From the Vault: Give Yourself the Gift of Peace this Holiday Season

This article was published previously by CS and is being shared from the CS Archives. Read any of the 3,600+ blog posts and articles in the Archives.

snowfall christmas peaceYou’re in the thick of the season right now— and the holidays, the busiest season of the year, are upon us. Let’s hope your plate is full of performances and that you are remembering to be grateful for having work, instead of harried because of it!

I hope you’ll take some time to go slowly through all your “busy-ness.” Singers are often “adrenalin junkies,” running from dawn until midnight, fueled only by caffeine and junk food. We can pump ourselves up to keep going and going and going—but we pay for it with allergies, acid reflux and depression.

That’s right—the singer epidemics I just mentioned are being caused by the singer lifestyle. We’re going to be bringing you help for this in the March issue, but for now, here are some simple suggestions.

Your goal should be to calm that adrenalin reflex down so you can perform at your best. Stress management techniques are many and they’ll all help you, but here are a few singer-specific ideas you may not have thought of.

Learn to stop the panic action you’ve taken on as a habit. Is your stomach tied up in knots right now? Let it go.

Are your shoulders raised? Tension in your legs? Where else do you feel tense? Those knotted feelings are a choice you make. Let them go.

See?

Notice yourself during the day. Be aware that you are knotted up when there’s absolutely no reason to be. You’ve been so stressed out for so long that it’s gotten to be a habit. You started out as a stressed student, moved on to stressful competitions, stressful auditions, being on the spot, under pressure to perform—and soon you are “on” all the time. Let it gøo. Remind yourself constantly: “There’s no audition right now! I’m calm. I’m safe.” Let your muscles relax when you’re not onstage. You need adrenalin onstage—it makes for a great performance. Learn to turn it off as you take off your costume. Breathe deeply and let go. Save it!

Arrive early wherever you go. It only takes five extra minutes but you save yourself several shots of adrenalin that otherwise you will need to make up later with artificial chemicals. Extra adrenalin (and other hormones) the panic reflex pumps into your system, and the artificial chemicals you use to make up for it, are making you sick, even if you aren’t aware of it yet. You’ll pay for it later.

Begin to taper off your caffeine habit. It raises your stress level. Do it slowly so you don’t feel ill and sluggish. Caffeine makes your system more stressed and that’s the last thing a singer needs. Save it for when you’ve got a headache and need the help. If you need more energy, it’s time to take a look at exercise, more and better sleep, diet and supplements.

Try to get at least 15 minutes of raw daylight (not filtered through a window) every day. It builds your seratonin levels—those chemicals that make you feel good. It will help you avoid caffeine and anti-depressants. If you don’t have access to sunlight, you can get a special light that mimics sunlight. Ask at your health food store or look up “full spectrum lighting” online. Try 15 minutes a day and you’ll notice a big improvement in your whole outlook.

Eat balanced meals. The Atkins diet is popular now, but it’s not balanced. Be careful if you are prone to depression as the Atkins diet has very few carbs, and carbs keep your seratonin levels up. If you are not working out at the gym, you need at least 15 grams of carbohydrates per balanced meal of healthy fats, non-starchy veggies, and non-starchy protein. If you are doing heavy gym workouts, you may need to go as high as 30 grams per meal.

If you are really severely burned out, you’ll want to taper off the cardio part of your exercise and do stretching or calm walking. Your adrenalin pumps too much during heavy cardio sessions and if you are already running on fumes, this isn’t the time. Heal your adrenals first.

Finally, you know there are many things in your life that are causing you extra stress. If you spend enough meditative quiet time, the answers to these stressors are available to you as well. Trust that you can find answers to what is taking away your peace—and ask for answers.

The bottom line: This is a season that calls on you to give and give and give. You must take time to take care of yourself.

You don’t have to go through your life as an adrenalin junkie! Our lives as singers are meant to be joyful. We can’t be giving what we are supposed to be giving if we are burnt out. It’s the holiday season—time to give yourself a present of peace.

CJ Williamson

CJ Williamson founded Classical Singer magazine. She served as Editor-in-Chief until her death in July, 2005. Read more about her incredible life and contributions to the singing community here.