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Episode 82:

Overcoming Performance Anxiety with Dr. Claire Kubiesa


Session Notes

Does performing make you nervous?

In this week's episode of Music Therapy, I talk with psychologist

Dr. Claire Kubiesa on overcoming performance anxiety!

Whether you're just starting out or have been performing for years, this episode has tons of information on overcoming performance anxiety.

In this episode we cover:

  • What is performance anxiety?

  • What does your identity have to do with performance anxiety?

  • How do our thoughts affect anxiety?

  • Why some anxiety is actually good for performing!

  • How to set SMART goals

  • How to manage performance expectations

  • How to develop a pre-performance routine


  • Byron Katie's "The Work"

  • Yerkes Dodson Law

  • SMART goal worksheet

  • Guided relaxation exercises


0:00:04.2 Jessica Risker: I'm here with Dr. Claire Kubiesa, thank you so much for joining us today.

0:00:15.3 Dr. Kubiesa: Thanks for having me, I'm happy to be here.

0:00:17.6 Jessica Risker: So I've interviewed lots of musicians now. One topic that kept coming from - people who haven't played out pretty much, even people who have performed a lot - was performance anxiety. That kept coming up in our conversations as something that people commonly struggle with, and my engineer said, We should do a show on this. Which makes perfect sense. And when I was looking for somebody to help with this topic, a therapist, I kept getting pointed to sports psychologists to help with this, which I wouldn't have necessarily thought of on my own, but it kinda makes sense why... What's the connection there?

0:01:04.1 Dr. Kubiesa: Sure. As a sport psychologist, a lot of sport-related issues tie back to performance, right? And we think of musicians, just along the same path as an athlete when you are going up on stage or have whatever coming up, it's just like if I were a basketball player and I had a game, so we practice practice practice, but it's all for this big performance that we're leading up to, and so the underlying psychology behind that is very, very, very similar, so sport psychology or what we look at is the underlying psychology behind training and performance, the athlete identity. I think it's very similar to musicians across the board. Absolutely.

0:01:49.5 Jessica Risker: So what is performance anxiety?

0:02:18.3 Dr. Kubiesa: So performance anxiety, if we look at it, is very similar to social anxiety, if you are familiar with the social anxiety diagnosis, how it changed in the DSM-5, the most recent one, right? It's related to some worry, excessive worry about how we're going to perform or have a certain task to do and maybe how others think about it, or if we have the skills to be able to perform that task at hand. Clinically speaking, we can diagnose performance anxiety under the social anxiety diagnosis as the performance as a specifier.

So if somebody is just struggling with excessive worry, worrying about "What if I screw up here?" or "I I don't get it right, and all these people are watching" and that's only related to when they're on stage, then when we look at just specifically performance anxiety, that's beside social anxiety, and the social anxiety piece comes back, I think he had done a podcast prior to when I was looking at your prior podcast on social anxiety, so I won't go into all of that, but it's really about worrying about what others are thinking about us when we're performing a specific task or doing something in front of others, and how we're coming off and what we're looking like and so with performance anxiety, it's really just specifically when we are performing our certain task or the thing that we've chosen to do.

So if it's music, music, if it's sports, whatever that is.

0:03:53.4 Jessica Risker: So, obviously there's this social component to it, and we're focusing for the moment at the cognitive aspect, so, the things that you're thinking about, the things that you're worrying about, and the social aspect being: You're doing this in front of people, and you are concerned about how they will perceive you.

And so that really brings us to the importance of your performance as being really tied in with your identity: "How are they going to see me in this role?" I wonder if you have any thoughts on that?

0:04:27.5 Dr. Kubiesa: Yeah, absolutely. I think that identity is huge in any type of work that I'm doing with performance anxiety or just general increasing our performance, so we do look a lot at when I work with athletes in particular, how their athletic identity and how that makes up pa rt of them, and if they were to lose pieces of that, what would be left? Right, and I think this similar can happen, I do work with musicians actually, with musicians of that they've worked so hard at this part of their life and it's actually a complete part of them, and if I were to screw up on this one thing that I say is part of me, then what does that say about me? "Who am I?" is really kind of like the big question that it comes down to... So I think there's two components there, right, the social aspect of other people evaluating, but there's also this major your component of me evaluating myself, and if I can't live up to what I've said that I am... Then what am I? What is this? What am I doing?

