You cannot “try” to relax. You cannot command yourself to relax.
But what you can do is cultivate the conditions that allow you to relax.
While performance pressures have the power to take our brains and bodies to mental/physical places where relaxation seems impossible, there are several fast and easy countermeasures available.
Here are a few for your consideration:
- Breathe. Slowly and deeply through your nose, out slowly through your mouth… Belly breathing, the “least” thing, has the power to stop your mind from chattering, slows your heart rate, and reduces blood pressure.
- Drop Your Shoulders. You will amazed at how much tension is carried in your shoulders and how it radiates tension in the rest of your body. Simply practice letting your arms hang freely from your shoulders.
- Flex Your Muscles. If you want to relax your hands, intentionally make a fist and squeeze hard, then release and shake it off. You can apply this to any muscle group or even you entire body.
- Smile. You will instantly feel better, guaranteed! And, as we learned in Performance Anxiety: The Mind-Body Connection, your smile is SO powerful that it will make people around you smile and relax, too!
The beauty of these four simple techniques is that they can all be done intentionally, simultaneously, and inconspicuously in just a few seconds, any time and any place.
But it is not enough to know about these techniques. We need to practice them in low-stress situations… while driving, walking, surfing the internet, doing the dishes… and, of course, every time we sit down to play our instrument.
To that end, do whatever it takes to remind yourself… using an alarm clock, post it notes, or a string on your finger… until such practice becomes second-nature… a positive habit beyond mere technique… so deeply internalized that it becomes an enduring and unshakable aspect of who you are as a human being.
Stay tuned for more.