In addition to my role as a Holistic Nutritional Consultant, I am also a private piano teacher. This month our local city hosts a Music Festival and many of my students will be participating. After weeks and months of preparation, they have the skills to play well, but now must learn play under the added stress of performance!
Performance anxiety is a common experience and is not limited to the world of musicians and performing. There are many ways to help reduce anxiety and food can play a significant role. Nutrient deficiencies such as inadequate protein intake, deficient minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, etc.) and lack of EPA and DHA can impair the nervous system’s ability to function optimally.
Anxiety Management Techniques
Here are 2 techniques I use with my piano students to prepare for performance day:
Visualization is effective because it activates the same pathways in the brain that are fired up when you're actually doing the activity. When you thoroughly visualize yourself having a successful performance, that helps train your body to execute what you've imagined.
With my students, we talk about and picture every aspect including how it feels to approach the piano, the look of the shiny finish of they keys, adjusting the bench and testing the pedal to finishing with a bow.
But don’t just consider the positive scenario. Spend some time considering possible challenges and how you would overcome them. With my students this means talking about what to do if they make a mistake or forget notes. Where do they go in the music? What happens if they forget? I first say, don’t panic! Then we practice jumping in at various memory points in the music that we’ve prepared. I also tell them they can request their music if needed. There are always options, but we discuss them so they know what to do – just in case.
We also discuss what it FEELS like to have “butterflies” and play with this feeling. I suggest that they run around the house until they are out of breathe, then sit at the piano and try to calm themselves and play with this added “distraction”.
2. Create Relaxing Rituals
You can expect jitters to surface or intensify approximately five days before an event. It helps to have activities planned to manage them. For adults, schedule a massage, indulge in a hot bath, go to the movies, light candles at bedtime.
For younger students, plan a play date with friends, go to the park, have a fun bubble bath before bed.
At my studio, I schedule a “Music Hike” the weekend prior to the festival, where all of my students are invited to meet up, fellowship and just have fun together outdoors in the fresh air.
1. Bananas – These contain tryptophan, which promotes a relaxed state of mind by stimulating serotonin production, and magnesium, which contributes to lower stress levels. In addition, bananas contains potassium, which lowers blood pressure. Enjoy a banana on the same day that you are going to perform – for breakfast or as a snack right before you perform.
2. Leafy Greens & Brown Rice – both contain B vitamins, which help to lower anxiety. Vitamin B6, prevalent in both leafy greens and brown rice, helps the body convert tryptophan into serotonin, which makes you feel more relaxed!
3. Nutritional Yeast – one of the richest natural sources containing largest number of B vitamins. This product has a nutty flavor and makes a great “cheese” substitute. Add it to pizza for a fun meal with kids! B complex vitamins are also important for the normal functions of the nervous system and help in bringing relaxation.
4. Beans, peas, nuts – If you struggle with yeast conditions, then these sources are a great way to add the much needed B vitamins.
5. Avocado & Dried Apricot – great source of magnesium – the “anti-stress” mineral that acts like a natural tranquilizer. Bring a snack mix bag of nuts and dried apricots to eat on the way to your class.
6. Seeds (particularly pumpkin & flax seeds) – contain magnesium (for nerve function) and omega-3 fatty acids. Clinical studies show that patients with high anxiety levels also have omega-3 deficiencies.
7. Water - Ok, I know it’s not a food, but drink lots of water! When the body in a “stressed” state, it requires adequate water to continue to function properly.
Foods to Avoid (Increase Anxiety)
1. Caffeine – causes a dramatic increase in tension and anxiety (adults try decaf coffee)
2. Sugar – Consuming refined sugar causes a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to symptoms of anxiety (weakness, irritability, light-headedness, etc). For kids especially, don't treat them with sweets until AFTER the performance!)
3. Artificial Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are compounds of chemicals that deplete serotonin in the brain, which leads to stress, anxiety and depression.
The food/mood connection to anxiety is strong so take advantage of these wonderful ways to help you reduce anxiety and have a wonderful performance!
Jennifer Levitan, C.H.N.C. is a Northern Ontario based Holistic Nutritional Consultant specializing in a simplified approach to healthy eating. With a focus on delicious, whole, local and sustainable foods, Jennifer empowers her clients to make practical nutrition choices for optimal health and a life of JoyFull Eating!
Jennifer Levitan, ARCT, ORMT, C.H.N.C. is a Northern Ontario based Holistic Nutritional Consultant specializing in a simplified approach to healthy eating. With a focus on delicious, whole, local and sustainable foods, Jennifer empowers her clients to make practical nutrition choices for optimal health. Jennifer earned a diploma in Natural Nutrition from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition in 2018 and is currently working towards her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Science.