0:05:30.0 Jessica Risker: I'm really curious when you ask people to explore that, what do they say if you're saying if you're... If that's not part of you. What are you left with? Do you have any...

0:05:42.3 Dr. Kubiesa: So a lot of my work, I shouldn't say a lot of my work, a decent amount of work when we are looking at identity is, can we find a balance? Are there other parts of you that you haven't explored or that you want to, or that maybe we should beef up a little bit, so that we can be a little bit more flexible with our performance in music, let's say. So if that doesn't go well, we're not gonna come crash and falling down because we also have these other parts of us that we can honor too. But if they put all eggs in one basket and that we don't... Maybe not come crashing down, but it doesn't end up how want it to be, not all of our eggs are all lost because we have no other parts of us that we're honoring and able to increase our awareness of. Building up and having balance with other parts of our identity.

0:06:36.6 Jessica Risker: Could you maybe give an example of other parts of somebody's life that they may also turn their attention to, to make it a little more concrete?

0:06:50.3 Dr. Kubiesa: For sure. So a very concrete example: I'm working with an athlete right now who has put their life into sport since they were seven years old. That is all they know. They've neglected friendships, they've neglected family relationships, they've neglected... Actually, music is a very important part of their life. They've neglected that. All to put all of their focus and attention into their sport, they're very successful athlete, very successful one, they're on the US National Team, but at this point, we're starting to sloop a little bit in our sport and noticing... Oh my goodness, what else? What else is going on for you? We were noticing some sadness and some depression-like symptoms, and so to help this person explore what would it look like if I developed friendships outside of my sport, because right now the only friends this person can turn to, and I'm gonna put air quotes your "friends" are the friends in the sport with them right now. Outside of that, at school - no friends.

So how do we develop that, those friendship, what it means to be a friend outside of sport, how do we develop and honor those pieces, how do we develop and bring it back in music? It was a big part of their life, before really diving into the sport, how do we help this person develop and honor that without taking away from their sport, of course, because it's still very important to them, but also allowing them to honor this piece of them that is missing and contributing to some of the sadness because all they know is this one thing?

0:08:36.0 Jessica Risker: This is really interesting and I probably could spend too much time exploring this, but I would also think that there'd be some grief there if you're thinking about, first of all, maybe the main part of your identity has been into the sport or music, and that's changing, but also other parts of your lives too. I've given so much to this and actually in a way I kinda neglected these other parts of my life - that could also be complicated, I would imagine.

0:09:10.1 Dr. Kubiesa: Absolutely, right. I actually see that a lot more in transition from let's say, collegiate athletes or... Actually, I have this client right now, who is a musician who was transitioning out of studying classically in college and then moving out of that, and what does that look like when we don't have all that support, and what that piece is like, and like you said having this grief process.

A lot of my job is normalizing that, right, like this is very normal. This is what happens. Let's allow this process to happen versus trying to resist it, 'cause it is a big part of you, but we also change, we all have different seasons of life, as I'm sure that you know. So let's work with that, let's move into some acceptance of that and to mold how we want your craft to still be part of your life, but it may have to look a little different, so up a little different, and how can we honor that?

0:10:15.4 Jessica Risker: This is really interesting. So yeah, like I said, I could spend a lot of time thinking about this, but I have to be careful to pull back to performance anxiety... The question was, What is performance anxiety? And we were talking about how it's kind of a subset of social anxiety, there's this big cognitive factor: "what are people going to think about me? What do I think about myself?" My own identity.

What about the physical component of performance anxiety, what goes on in your body?

0:10:56.3 Dr. Kubiesa: So yeah, it can vary by person, but it's very similar to just general anxiety, but again, just pops up around that performance piece. So what typically can happen is increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, increase skin conductivity or sweating, our hands start to shake, maybe we call it racing thoughts or mind just kind of all over the place. You may feel completely blank, but I also say that that's usually when our mind is racing so much we can't even grab on to what is actually going through our mind. Some people feel like the room is crashing in, the room's getting smaller, those are, again, more kind of cognitive things, but also kind of this feeling or a tightness in our chest. Usually this all pops up leading up to the performance, and while we are in the performance.

0:11:55.4 Jessica Risker: I've had musicians talk about their performance anxiety, and some of them will say it'll be... Even days leading up to a show they have coming up, that it will begin and growing in intensity to when they're sitting in the green room right before they're about to go on, that it can be a days-long experience for some people...

