Practice anxiety


I’m going to write a number of posts over the coming weeks about something I struggle with on an almost daily basis, and that I suspect a lot of other musicians do too, but which rarely gets talked about beyond a few throwaway phrases: anxiety associated with practicing your instrument.

We hear an awful lot about performance anxiety, and there’s tons of information out there to help you with this (and fair enough, we all struggle with this one way or another). But besides little sayings like “getting started is the hardest bit!” there’s not an awful lot directly discussing the anxiety that arises when you go to practice.

So, I’ll try to put together some info on this, write about my experience, gather together some helpful resources, and make lists of various ideas I’ve come up with to deal with it.

What is “practice anxiety”?

Practice anxiety is a combination of anxious symptoms that occur when thinking about, trying to begin, or actually practicing (in this case, I’m talking about music practice, but I’m sure it occurs in other kinds of practice as well). Here are some of the things I most commonly experience:

  • a strong feeling of discomfort before or during practice;
  • “brain fog”, a difficulty accessing or ordering thoughts about practice or about how and when you will practice;
  • persistent negative thoughts about your practice (about the way you are practicing, your practice consistency, and your overall progress);
  • high levels of frustration in practice, especially at the very beginning of a practice session;
  • dreading upcoming performances/rehearsals/lessons/deadlines that you are practicing for (for me this is far stronger than any dread or anxiety I feel immediately prior to performance).

Probably all musicians experience these things at one point or another, but they can become a real problem for you when they lead to chronic AVOIDANCE of practice.

When you struggle with practice avoidance, even though music practice is something you really want to be doing in your life, you need as many tools as possible at your fingertips to combat what can be some very strong feelings that stand between you and getting started. Every couple of days I’ll post a new tool that has helped me in the hope that it can help you too.


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