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Fighting Performance Stress: Part 1

fighting performance stress
By Susan Jamieson

Are you Y-D’d out? This is the law founded by psychologists Yerkes and Dodson, which says that performance ability will increase with physiological and mental stimulation – or ‘arousal’ as they called it. Any performer knows that that excitement on even mild anxiety gives them the edge. The downside of this Y-D curve is when the performance anxiety becomes too high, performance will decrease.

Different types of performance necessitate different types of stimulation. As an example, intellectually demanding performances involving cognitive abilities such as memory (e.g. acting) would require you to have only a low-level stimulation as cognitive ability/concentration is better in this range. However for dance performance involving stamina or acrobatic skills, a high-level of stimulation – therefore your energy – is required per performance.

For more simple performances that are well learnt, improvements generally continue as stimulation increases. However, more complex or unfamiliar tasks shows the more common pattern in that after a point, increased stress or stimulation will lead to decreased performance.

Of course, it’s not a matter only of decreased performance, this is also the zone in which mistakes will happen and injuries occur.

This is effectively a state of stress where you find yourself having memory problems, lack of problem-solving abilities and inability to focus attention on the performance as a whole.

As a holistic doctor, I have been treating world-famous rock stars and other performers in my Hong Kong medical practice for many years. All performers are under huge pressures and have difficult working hours, performance stress and often physical injuries.  Through TheatreArtLife I will be sharing a series of articles. I’ll be sharing tips on how to reduce these mental and physical pressures so that you can enjoy life more and also hopefully extend your working performance lifespan! Preventing burnout is the name of the game.

Let’s start at the top here and discuss those people who may be already feeling on the ‘downhill’ side of this curve.

Feeling jaded with life, getting no enjoyment out of simple pleasures that used to give you happiness? Perhaps you feel that you’re on a treadmill and nothing in your life is going to change for the better? Relationships may be suffering due to the fact that you don’t keep regular hours and therefore are unable to socialize with friends or bond with the family.

Urgent action required! This is a burnout stage and will lead to you ceasing the profession you love and position for which you have worked so hard all your life (yes, those are big concepts).

Not managing the situation will undoubtedly end up in you stopping the one thing that once gives you so much joy.

However, it’s true to say that “there is no change without change”. This needs serious commitment and acceptance of the fact that unless you do something different in your life the situation will get worse and worse, perhaps leading to depression.

Tip 1 – Address one emotional and one physical area.

You need to be ruthless. What you really need is a bit of self-nurturing. This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to drink and party more, or be selfish with the family.

Communicate with those close to you.

If you have a family or a close group of friends it’s best to confide in them how you feel and listen to any advice they may have. The worst thing is to keep it all inside, struggling on silently. They’re going to be your support through what is effectively a very difficult time.

Carve out 30 mins me-time.

On your side, you need to explain to your family that you no need to carve out more time for whatever nurturing you need. Every single day there has to be a space for this. In our enormously busy lives, this may only be 30 minutes but it is time that you can be on your own doing something leisurely like sipping your favourite tea or coffee. No distraction and no demands. Or read the paper properly. Listen to music. Go for a walk.

Even though it’s a short time, you body and mind will appreciate this. For some, it might be yoga stretches and for others listening to the music they like, walking outside to take in the sights, or watching something on TV. The important thing is that it’s your time and it’s different from your daily activity and duties. Sometimes it may be doing very little but it’s also relaxing and refreshing to do something completely different that will engage your mind, such as writing or painting.

Find a new therapy

It’s likely that you will have physical issues. They may be medical, with allergies or digestive problems. Get it sorted – doctors vary like everyone else in their knowledge base and experience. Ask around and Google till you find someone who helps. Most performers are beleaguered by physical aches and pains. Probably you are already receiving help with this but now is the time to mix it up. Look for different avenues of help. For instance, if you regularly see a physiotherapist, you may choose to also try the Australian Bowen therapy, or acupuncture. A good regular massage goes along way. Adding aromatherapy in will bring feel-good benefits.

This is just the beginning, and enough to pull yourself back up to the top of the Y-D curve!

Continue to Fighting Performance Stress: Part 2

 

 

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