5. Thoughts that affect your heath

Thoughts and feelings that affect the intensity of the stress reaction

Our thoughts and feelings affect the reactions of the body. As a musician or other performing artist you are a storyteller, and you naturally have your own expectations and ambitions for results. Your perceptions of how well you can perform any particular task can become entangled with apprehension and negative expectations, which can become terrifying if the goal is to “aim high”. If something terrifies us, our “fight or flight” reaction is stimulated and the resultant stress is often experienced intensely in the body, and can at times be difficult to handle. All this tells us something about how we all function – when the brain judges us to be in danger, we cannot distinguish our imagination from reality.

Flight or fight

If we find ourselves in a situation with a sudden increase of the “fight or flight” reaction, it is important to be able to maintain a feeling of “fight” – “I want to do this” – “I dare to do this” – “I can do this”. Use the body – stamp your feet on the floor over and over again to minimise the tension. Just to move and stimulate your breathing can break this powerful reaction. Go out and take a walk at a moderately quick pace and let your arms swing freely alongside your body.

Performance anxiety and fear of making mistakes

Situations with a sudden increase in stress often involve thoughts of it being forbidden to make mistakes. There is, of course, always a small risk that something undesirable could occur, but if it feels completely unacceptable to make a mistake, then life becomes dangerous. It can perhaps help to go through your thoughts of what would happen should you make a mistake – “Is this my only chance in life?” – “Is my life over if I don’t do this perfectly?” If you aim high with your ambitions, but are terrified to make mistakes, then it becomes impossible to give your all. Fear takes over and an increase in stress becomes inevitable.

Vulnerability

A performing artist leads an exposed existence. Vulnerability is an everyday reality and can make itself clearly known in different situations. If we are not satisfied with what we have produced, it can become easier to handle if we have other important, trusted people and situations beyond the stage, and if we have access to both encouragement and acceptance in other situations in life.

Self-confidence

Developing self-confidence is also important for controlling how strong stress can become. Even if you tend to feel insecure in general, you can develop good self-confidence regarding certain tasks. To achieve a sense of security in what you do is important, and to have access to support and feedback with constructive criticism is crucial for the development of self-confidence and self-esteem.