Morphing Performance Anxiety
The phrase "stage fright" invokes strong images for many. Usually this consists of a middle school song contest or class presentation, complete with sweaty palms, shaking limbs, and blurry vision. But what if those feelings were different for different people? Or could evolve over time?
I started college having, besides one terrifying foray onto the stage in high school, having never performed in front of an audience solo. My biggest mental stressors at this point (in regards to performance anxiety) had been cross country races (very stressful - usually to some success) and asking out girls (also very stressful but usually unsuccessful). Orchestral performances were a breeze to me, but I was not ready for the rigors of being a solo performer. I also was not used to the long, gruelling racing of triathlon yet, and as such, found them very terrifying.
Basically, my performance anxiety was of the classical variety. I got very over stimulated before the event and had to constantly calm myself down.
I often would pace around before races and then force myself to sit down and close my eyes. I took a similar approach to music. I would often hold the bass tightly and only through heavy thought control would I steer myself to ease my grip and focus on playing things slowly, breathing deep, and ignoring all stimulation to the best of my ability.
However, during my sophomore year at UO, this would all change.
Over the course of the spring of that year, I raced at multiple races, including two National Championships that were all high stress and tough on my mind. Additionally, I took my first professional audition and was performing more in front of my peers, as required by my degree. This took a toll on me. I spent four months like this and it just kept coming. I was racing my first ITU World Championship that summer and had booked myself into a 90 minute recital for the city of Yachats. After these summer events, I was a changed man
These events made me into a person who needed stimulus when he became nervous. My performance anxiety now calmed me too much. I first noticed this at my Junior Recital that fall. My mind wandered. I became lethargic. It was weird. It was confusing. I had no idea how to handle it.
Before, when I would shake, I was falling asleep. When I would need to close my eyes in the past, I now needed to drink coffee. I still have no idea as to why the change happened, but it did. Ever since, I have to jump around before races to get myself excited and prepared. During performances, I start in an almost dreamlike state, and after a few minutes, I finally come out of it and regain full awareness.
So, I changed. I am now constantly searching for new ways to make myself snap outside of my wandering mind when I experience performance anxiety. It is as if when confronted with a truly difficult task, my mind says "No! Had enough, thanks!" I am just looking for ways to coax it back.