Ever had one of those days where everything goes wrong? You’re running late. The traffic is crazy. You feel like you are at the centre of stress city and the whole world is imploding around you. We’ve all been there: Your body is tight, your throat is dry, and you want nothing more than to go home and collapse in a ball. Instead, you have 2 hours before you are expected to sing what is surely to be the most difficult song you have had to do all week… What now?
First: Stop. Breathe. Hydrate.
If you are anything like me you are already in go mode and want to get right on to heading to the venue or doing your hair still without catching a breath. But the world can wait one minute. Chances are you will make more mistakes and wind yourself up more if you don’t slow down.Take a big breath in – deep in to your lungs – and let it out slowly. Start your hydration now – not 5 minutes before you run on stage. Take a few seconds to have a glass of water or at least fill up a bottle and take it with you. You haven’t lost more than 45 seconds. Your voice will thank you for it later. On the way to the venue sing along to music or hum or lip trill (like blowing raspberries with your lips)- nothing too strenuous on your voice because everything in there is tight and dry.
Do what you have to do to prepare.
If you need to get into certain clothes or do your hair – get it out of the way. At least that’s my approach. There is no point trying to de-stress while you still have multiple things to stress about. Do it once and be as done as is needed – if something is not working out move on to the next thing. Don’t panic and be ready enough to go to stage – you can always touch up at the end after you’ve warmed up or do those last little things that can’t be done too early. You’ve done this before – you can do it now. While you are getting ready you can continue to warm up especially as your voice feels less strained. It is important to take it easy with your warm ups as you don’t want to damage your instrument.
Time to wind down so you can warm up.
You are ready enough to go. You still have time. But all of you is tight and out of touch. Sit down and close your eyes for a second – preferably in a space on your own. Try to bring your focus back to what you have to do. Imagine something that helps you get there – whether that be an empty space or what your character is thinking. Stay there for a minute. If you want, take the opportunity to massage into your jaw while you are approaching the end of the minute. Stretch your neck all the way over to each shoulder keeping your eyes closed – hold it there for 20 seconds. Then sit up straight – but it has to be the right type of straight – imagine you have a piece of wire where your neck meets your shoulders and another on your lower back in line with the top of your hips. Now, pull them in opposite directions so that you are being pulled up into the ceiling while pressing your tailbone down into the chair. Make sure your head is loose and tip it back to level and let your shoulders roll back and down. Now you can open your eyes.
Now stand up and reach up to the ceiling. Reach over until you are hanging from the waist like a ragdoll and cling onto your elbows. This will stretch down your lower back and open out the back of your chest and all the tight muscles in your shoulders. Swing back and forth and breathe into the stretch. This is a good one to align your spine and reset your posture before any performance stressed or otherwise. Stay there for a minute and then roll back up through your spine.
This is one of my current favourites – the silent yawn. Try to yawn without making any sound on the breath in or the breath out. You will feel how the muscles extend even more than usual and release all the tension in your jaw. Do a few of these now and maybe one more after you have done a vocal warmup.
Go through your normal vocal warm up being very aware of your voice and constantly reminding your body to loosen up. Sometimes a little shake will help. And keep your voice hydrated with little sips of water.
And above all remember that everyone there is ready and waiting to see you. Don’t rush it – relax into it – and give them the performance they have been waiting for.
Go out there and be amazing – you can do this. Let this be the highlight of your day and make up for everything else.