Performance Anxiety at ACM: A Workshop for Your Wellbeing - ACM
18 Oct 2018

Performance Anxiety at ACM: A Workshop for Your Wellbeing

Feeling jittery before a show is common ground for any musician. Even the most experienced of performers may be seen frantically wiping their sweaty palms or doing some sort of pre-show ritual to ensure a smooth performance. However sometimes, these feelings can turn into something a lot harder to manage. That’s why at ACM we offer workshops on performance anxiety to offer students with just that extra bit of guidance.

About Performance Anxiety

Within today’s mental health epidemic, performance anxiety may sometimes find itself sat within the public’s blind spot in terms of awareness. The condition affects a major 75% of professional performers, but unfortunately is very rarely discussed. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can sometimes be so deliberating that many musicians find themselves in a position that renders them completely unable to perform. However, it’s crucially important that musicians take into account, that as hopeless as the condition may seem, you’re not alone, and it does get better.

Suffering from performance anxiety does not make you any less experienced or skilled as a musician, but in fact, simply shows that you care. Performance anxiety is a strand in which interjects the umbrella condition known as an Anxiety Disorder. Although a mental condition, it can inflict a whole range of physical symptoms; a musician may find themselves experiencing increased heart rate, i.e heart palpitations, vomiting, and sometimes even a panic attack. Although unpleasant, it’s important to remember that what you’re experiencing is not fatal. The sensations are in fact caused by high levels of adrenaline surging through the body, alongside a stream of negative thought processes.

What You Can Do About It

Negative thinking, especially in relation to musical performance, usually derive from feelings of inadequacy and potential humiliation. To overcome these characteristics, it’s vitally important to recognise these thoughts, but not accept them as reality. The first step to recovery is to not overthink; organise your thoughts and study them.

What is the worst thing that can happen if you make a mistake? Do your best to brush it off, and accept the fact that we’re not Gods (looking at you Kanye), we’re all human, and humans make mistakes. Despite society’s immortalisation of most of our A-list artists, many still suffer from the form of anxiety, some including musicians such as Adele, Lorde, Mariah Carey, and Ozzy Osbourne. In other words, whether you’re experiencing light jitters or a full blown panic attack, it’s all completely normal.

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If your main anxiety trigger before a performance comes from feeling like you won’t be good enough, it’s important to remember to not compare yourself to other musicians. And also, to not worry about what the audience’s reaction might be. Whether it’s negative or positive, the only opinion that matters is yours. Making mistakes is an integral part of growing as a musician, so when you make one, be sure to welcome it.

Practicing good well-being is a pivotal step into combating performance anxiety. Keep stress to a minimum in your everyday life by getting enough rest, consuming nutritious foods and exercising regularly; a healthy body makes a healthy mind.

Extra Things To Remember

To help overcome feelings of general anxiety before a performance, here are a few extra tips to ensure a healthy mind and body:

  • Take a brief moment to focus on your breathing. Is it slow and steady? If not, try the 4,7,8 breathing technique. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for 7, and then exhale through pursed lips for 8. Once a steady pace has been achieved, your body will relax and your anxiety should decrease.
  • To help yourself loosen up, try the following method: Tightly tense each muscle within your body, and then release. As an example, make your hand into a fist, squeeze, and let go. You should feel the relaxation slowly seep into your body during each exercise, and your mind will grow accustomed to the feeling, levelling out any negative imbalances that you’re currently experiencing.
  • Visualise your performance. How do you want it to look? How would you like to feel? Hold onto this thought and let the adrenaline be something that fuels you.
  • And lastly, make sure you’re well practiced. If you know you are physically prepared, your mental preparation will catch up. Know that you are ready, get on stage and let whatever happens, happen. Everyone has off performances or off days, allow yourself room to grow, and never feel pressured. Be the best you can be.

On The Lighter Side

Everyone learns to battle their demons in different ways. As previously listed, there are plenty of healthy and effective ways to help take the edge off of your pre-performance nerves. For some, these methods come in all different shapes and sizes. Whether it’s to reduce anxiety, for spiritual reasons or just out of habit, here are some of the oddest pre-gig rituals of some of music’s top artists here.

We hope here at ACM that these pointers might help you in moments of stress before a performance, and aid you with a little piece of mind. 


ACM is small enough to care but big enough to make a difference. If you want to learn about how we can support you academically, personally and professionally, please call our Admissions Team on 01483 500 841 or visit www.acm.ac.uk/open-days to book a place on an ACM Open Day today.

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