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Old 08-14-2013, 09:08 PM   #1
thorrre
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Anxiety stopping me from playing guitar.

Hello I've come to you fine folks today with a problem. I have not played my guitar in 6 weeks, I want to I really do, but my anxiety is stopping me from playing. I'm very anxious about messing up and it's stopping me from even picking up my guitar as I just have the mindset that I will mess up and I cannot play anything fluidly. I have been told to just suck it up but this is harder for me to do so, I do not mean to draw a sympathy card or anything but I do have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and this makes trying to make me believe that i'm playing things well far harder to do and almost everything i play seems sup-par to me. So I need advise on what I should is there anyone with a problem like this that overcame it or does anyone have any advice in a situation like this?
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:22 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by thorrre
Hello I've come to you fine folks today with a problem. I have not played my guitar in 6 weeks, I want to I really do, but my anxiety is stopping me from playing. I'm very anxious about messing up and it's stopping me from even picking up my guitar as I just have the mindset that I will mess up and I cannot play anything fluidly. I have been told to just suck it up but this is harder for me to do so, I do not mean to draw a sympathy card or anything but I do have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and this makes trying to make me believe that i'm playing things well far harder to do and almost everything i play seems sup-par to me. So I need advise on what I should is there anyone with a problem like this that overcame it or does anyone have any advice in a situation like this?


yah drink a beer or two and then smoke a bowl or joint and walk away in amazement at how much better you are.
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Old 08-14-2013, 10:24 PM   #3
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Really, the only thing you CAN do is fight your way through it, or just quit. You're going to make mistakes and so on, but that's what makes a guitarist unique, what mistakes they make. All you can do is convince yourself that you need to just play and practice much more than before to make less mistakes and play much more fluidly. Also, if you play when other people can hear you, try to play quietly, that really helps me, I play a good deal better when others aren't listening, it helps give people a case of the nerves, it's gotten a lot better with time, and it will with you.

One good bit of confidence boosting is to play for someone that knows nothing about music or guitar, they just listen to it. They're VERY easily impressed, especially older people. ****, play some AC/DC and dudes that grew up in the 70s and 80s will worship the ground you walk on...though they'll want you to play every time they see you.

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yah drink a beer or two and then smoke a bowl or joint and walk away in amazement at how much better you are.


Was actually going to be my second suggestion...though, weed tends to make me a bit more nervous when playing for other people.

Last edited by Velcro Man : 08-14-2013 at 10:27 PM.
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Old 08-14-2013, 11:56 PM   #4
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Just pick it up and play. I started learning its tough but I will get the hang of it
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Old 08-15-2013, 12:21 AM   #5
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I used to struggle a lot with an anxiety disorder, but I've learned to control it, without medication (I have an autoimmune condition that essentially causes anti-anxiety drugs to destroy my immune system). Let me post the same coping trick I posted to another gentleman on this forum with anxiety issues, and let's see if this helps you at all:

"The first thing you should try, in my opinion, is deep breathing. REALLY deep breathing. You'll probably need to work up to this to do it without feeling like you're holding your breath, but for the kind of breathing depth that blocks the adrenaline from the sympathetic nervous system, you need to be breathing at a rate no faster than 10 seconds in, 10 seconds out.

For now, breathe from your abdomen, as slowly and softly as you can without tensing up, as often as you can throughout the day. It becomes more and more unconscious over time, and eventually your passive breathing rate slows down as well. This is very good for people with anxiety, because it essentially emphasizes the parasympathetic nervous system and its ability to control the adrenal response.

