Panic is on the forefront of many minds right now, especially in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. While I hope no one reading this is panicking right now, it’s understandable that there’s quite a bit of anxiety in the world today!
It’s always important to be mindful of our reactions to events, but it’s even more important in this time of crisis for us to be present and manage ourselves in a healthy way.
So how can panic affect your music-making?
If you’ve ever experienced stage fright or some degree of performance anxiety, then you know that experiencing panic is no picnic!
When you experience panic, your body switches into survival mode, and reacts with a fight-flight-freeze response: the lower, “reptilian” parts of your brain react on a basic level to protect you from something it perceives as a threat. It doesn’t matter that you’re not literally in danger during a performance, because that part of your brain can’t really tell the difference. Your brain still reacts as if it really were a life or death situation, and it gears up to fight, flee, or freeze and play dead to safeguard your life.
As a result, your body goes into a tightened, compressed mode, and you can’t think, move, or play as easily. You don’t even need to be in a performance situation for panic to affect your playing; this can just as easily happen to you when you’re at home practicing in your living room, unconsciously anxious worried about COVID-19.
[Watch today’s live video, where I discuss how panic can sabotage your music making and what you can do to help yourself.]
Great art requires you to be open, and it requires freedom and risk-taking. You need to be able to think quickly and to think well, so that you’re able to respond instantly to the demands of the moment.
But, you can’t think well when you’re in panic-mode, because your body is redirecting your blood flow. Blood that would otherwise be flowing to the prefrontal cortex in that moment is being redirected to other parts of your body to send you into the fight or flight response.
You need to be able to think well to be able to make wise choices, and you have to be prepared in advance, before the panic-inducing event occurs, so you can re-direct your thinking out of the fight-flight-freeze response if you aren’t actually in danger.
There are very specific skills that you can train yourself to have, specific ways of thinking differently and consistently, way before your performance. Ways of managing your mind-body self so that, when the crisis or the panic moment happens, you’ll remember what to do, and how to think in a way so that you don’t go into that tight-body mode, and you’ll be able to access that free flow of energy you need be able to play with more ease, no matter what.
Isn’t it interesting how this global health situation that we’re all experiencing can cause the same reaction in some of us that stepping out on stage can cause in some people? You may really love music and want to share it with everyone, but that panic mode can block your expression and your passion because your body’s reactions are limiting your ability to express yourself.
Now I’m not saying don’t panic. Panic is a natural response. But if you panic, you need to be aware that you’re panicking or that you’re going to panic, and you need to have your tools at the ready. And, you also need to practice these tools regularly – long before the panic hits!
There are a lot of people out there in the world who likely aren’t aware that they need these self-management skills and don’t have a centering practice in place. And now that we’re all in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, these people are probably more than a little knocked off-balance by the whole situation. They didn’t have a consistent balancing practice in place before everything hit, and now things are worrisome.
However, if you’re one of those people – don’t worry! You can learn these skills now. It’s never too late to get more control over your mind. I can share a very effective first step with you, which is extremely powerful. In fact, I share it publicly from my facebook timeline every day in a little session of what’s called TheCyCle™, plus a short silent meditation.
TheCyCle™ is a Primal Alexander Etude developed by Mio Morales and it’s the first step that I teach to all of my students. It’s a method that helps integrate what you’re thinking with what’s going on in your body with the concept of wondering about ease. Everything starts to open up more as you get more curious about ease. Practice this twice a day on a regular basis – it only takes two minutes each time! [Learn TheCyCle™ here: YouTube]
Treat it like it’s an antibiotic – take TheCyCle™ twice a day for five days (I even have a warm-up challenge available to help make that a habit). If you use it consistently – before an audition, before a performance, or even before an interview – you’re likely to see that you’ll draw on these tools and become more present and centered before a crisis or stage fright situation hits.
Then, as soon as you notice panic set in, you’ll be able to quickly switch how you’re thinking and you’ll be able to head off the panic before it can take over. In fact, you’ll be able to be stronger and have more courage and truly overcome the situation in ways you may not have thought possible.
Not only that, but TheCyCle™ helps get your energy flowing and helps switch on your body’s natural self-healing mechanisms, which can help to boost your immune system and help you naturally fend off illness. This is so important these days!
In short, if you notice yourself starting to panic, do TheCyCle™. And feel free to share TheCyCle™ with anyone you know who would benefit from a bit more presence of mind and calmness in their world, or someone who wants help improving their skills or diminishing their panic. Anyone can benefit from TheCyCle™.
Please “like”, share, and comment on my videos and posts – thank you for supporting my work!