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A Daily Mind Practice Keeps Anxiety Away

Updated: Feb 1

The light is on. The noise of enthusiastic crowds is filled in the space. it is finally time to perform. I felt that familiar sensation of butterflies in the stomach for basketball players when I sat in the Staple Center stadium in LA for a Laker's game. I was not performing that night, but I couldn't help noticing the pressure the players must have been feeling at that moment. Some seemed to manage to get in the flow throughout the game, and some seemed to be a bit beaten up by their mind battles, looking stressed every time they had to play free throws.

You might not be a pianist or professional basketball player who performs in front of hundreds and thousands of people. Still, we all know this very nervous feeling of a performance at any stage in life.

How do you prepare for a performance? How do you deal with performance anxiety?

I wish there were a magical pill to fix it all. No matter how many bananas you consume before a performance, it won't solve the fundamental challenge of the mind game of performance. Still, I've discovered that many sports cross methods are effective. At least I've learned that certain tools probably could have saved my career. My secret has been experimenting with as many methods as possible over a long time and maintaining a certain important mind practice regularly or daily closer to performance.

This isn't a light topic that I can cover within the scope of this newsletter. Still, I will share my top three daily mind practices that I would do before a performance.

Firstly the power of positive visualization. I would visualize detailed positive performance scenarios from waking up - the scent, feeling, touches, sounds, and scenes. At least once I would write the scenario, then read it daily. You can create it however you want and own it by repeating this positive scenario. (Faking it til you make it would work in your favor.) One of the most important aspects of this practice is to create yourself as the most grateful and positive person in this world, as well as the warmest and most enthusiastic audience. If you are not a performer, still practice visualizing the most positive scenario of being yourself in your environment. Swap the word 'have to' for 'get to' in everything you do. “You don't have to perform; you get to perform.”

Secondly the power of breathing through the nose. Whether you are actively meditating, walking around the neighborhood, or surfing, breathe deeply in and out through the nose. I often put my hand on the belly to feel my nervous system settle down. Slow down your breathing rhythm consciously. I say a mantra or short positive word as I breathe, count my breathing, or simply am aware of breathing. My favorite this week is to say 'breathe in love' as I inhale and 'breathe out joy' as I exhale. I don’t say it out loud, I imagine those phrases. I would do this as often as possible whenever and wherever I can. Other variations are "breathe in warmth, breathe out love”, "breathe in calm, breathe out peace."

Waiting in line? No problem. The perfect time to do this breathing work.

Thirdly the power of repeated performance. The legendary swimmer Michael Phelps practiced racing every single day as part of training since his youth. When you always practice performing, whether in front of several people or on an Olympic stage, the day you perform becomes a part of your system. I often give my piano students the solid advice 'do seven performances before the actual performance' as a minimal requirement. If performance is your daily activity, there is no way that your body will react extremely. Mock the performance often. Get friends and family to be your audience. Repeat it over and over. At the very least you will be accustomed to having this lion (aka your performance anxiety) appearing next to you at the time of the performance. Then I promise that you will (soon) also learn that there is a way you can tame it little by little.

What is your secret to your performance in life? Please share it with me!


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