0:12:17.7 Dr. Kubiesa: Absolutely, so we start to look back at all the cues or the triggers leading up to that event, and then usually the perspective that I practice from is more of a cognitive-behavioral or an Act-focused. So, thinking about what are we telling ourselves in those moments?

So as the performance is getting closer, of course, or your mind is probably shifting more to, Oh my goodness, it's a couple of days away, and maybe you're practicing in certain ways or meeting with your team of setting up the stage or whatever it is you are being cued more and more as we start to lead up to it, that this is really happening. And so the way that we talk to ourselves is really important as we lead up to this performance and that with the mind-body connection, it really translates to that our physical symptoms that you may start noticing a couple of days for a week before and it gets closer, that's where our intensity increases because now the meaning and the realness of it is increasing as well.

0:13:17.3 Jessica Risker: Something that's really interesting to me, the idea that our bodies don't really know the difference between what is real and what is just our thoughts.

So, if you are really imagining a tiger in front of you, even if there's no tiger, your body can respond as though there's a tiger, and just the power our thoughts have on our body's response. And so when you're talking about really paying attention to what's going on there, mentally, cognitively, that feels like it's so important. Is that the place to start? Or do you recommend people start by calming their bodies?

Dr. Kubiesa: You know, it really depends on the person. Some people, it's really, really difficult to know what's going on in our mind, and when people struggle with... When my performers struggle with understanding what's going, like what I mentioned before, sometimes when the mind is racing so fast it's hard for us to grab on to what's going on, I then turn to, Okay, let's focus on the body. The body will tell us what's going on, right? So let's focus there and then start relaxing those things, so I bring up the cognitive triad. So there's the thoughts, the emotions, and our behaviors are all interconnected here, right.

And so if we can't address the thoughts right away, let's shift to the behaviors, which are physical sensations that are going on, right?

I'll use meditations with a lot of performers or we'll do a body scan just to get in that understanding of what's going on in our body? Where do we feel stressed? I'm working with an athlete right now who finds a very difficult time finding what's going on through their mind or even grabbing on to and holding on to those things. So we started with the body and noticing that we're carrying a lot of stress up in our shoulders, so we're working right now just to start relaxing that area as part of their pre-performance routine, which is something we can talk about a little further, what a pre-performance routine is, 'cause that's really important for performers to have that are experiencing - Well, even if you're not experiencing anxiety prior to performance - but including these things that will help us just increase awareness, notice and then doing something about it.

0:15:33.5 Dr. Kubiesa: So yeah, the body. It depends per person. Some people are like, no, the body's not for me. I totally know what I'm telling myself. So then we'll address that.

0:15:42.7 Jessica Risker: Yeah. So you're really working with the person. And that's good for a musician to know: Am I able to figure out what I'm thinking here, or is this just a total body response? And that might help with your entry point on how to address the anxiety you're feeling before performance.

0:16:02.0 Dr. Kubiesa: Absolutely. Yeah, it's tough. It's tough for people to catch on or hold on to thoughts. Or maybe you know what you're telling yourself, but as you mentioned before, our mind is super powerful and we may have bought the lies that our mind's telling us, and so we know what we're thinking. But we're like, Oh, it's the truth. So why would I address this?

0:16:24.1 Jessica Risker: Oh yeah. That sounds tricky. What do you do there?

0:16:29.4 Dr. Kubiesa: So much is a lot of education around that. Right, a lot of talking about yeah, how we have thousands of thoughts a day. Everybody does. And it's a matter of us holding on to them and following that path or choosing that too, in a matter of how many times we kinda repeat that to ourselves without zooming out and asking ourselves, Is this the real truth?

I talk a lot about... From acceptance and commitment therapy, there's this concept of fusion - being fused with thoughts and then me helping them become defused. When we're fused with thoughts, I describe it as our noses up against the wall, and that's all we can see in front of us.

So our thoughts at that point have become absolute truth to us. We don't have the awareness to step back and say, Is this really based in truth? Maybe parts of the thought is, but because we've been telling ourselves that so many times, over and over for years, now, I just believe it, it's 100% the truth all the time.

And so my job is just to point it out and we start to slowly step back from it, and start to challenge those thoughts a little bit and say, How much truth is this? What percentage of truth is that? What if we tried something different? That's why I tell people at the time this is why I have a job, so we all get stuck in these thoughts, this is why US as therapists have jobs, it's not just one-off and one person.

