Updated: Dec 16, 2020
Stress, (yup I said the "S" word) We have all come to recognize stress as the big bad yuck trying to take us down. If there is anyone that understands and knows about stress, its musicians. We lead a life that can bring so much stress yet, what we do helps relieve stress. We're not just musicians, we are administrators, accountants, movers, teachers, students, and travel agents, and many of us still work a non-musical job. It's stressful!
But what if you can harness the negative energy of stress? What if you could rethink stress? Wait, before we get into how to do that; let's talk about what stress is. Stress - is an emotional, physical, and mental response to change. A stress response also mimics the fight or flight response. When we fight it or even flee from it, the effects of stress become worse. When we have the fight or flight response, it is because we are feeling trapped or overwhelmed. So what can we do about it?
When I start feeling stressed, the first thing I ask my self is WHY? Asking myself why brings everything to a halt, I am not fighting or fleeing. If possible, I physically stop and answer my own question. Because usually, the answer will redirect me. I then start mentally listing what's going right, even if it's just two or three things. I find that just understanding my Why and recognizing what is going right, derails a stressful reaction. I think more clearly, and my blood pressure drops. The last thing I do is revisit the ultimate goal; this helps me redirect the potential negative energy and stay productive; it also further derails the adverse effects of stress.
Redirecting stress is not something I came up with overnight. I have a little confession; I use to be a massive stresser, to the point of losing my hair and repeated illness. Before performances and events, I would implode on myself. It was quite detrimental to me and my future as a musician. My mother had a serious talk with me after a particularly severe illness. She and I worked over some years to help me offset the adverse effects of stress. I'm happy to report that the only hair loss I have is from trimming, and I haven't gotten sick in quite a long time, knock on wood.
Heres how to make stress your secret weapon.
When you feel stress coming, ask your self WHY (why am I stressed?)
Instead of focusing on what could go (or is going) wrong; focus on what is going right (kind of a count your blessings moment)
Remind yourself of the ultimate goal, and redirect that energy towards moving to that goal. You might have to make a new plan or re-prioritize.
(bonus) use that energy to get some awesome practice in.
Remember, just like music, this takes practice, It took me a few years, but it should only take you a month. Stress is going to come, but you don't have to combat stress, you can harness it and make it work for you.
Candace - your happy musician