your fight or flight reaction to stressful encounters. Second (at least for me) is to breathe, while the voice in my head is going through the task in front of me step by step. Third is understanding that I need to have experiences working in these environments to help reduce or cope with this kind of reaction. So try to put yourself in that position more often than you’d like, to teach yourself how to deal with the anxiety. The last option is to use medication.
Many people use propranolol to help deal with the physical aspects of performance anxiety. These beta blockers can be used to chemically resist our adrenaline from causing performers to shake uncontrollably. The New York Times has an article titled “Better Playing Through Chemistry” on the subject and WQXR also did a set of radio interviews. Check them out, they give a wide perspective on the reasons for the use of medication for performers.
Please comment if you have other thoughts and suggestions. I think it’s a discussion we should not be afraid to have.