0:18:06.0 Jessica Risker: This is a little bit of a side note, but... Are you familiar with Byron Katie and "The Work" that she does?

Dr. Kubiesa: Yes!

Jessica Risker: Yeah, that's making me think of that. I'll put that in the shownotes. We won't go too far into that, but it's very much a technique for, I think, helping people to question something that they're holding on really firmly to.

You were saying that we have thousands of thoughts a day, and when I'm working with people as a therapist and working with their thoughts, we'll find that often they're having tons of variations, but on maybe the same basic idea. And so helping them of distill it d own to what's the core here, what are you thinking about... And I'm curious if there are thoughts or core beliefs that you notice that are really common that just seemed to pop up for people over time? Hat are these core thoughts people have that are related to performance anxiety?

0:19:16.5 Dr. Kubiesa: Yeah, specifically with performance as the biggest one, the first one that comes to my mind as you ask that is, "I'm not enough".

That usually ties back to that identity. "If I can't perform and I can't show up this way... " then we distill down, just kinda like we were talking about. So my job is, okay, if that's the though t, but then what's underneath it? What's that core underneath it? It's that I'm not enough. If I can't show up here, then I'm not this person that I was supposed to be or meant to be that I tell myself that I am and I'm not enough. Not for myself, not for other people watching me, I'm not living up to what maybe I told them I'm gonna be... That would be the one, the common thread that I've found throughout a lot of performers, is that "I'm not enough".

0:20:04.8 Jessica Risker: It's such a heart breaking thought!

0:20:09.5 Dr. Kubiesa: I know, it is. I don't think a lot of... Again, part of my job is helping them kinda understand that. I don't think a lot of people when they come in here understand that that's really the core believe that a lot of these other thoughts are kind of stemming off of.

But what I found to be really helpful is just helping them first understand it, then challenge that, but also when we can balance out their identity a little bit more, they can see that that they are [enough].

0:20:39.5 Jessica Risker: So we're in this conversation, we're bypassing a lot of therapy to get to some root thoughts here: "I'm not enough". And it's great to contemplate, but pulling back out a little bit, I actually wanna use... So I've been performing as a musician for a long time, and I don't feel the anxiety I used to going on stage, I think because I've done it so much. But I do a monthly Music Therapy Group Session show where I interview a full band, and I always feel really nervous before that. The reason I'm bringing that up is because I think that my anxiety... When we're talking about how people experience performance anxiety, mine is almost a dread, like I get grumpy and irritable, I don't wanna do it. I'm not feeling like fearful or scared, even though I think that's underneath it, but is that something else that you've experienced people having before a performance?

0:21:40.9 Dr. Kubiesa: 100%. So I'm an athlete, and I would say that that was typically my response to it, and I think that's part of the self-sabotage, right? "Okay, I'm just not gonna show up." And then that's an avoidance piece, right, of how my mind tells me, "Just don't do it!" and I can avoid it, and then I don't have to feel that anxiety.

The way you're talking about it, now you've put yourself in positions to practice and get better and get used to getting comfortable with an uncomfortable feeling, so now it doesn't even show up for you in certain experiences. Right, but when you have a bigger meeting attached to something, I also, I need to show up as this expert, I'm maybe leading this interview and I need to show up as leading the ship here, and I need to be seen as this person that knows what they're talking about. Or whatever it is, that can bring a lot of that kind of dread: "I don't wanna feel those feelings again!"

And I would be lying if I didn't say I didn't have some of that for myself too about coming here today, I'm like, Oh my goodness, I'm gonna be put on the spot, I better know what the heck I'm talking about. I have a PhD in this stuff, right? Other people are gonna be listening... I had something similar to that, but just allowing yourself to acknowledge it and acknowledge that those thoughts are there versus trying to fight it off can be really, really helpful, and also kinda lean into it... I know that if I do this, how I feel up the end lead into the more of those positive thoughts a little bit there too, and the positive feelings, and also reminding yourself how much you have practiced, and you are prepared for what's ahead of you.

