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How To Pace Yourself Through Holiday Performance Madness

Although this time of year is supposed to be filled with joyous excitement and relaxing fellowship, for many musicians, it more often ushers in a time of stressful madness. Since the season generally involves a number of extra performances, finding ways to pace yourself through the demands of holiday scheduling is important for your self-preservation. These tips can help you maintain an even keel so that you can actually enjoy your performances.

According to WebMD, “the average American spends 42 hours on holiday activities,” but musicians aren’t average. This time of year, an increase in demands create a hectic situation. In a recent survey by Mental Health America, “chaotic schedules” are a top source of stress. However, you can avoid burn-out by prioritizing your time and approaching holiday performance scheduling with confidence so that you can dial down the pressure.

#1. Don’t Overdo It. This might seem impossible (and hackneyed), but many people get into stressful situations because they try to do too much, or simply can’t turn someone down. This ends up establishing a holiday schedule that is nearly unmanageable. The best way to handle holiday performance scheduling is to pre-ordain a certain number of days that you will be able to perform, leaving yourself some down-time in between. Politely explaining to someone why you can’t make their date is much better than over-doing it. Choose the performances that are the most important to you and then don’t cave.

#2. Set Restoration Times. After a hectic day, set aside 30 minutes or more to unwind. During that time, don’t worry about things that are undone, just focus on renewing your own joy. This can be accomplished in many ways. You know what will help you relax. Perhaps you infuse essential oils or use incense? Maybe you like to lose yourself in a good book, or take a bubble bath while listening to classical music? Whatever your personal preference is, set aside time each day for it, so that you can rejuvenate your level of happiness.

#3. Eat. With so many demands pulling you in different directions, it can be easy to skip meals. Don’t do it. There are a number of physical consequences of hunger, which can combine to stifle your productivity. It’s a good idea to keep healthy snacks in your bag or briefcase, like granola bars, nuts, or other high protein favorites.

#4. Travel light. The less amount of stuff you have to schlep around, the better. It can be very stressful traveling with lots of luggage, so minimize what you need to carry. Your instrument, of course, and then one other carry bag. If you’re taking a performance outfit, choose color-coordinated casual items that can be worn with the same shoes, nylons, etc. to reduce space.

#5. Plan for delays. It’s going to happen. If you only have 20 minutes to get to a performance or make your flight, there will be a gigantic traffic jam or some other issue that conspires against you. Avoid this type of holiday stress by planning for delays and giving yourself additional travel time.

#6. Online shopping. Eschewing the crowds of holiday shoppers is a great self-preservation technique. Online shopping is easier, and often cheaper than in-store items, and you can have everything delivered to your home, including wrapping paper. Plus, by shopping online, you’ll have more time to arrange your holiday performance scheduling tasks.

#7. Breathe. Holiday performance madness affects almost every musician, but you can help lower stress levels by performing specific breathing techniques. Controlled breathing has the power to lower your heart rate, reduce pain levels, and establish a calming influence.

#8. Create an emergency repair kit. Regardless of the instrument you play, by creating an emergency repair kit, you will help lower your stress levels at holiday performances. Extra strings, peg dope, reeds, wax, and other items can come in very handy. Just knowing you have the ability to make minor repairs can help you cope.

#9. Make certain that you’re prepared. One of the reasons musicians feel overwhelmed during holiday performances is due to a lack of preparation. Diligent, deliberate practice is really the best holiday self-preservation technique of all.

#10. Remember to have fun and cut yourself (and others) some slack. Holiday performances aren’t supposed to be stressful… it isn’t an audition, it’s a celebration. By taking time to remember what the holiday season is actually about you can eliminate some of the hectic rush. Also, your attitudes influence others, so if you or someone else is having a breakdown, be compassionate and supportive. You’ll be surprised how effective a calm voice of reason can be.

This holiday season doesn’t have to be characterized by chaotic madness. You can keep your cool and enjoy the festivities by practicing these self-preservation techniques.

Violin on sheet music