Sunday, January 1, 2012

Can Bananas Ease Stage Fright?

Today on a forum discussing performance nerves, I came across an interesting idea - that bananas can ease stage fright symptoms such as shaking, racing heart and nausea. Intrigued, I did some research and lo and behold, there is very solid evidence to support this theory! Bananas, as well as many other foods including potatoes, white beans, raisins and orange juice contain high levels of beta blockers. These chemicals stop receptors in your brain from receiving stress signals caused by the release of adrenaline. Bananas also contain potassium and magnesium which have the added benefit of preventing muscle cramps and shaking.
Now adrenaline in the right levels can be very useful for performing. The body actually responds to the pressure of performing as a do or die situation and responds physically the same way it would if you were in danger! Shaking and increased heart rate increase blood flow and work to warm your muscles, and can help prevent muscle tearing (as can an adequate warm up). Adrenaline also sharpens your focus and quickens your reaction time. But too much adrenaline and anxiety can actually cause mistakes, or just flip you into fight or flight causing you to balk at the curtain.
I am certainly going to be putting bananas in my gig bag now! But don't just rely on foods, relax and stay focused in the moment. I find that staying busy until the last moment and sticking to my routine (good breakfast, practice, long bath, listen to my music, pack up, hair/makeup, warm up and GO), as well as practicing deep breathing and listening to calm music if possible can help to ease stress and anxiety.
Things to avoid if you get overly anxious and jittery are stimulants, including caffeine. Personally, tea relaxes me, but I don't get very serious stage fright anymore. My most common stage fright symptom is a runny nose. I still can't explain that one.

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