0:23:25.0 Jessica Risker: I feel like for me, and I'm not saying this just because I'm trying to get free therapy, but I'm trying to give an example of my real life, this is how it goes. Because as you're talking, I do have this feeling every month when this comes up, and I think mine is always about are people that have come to the show, and if they don't come to the show, if not enough people come to the show, they're gonna cancel the show, and then I'm gonna look like a fool in front of my music community and the things I've been trying to do and trying to create.

And so as we're talking, I'm thinking about all the thoughts that are accompanying this anxiety that I feel leading into the show, and just try to be more aware of what that feeling is about because I do have that feeling of like, I just dread this, I just want this to be over. Even though I usually have a good time.

0:24:07.3 Dr. Kubiesa: There you go, right? So at the end usually, even in the middle of it or the whole thing, you have a good time, but leading up to it, because your mind'ss telling you some funky stuff, right?

And so what I would say is, Well, you've done it several times. What's... Each month, right. What happens usually? What are your past experiences? Like do people show up?

0:24:34.1 Jessica Risker: Depends on the month, sometimes, yeah. But yes, people come to the show, for sure.

0:24:37.1 Dr. Kubiesa: Has there ever been a time like when nobody has come...

Jessica Risker: No, no, no.

Dr. Kubiesa: So smaller stuff like that, we really need to remind ourselves and challenge that. And also kind of understanding where we're setting the bar for ourselves - sometimes it's okay to lower that bar. I don't know what your show is like, but if you want 100 people there, is that a realistic bar we need to be setting? Or is the bar... I just want five people and I'd be happy, right? So understanding here, that bars and what our mind is doing with it and those expectations and... And challenging that a little bit can help, so how do you help but...

0:25:19.7 Jessica Risker: Oh, I'm sorry, go ahead.

0:25:21.1 Dr. Kubiesa: I was gonna say, I also tell people, you're not gonna believe this stuff right away... Right, I'm gonna challenge it. You're gonna say maybe like, no, yeah, no, we've never had no one show, but you're not gonna believe that right away.

The key to this stuff is we have to repeat it to ourselves. We have to constantly come back to that. Just like your mind constantly goes to the negative, it's our job to say, Okay, I know you're over there, but I'm gonna come back here and repeat this to myself, 'cause then that's when we start to believe that when we're on repeat with the more positive and helpful things versus the more negative and not so helpful stuff, which we've been on repeat for a long time. So that's why we think it's the truth now, so it's just... It's taking a lot of effort to shift and put on repeat...

You're not gonna believe it the first time around. It's not that gonna be super, super helpful and make all your anxiety melts away the first time around, in fact, we don't want your anxiety to melt away completely because it's actually a really important component of performance, which I can talk about too...

A big part of my job is helping performers understand that anxiety is actually a good thing to have for performance. A lot of people look at me like I'm nuts, but if you don't have any of it, we will be performing not well, either.

0:26:37.9 Jessica Risker: Why is that? Why is some anxiety important for performance?

0:26:43.8 Dr. Kubiesa: This thing called... Or law called the Yerkes Dodson law, are you familiar with it? I'm not. Okay, so I tell you the name, you don't necessarily need to know, but I tell you just to kind of share that, it's based in a lot of research in the Yerkes Dodson law tells us that it's basically imagine a normal curve... I can send you maybe a link to put in the show notes here, we have this normal curve, and you see on one side there's performance on the Y-axis and on the X- axix there's arousal or stress, I call that anxiety too.

So you see a performance or if our arousal is really low, our performance is really low as well. If our stress anxiety is really high or the peak or performance is crap tthroughout.

A performance at the peak on this normal curve, we have to have a nice little balance. The graph shows us that it's the middle, the midpoint, but that can look different for everybody.

0:27:58.9 Dr. Kubiesa: Maybe my curve has shift in a little bit, I know that I need a little less anxiety or stress to perform well, but I still need some. I still need some of it because as you probably know as a therapist, our emotions can be really, really helpful, because they provide us a lot of information... They can be very motivational. Right, so we want to have some of it. My job is not to help you eliminate it, it's to help you work with it and to contain it in an area where it's helpful and not hurtful.

0:28:30.0 Jessica Risker: Is any part of that, that a certain amount of anxiety is helpful because it actually primes the body for some sort of physical activity?

0:28:42.1 Dr. Kubiesa: Yeah, sure, just even imagine if you didn't have... If you didn't have any kind of worry or expectations or thoughts about what was about to come up, you like whatever, you may not prepare how you would need to in order to perform. You wouldn't have any meaning attached to it, so why would you need to perform well. Right. It's like, Oh, what I rachis this thing, right? I don't care if I fail this test, I feel the test whatever. If I flop, I don't care what anybody thinks about me.

