Performance anxiety can afflict anyone regardless of age, race, gender or abilities. Since it limits star performance, and lowers self-esteem, it may lead to anxiety and depression.
Mental rehearsal is a strategy to assist you to:
- overcome your performance anxiety
- perform better
- and improve your confidence
Mental rehearsal utilises your imagination to program your subconscious to feel confident in your ability. Moreover, when you practice moving a muscle in your imagination, the brain cells that work that muscle are activated and it is as if your muscle actually did the work resulting in improved performance.
A violinist will be used to demonstrate the technique to lower performance anxiety. However, the technique is effective for any person suffering from performance anxiety.
Master Mental Rehearsal
- Arrange for ten uninterrupted minutes alone in a quiet setting. Be alert and not sleepy.
- You may sit or lie down. Either way, ensure that your back is straight and you feel comfortable.
- Close your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly and fully through your nose, and breathe out slowly through your mouth.
- Execute a total body scan: check all your muscles from head to toe and release any tension that you find.
- Select a visual reference point from memory such as your musical instrument.
- Warm up. Imagine yourself playing scales and warming up. Can you hear yourself? Can you feel your fingers limbering up?
- Imagine yourself performing. Go step by step from your entrance, getting seated, cuing the music, following the music phrase by phrase etc.
- Go through a piece without making a mistake. If you make a mistake just ignore it and keep on playing perfectly.
- Bring in all your senses. Hear the music but also feel the wood of your violin. Make your mental rehearsal as vivid and lifelike as possible.
- Play around with different approaches. Envision different famous venues and concert halls. Try out a new repertoire.
- Test yourself. Tape yourself playing a piece. Rate yourself. Then do 7 mental rehearsals of the same piece. Tape again and review again. After eight sessions of mental rehearsal, you will notice a huge improvement in your playing and confidence.
- When you are satisfied with the performance, pick a more challenging piece that you have not mastered and mentally rehearse it.
Time and practice gives you control over your imagination which is critical to confidence, and ability, to perform well under pressure.