Let’s break down this topic as we most definitely all know it.
You are waiting backstage and your heart just races in your throat.
Oh, how do we love those moments…hm.
My dad and I never had this problem and so we would joke and say that we were obviously blood-related (which we aren’t) but last spring I also fell into the anxiety trap. During the Mindset Reset training I started in December 2018, I learned much about anxiety and how to try and beat it.
Stay with me.
So, let’s be clear: We can all WORRY. We can worry about many things: ‘Will I remember my lines’, ‘what if I forget that difficult part’, ‘what when I miss an entrance’, ‘what when I can’t see the conductor so well’, ‘what if the light blinds me’, ‘what if I trip on stage…’
And so on and so on. This way we start to overthink everything that could go wrong.
Worrying in loops…
Now: Worrying is when your mind goes on autopilot, which unfortunately for many of us are negative or limiting beliefs about ourselves. See Limiting Beliefs
ANXIETY is when your body picks up how your mind is crazy worrying and start to respond to it. With racing heartbeats, sweating hand, heart beating in your throat, pounding headache, shaking legs etc.
So the worrying in your mind can cause physical agitation = anxiety.
Look at this picture I made:
So important to know is:
-What triggers you?
To answer this question you have to break down a couple of things for yourself:
– What are the moments that you worry? Is it in the morning? Is it right before a show? Is it after a show when you come home alone? Is it a certain place where you go to often? Is it a certain smell?
-Are there people in your life who make you worry?
Try and identify your triggers and see if you can figure out WHY this triggers you?
What happened in the past that makes you feel this way?
Did you have morning violin lessons from a harsh master who would make you feel miserable during the 90 minute lesson?
Do you know that your spouse will pick a fight with you when coming home because that happens every day?
Do you feel nervous when you enter a certain building because something happened to in that particular place?
Did you have an abusive parent who came home at 5 PM and started to shout at you?
Or is it a certain holiday? A season?
My mother becomes anxious around Christmas, because when she was 18 years old and came home for Christmas from her conservatory abroad, she found an empty house. Her parents divorced and didn’t (yet) tell her.
Our senses can trigger our bodies memory. It could be only a hint of a certain smell, a perfume, a movement you see, a certain walk, a certain sound, maybe even a special combination of lights that remind us of a time to which we hold anxious memories.
When I had to get back to a production for revival where I was so humiliated by my boss, I didn’t even make it to the stage for the soundcheck at the first attempt. Instead, I hang over the toilet, puking. The testing and sound of the wind machines already triggered me.
In between scenes, I held on to my Nepalese Prayer necklace because otherwise, my hand would shake too much. I had also bound a Nepalese silver bracelet around my ankle and wrist, imagining that it would protect me.
Not fitting to the costume? I could not care one little bit. It sure was not an easy performance.
If only I knew what I am going to tell you next.
When you have identified what triggers you, you can come up with ANCHOR thoughts. Predetermined and planned thoughts from the past, or about something in the future that make you feel positive and excited. Excited is a good word. Because when you are feeling anxious you are already pretty excited…only in a negative way. Anchor thought can turn those overheated emotions into excited positive emotions.
Anchor thoughts are there to help you weigh yourself down. They say: Hey! Think THís! Not Thát!
They literally ACHOR down the thoughts you have. So any anxious feelings can be immediately hijacked with anchor thoughts such as: When I am done with this, I will see my friend and I am sure she will take me again to that amazing restaurant.
Or ‘I know that I will call my love tonight, I can’t wait to hear his voice’.
Or ‘I remember that one rehearsal with … We had to laugh so hard, orange juice came out of my nose. Fun times.’
You have to interrupt your anxious feelings if you want to win this mental game.
Now when this happens over and over again, and even with your anchor thoughts calming you down once, twice or a couple of times, the next time you have again the same issue, you might want to come clean with yourself.
The answer to the questions about how to determine your triggers are DATA. Very important data to live a healthy life.
So what is your body telling you?
Maybe there are some things you need to address.
You can write them all down, out of your head onto paper is the best thing!
And once you have them, you can make a plan of action on how to deal with them. And you can ask others for help in this matter.
If you feel anxious every time you walk into work, because you absolutely despise your work, then maybe it’s time to do something about that. I am not suggesting you should hand in your notice right now, but maybe there are small changes you can work out with your colleagues and boss. A different area to work in, different tasks, maybe even a different position within the company.
If you wake up, knowing that it’s again the same kind of work day where nothing is progressing, your commute is again longer than planned and everything will just make you feel miserable just like all the other days, of course, it makes you anxious. But if you decide to be deliberate about changing things for the better, than you are only a choice away from it.
During Christmas time I had a couple of Messiah’s to sing. I adore this piece and so I was excited about it. Sitting on the stage, watching our conductor, my heart suddenly started racing like crazy. Not just a bit like Oh this is fun and exciting, no it was horrible. My heart seemed to almost jump out of my chest. I looked at my conductor and I thought it was someone else. Another conductor who had done me wrong in the past and with whom I had a big fight. Although I saw it wasn’t him, my mind didn’t believe it.
Thank you Händel for having composed the soprano coming in after 30 minutes. I had time to calm myself down before singing.
Later I realized it was his arm movement. The way he moved his arms while conducting was exactly like that other conductor and seeing this triggered the hell in me.
People can be a huge trigger for anxiety. Maybe it’s your boss, maybe a colleague. They can make you believe in your own limiting beliefs again, which is very destructive. We have to protect ourselves from that. Nowadays I work with: This is not about me, it’s about that person.
I think: I am sorry for those that feel they have to be unkind to others. They must carry quite a burden from their past. That’s sad. They do deserve my compassion.
These are also thoughts anchoring you down.
For me, going back to the revival of the opera I mentioned earlier was a big thing. I didn’t even book my flight until 1 week before. I really wasn’t sure if it would be good for me to be back in that environment which broke me. But I wanted to face the people again and that desire was stronger. However, I planned my trip carefully and only listened to positive messages by people like Tony Robbins. I just walked around with my earphones. All the time. No one could take them from me. It worked very well in the end but afterward at home, I slept 24 hours straight.
Looking back I am glad I did this and that I managed to do a good job and stay kind to the ones around me.
But having the tool of anchor thoughts now is great because I can actually re-direct my brain when those feelings of anxiety come up again.
It is normal to worry but you have a choice about whether those worries are productive and they signal you to start taking action to move your life forward, or they are destructive because they only keep you trapped in your head.
It’s a choice whether or not you are going to let these worries be a habit and agitating your body and whether or not you re-direct your thoughts and create anchor thoughts that make you excited and happy about things that you are about to do. – Mel Robbins
So: We have a choice. Choose wisely.