So you may not perform at the peak where maybe where you want to or maybe it has no meaning for you anymore, and then that's when we need to look at it a little differently too: Okay, do we really need to even be doing this? But... Absolutely, then it also preps your body a little bit - that's an emotion piece that preps our body I say, Okay, I need to get up and you're ready to perform expects... Our heart beating a little faster. If you're doing more physical work during your performance... Absolutely.

0:29:38.9 Jessica Risker: So I wanna go back, I have some questions about expectations, and then maybe we could talk about some pre-performance routines or some way to manage anxiety.

So the idea of expectations... Going back to the idea that your expectations may be informing your anxiety, if you're having maybe unrealistic expectations for your performance, for the turnout or the results... A lot of athletes and a lot of musicians have big dreams and they have big goals and they're ambitious. How do you work with people to say, Maybe you're expecting too much here? I imagine some people may not always be happy with that thought.

0:30:28.8 Dr. Kubiesa: Most people do not like that thought! [laughter]

0:30:30.7 Jessica Risker: How do you work with them through that?

0:30:33.9 Dr. Kubiesa: Totally. So the way we operate with that is I look at... I'm a huge goal setter with performers. I think it's really helpful to have concrete goals. But then work our way back.

So I describe it like a ladder. I like to imagine a ladder. On top of the ladder is our, let's say, end of the season goal, or however we're gonna conceptualize that. The way to get to the top of the ladder is by developing the rungs underneath it.

A lot of times what happens is that with the top of the ladder is the only thing we have on our mind, and that's where I would say that the expectations - that we need to shift them a little bit, right, we can absolutely have top of ladder. But I wanna shift your expectations as we're working our way up there to focusing on these rungs to help us get up there.

If we didn't have any of those rungs and we just focus on the top and you try to jump to the top and you don't... Make it, and you fall, you're gonna hurt yourself. You're one's gonna be hurt. Emotionally, maybe even physically.

So let's focus on developing these rungs. I'm not telling you to eliminate the absolute top, but how can we bring ourselves down to maybe more of the process versus the overall outcome? 'cause we will get there, but we need the process to get there. And so then let's say you have the end of the year showcase or whatever it is as a musician - are there smaller performances along the way that we can focus on here and setting smaller process goals on those things as we work our way up to the top of the top of the rung?

Jessica Risker: If we could to try to get these examples even more concrete, let's just imagine that a musician is planning a release show, and it's going to happen in a month or two, and their top of the ladder expectation is "I want a huge turnout and I wanna just kill it, I wanna do great with my band and just blow everybody away."

0:32:48.4 Jessica Risker: So that could be like a lot of pressure that could create anxiety. So to break this down a little bit to the concrete, the lower rungs, what would some examples would you think for working towards that top of the ladder?

0:33:07.0 Dr. Kubiesa: First I would wanna be more concrete. So what's a big turnout to them, right? Define that. And then when I'm working through these expectations or goals, I like to work under the frame of a SMART goal.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, A is Attainable. I actually change that to Adjustable, R is Realistic, and T is time-based.

so we have the T - Let's say in a month. Right. The specific part of it would be, Let's put a number and I want 150 people to show up. Right, that's where... Okay.

The A, I say it's adjustable, so we wanna make sure that we kinda help shift your mind a little bit. If I don't meet that goal, let's say 130 people show up - Am I gonna be okay with that? Can I adjust my mind and say, Okay, that's still a nice big turnout, right?

R is Realistic. Does the 150 people make sense? If I've done a release party before and two people show up, if I'm not expecting a couple of months later, 150 to people to shop, is that realistic? That's the big part of helping shift expectation there, really helping people sit down and say what is the realistic piece of this...

0:34:28.7 Dr. Kubiesa: We also want goals to be a little bit out of reach, that's what keeps us moving and striving and working towards something. So you don't want it to be a no brainer, I'm gonna hit it because otherwise what do we have to work for? But I make sure that that's still a realistic goal, like somewhat within our reach, but not completely.

So I would be more specific on those goals and then to help them underneath that, I'd say, Okay, I would probably work weekly or daily on goals, right. So, okay, in a month time, if we know we want 150 people at this release party, what can we be working on this week, process wise, what behaviors? What things can you do this week that will help you work towards that, that release party goal? That number, can you chat with X, Y-Z, can you send out invites, can you flyer or poster areas around, whatever it is to help you and be very... Then we do SMART goals around that.

And really the focus there is the behavior. What can we be doing? Small pieces to work our way up to the rung of the ladder.

If you wanna kill it, your performance, you want your performance to kill it -

Okay, so what does that mean to you? And then underneath that, well, what can be doing day-to-day, knowing that that's your end goal?

We've set it, and now we come to the moment-to-moment. I work a lot with mindfulness skills to moment-to-moment, bring ourselves back to this present moment. What can I do right here and now that I know, maybe it doesn't make sense, like if somebody will look micro, how that would relate to my end goal, but if we add it a little by a little, it makes a lot, right? What can I do right now, day-to-day, that will get me to that end goal?

0:36:16.6 Jessica Risker: That's great. Just talking through that, I think that that is really helpful and so important. Many performers to have the idea that they want to be successful, but what you're saying is, Well, what does success... What does that exactly look like?

So we're talking about a big turnout, then what's the number? Let's make it concrete and let's figure out actionable steps you can take to get there. And I think the other thing about, I can really sit down and plot that out, that can feel really empowering. You feel like it's not just this big elusive thing that you have sort of an idea about, but you got action steps to do, you can actively be working on it.

Dr. Kubiesa: Bingo! With performance anxiety, what happens, and with anxiety, just in general, I might always flies off to the future... Right, and that we don't have any control over that, what's gonna happen in the future.

But that's why I like to set the set the goal and then let's float ourselves back to this present moment. This is what we have control over. And I say a lot, a little by little makes a lot, so let's focus right here, the 1% plus 1% plus, we're gonna get there - we just have to keep constantly bringing ourselves back to this present moment.

Have some actionable steps. I'm a big proponent of actually writing this stuff down, posting somewhere where I know that's what I'm working on. Also working on a lot of shifting our minds to being okay with boring, 'cause some of those smaller things can be rather boringA Getting really good at being okay with these boring smaller things, as long as you can remind yourself that it is connected to this bigger goal.

Jessica Risker: Do you see that when people implement that, that they down the road, are they more inclined to do it again? Do they see the success of it and the power of that?

0:38:13.5 Dr. Kubiesa: 100%, Absolutely. I get a lot of eye rolls, a lot of, Oh, this not gonna work. When I first asked them, Let's break it down really, really small, like, well, what the heck does this... But once we can get even to the end of that week and they go, Oh my goodness. Even just increased confidence in yourself that you can achieve these smaller things, right. That will help motivate the behavior down the line... Absolutely.

0:38:38.6 Jessica Risker: I wanna make sure to talk about this, and I really appreciate your time, and I know you've got a client coming up, but can we maybe finish out by talking - you referred to a pre-performance routine. Can we imagine somebody who knows they have a show coming up either in a day or two, or today, and kind of use that as an example to talk through some of the broader ideas, you have about a routine they can use to better manage their anxiety?

0:39:08.2 Dr. Kubiesa: Absolutely. This can be really, really helpful for performance anxiety, having a pre-performance routine. I want you to think about pre-performance, it could be at any point prior to the performance. In fact, I do encourage smaller routines along the way.

So you've mentioned some musicians start to experience some anxiety a couple of days or weeks before, so even setting up routines in those moments too, if we know that that's when the anxiety is gonna start to creep up and that's when we do it. If it's not, maybe then it's just an hour before the performance or five minutes before, whatever it is.

But when we're thinking about a pre-performance routine, routines are so helpful to kind of cue and prep our body to say, Hey, I'm okay, this is what's gonna happen. And I'm going into the thing. So in any routine, it depends on... And I always come back to that Yerkes dots in law, right? Of understanding where does this person's anxiety need to be? Some people may need to be really hyped up before something - they need to be jumping around, like you're jamming out, whatever it is, to really increase their anxiety a little bit.

Other people, like myself included, need to be lower and doing meditations prior to a performance. It's really figuring out where that line needs to be for you, and then in putting things in the routine that's gonna help support that.

So usually what I would encourage is some type of relaxation piece for those people that need to be a little lower on the spectrum here, and that's usually where I see people. I've had few and far between people that are like, No, I need to be jumping around and doing something before to really hype myself up.

So relaxation could be breathing, just like focusing, just a nice, big, deep belly breath. It can be doing some type of meditation. It can be going through a nice little walk, getting some air and sun on your face.

I also encourage having some type of mantra or saying that they are, or maybe it's a couple song lyrics that really speak to centering and grounding and calming yourself in that moment that they would include in their pre-performance routine. Things to really just ground yourself in that present moment, to just be present right there then and there, that's where we have the most control.

So those types of things. And again, that can kinda start at any point prior to performance, five minutes before, hour before, whatever it is. It can go back to what are you doing the night before? What's your dinner like? Do you lay out your clothes, or come up the setlist?

I'm sure you do that already, but is that part of a routine or are you kind of like haywired with it, going into something? So being very intentional about these things.

And then after you kind of understand what you need to have in your routine, then getting really good at consistency with it. Because when we get really good with consistency, then we don't have to think about it down the road. It's just something we do and something like this preps our body to get ready to be in that space again, that calm-centered space again.

0:42:22.6 Jessica Risker: Okay, great, so being really consistent with it, kind of getting to know what's most helpful for you, practices to help you be in the present moment. I always recommend for people when they're really anxious to not try to use self-guided meditation, but maybe use some guided relaxation 'cause your mind seems to spin a lot when you're really nervous.

0:42:41.0 Dr. Kubiesa: Absolutely. Yeah, I always tell people when we're starting off with meditations that the guided meditations are gonna be much more helpful. I've been meditating for 15 years or more than that, and I still use guided meditations, because you're right, when we caught up in our head, it's easy for our heads just to spin... So to have somebody kinda pull you back and bring you back into the present moment can be really, really helpful.

Another thing that I do do with a lot of athletes and musicians are just images of their performance, right. Some include that in a pre-performance routine, some don't... It depends on the person, but kind of walking yourself, you go to your performance in your mind before you're there, right. And so when you are then on stage, you're like, Oh, this is a little more comfortable, I've been here before in my mind. So some include a little two-minute imagery in their pre-performance routine to be really helpful. Again, it depends on the person.

0:43:44.6 Jessica Risker: So something that a lot of musicians, I think, encounter and maybe even feel challenged by, is that usually they're performing in a venue where there's beer around or alcohol, maybe a lot of people around them. Maybe there's a little green room, they can escape to to be by themselves, but what's your feeling on having some beers... Do you recommend it? OR do not recommend. What are your thoughts on that?

0:44:12.3 Dr. Kubiesa: That... Yeah, that's a great question. My initial reaction to that is, No, let's stay away because that's actually helping you avoid these things IPsec, which for some people, not so bad, but if we're wanting to really work with this anxiety, then trying to eliminate it like that, it's not gonna be so helpful.

So I guess... Gosh, I hate to say it, it's like it depends, I guess the typical psychologist response, it depends, but my initial could be saying, let's stay away from it, let's allow yourself to really feel, so then you can actually really achieve and work towards the potential that you have there, those expectations.

0:44:53.6 Jessica Risker: Yeah, I endorse that view as well. Wow, this has been really great. This has been really chock full of information. Thank you so much for your time today. If somebody wanted to work with you, I know that you're really busy, but if they wanted to reach out to you, is there a place we could find you?

0:45:14.1 Dr. Kubiesa: I appreciate that. Yeah, I am super busy. I'm actually booked out through June, but if anybody has any questions, they're welcome to email me.

I do have a website, it's just my name,, and you can check out my background, my bio or whatever. My email or my phone number is on there as well. But yeah, anybody can reach out that way.

0:45:37.1 Jessica Risker: Thank you so much. I'm gonna put a lot of the resources that we discussed, I'll put those in the show notes. So anybody who's curious about that, Dr. Cubits referring to the SMART goals, those kinds of things, I'll put some resources in the show notes for any listeners.

0:45:55.0 Dr. Kubiesa: Yeah, I'll send you a link or even PDF of those things, I do have a PDF, a worksheet on SMART goals, so somebody can actually sit down and work through them to help be more concrete with their goals and expectations, that people can have access to.

0:46:10.8 Jessica Risker: That would be great. Thank you so, so much for your time today.

0:46:15.3 Dr. Kubiesa: Happy to do it. Thanks for reaching out and having me.

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