Also: Smile. A lot. Like, a stupid lot. Smile constantly. If you're not smiling, remember to smile. Especially if you can create a mental trigger of a happy memory or image, this trick causes the synthesis of dopamine in the brain. Now, paired with adrenaline, dopamine runs the risk of actually increasing anxiety, but that's what the deep breathing's for. Combining the smile with the deep breathing results in a very healing state of mind that gives you superior control over your anxiety. Eventually, you'll learn to dismiss those anxious feelings at will, without all the breathing and smiling. This just trains your body to obey your mind by association."
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorrre
Hello I've come to you fine folks today with a problem. I have not played my guitar in 6 weeks, I want to I really do, but my anxiety is stopping me from playing. I'm very anxious about messing up and it's stopping me from even picking up my guitar as I just have the mindset that I will mess up and I cannot play anything fluidly. I have been told to just suck it up but this is harder for me to do so, I do not mean to draw a sympathy card or anything but I do have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and this makes trying to make me believe that i'm playing things well far harder to do and almost everything i play seems sup-par to me. So I need advise on what I should is there anyone with a problem like this that overcame it or does anyone have any advice in a situation like this?

I think it's less about making mistakes and more about how you frame them.

When I make mistakes, I sometimes get mad at myself after a while, especially if it's something that I normally can nail. However, the way I try to think about mistakes, they're learning opportunities. Instead of being something to get mad about, it's an opportunity to learn what I need to improve upon.

As someone who suffers from pretty overwhelming anxiety, I've noticed that it's not so much the reality (that I suck at things) that bothers me as much as the way that I think about it ("I'll never improve and I'm embarrassing myself" as opposed to "I can't play this, but I now know another thing that I can improve upon to get better").
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:45 AM   #7
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I am married to a anxious person.

1. Get some ativan. (lorezapam) Even if you never take it, it'll help your anxiety.
Knowing that you have a tool to help calm yourself is a very good way to keep calm. My wife almost never takes hers, but she gets a little freaked out if she doesn't have it available. It's a psychological trick that works.

2. Do a breathing exercise. Kevin has that one covered. My wife would put little colored dots in places where she often felt anxious and the dots would remind her to do breathing exercises.
I've had one panic attack myself and I can attest to the value of deep breathing. It just helps.

3. You're probably psyching yourself out a little bit and it might be helpful to find a different way to practice. Me - for example - I get distracted if I try to follow a practice schedule and formal practice never works out. In order to fight my own tendencies I'm planning to use Rocksmith as a learning aid. I figure the score system and the video game aspects will distract me until I have a few skills, and I know that I'll have an easier time learning if I first get a few skills under my belt.
It just strikes me as a trick that might work for anxiety as well. Rather than psyching yourself out with 'guitar god practice' you can unwind with a much less prestigious activity that accomplishes many of the same ends.
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:57 AM   #8
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Great tips from Paul. With regards to a nicer practice space: Consider running through your routine unplugged while watching something that makes you laugh. I've been known to put Family Guy on Netflix and just practice sweeping or something for hours on end; it's easy to lose track of time once you get into the swing of it.
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Old 08-15-2013, 08:58 AM   #9
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Remember that EVERY guitarist out there makes mistakes. Even the virtuosos will hit a bum note every once in a while.

To make an analogy to sports, in baseball pitchers are told to "have a short memory" when having a bad day or maybe giving up a homerun. That's not to say you don't need to correct what you've done wrong in the past, but use mistakes as a learning tool and move forward. Don't let yourself be eaten up by mistakes you've made, or even the fear or making one, just play the guitar, have fun, and use mistakes as an opportunity to single out some issues you may have with your playing and then figure out how to correct any problems.

Another thing to remember: Every guitarist, and again the virtuosos, have weaker spots in their playing! But guess what, you just don't hear them! Why? Because they're not going to expose them to you on an album or live. They're going to emphasize the strong points of their playing, which is what you should try to do as well.
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:56 PM   #10
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Play as soon as you wake up. Most people are at their most relaxed state then. You won't have had a bunch of time to psych yourself out, and you will also retain more.
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:43 PM   #11
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download the meditations, download link at the bottom of the page.


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Old 08-15-2013, 09:53 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by wiggedy
http://kennywerner.com/effortless-mastery

download the meditations, download link at the bottom of the page.


"Download your free copy of the Effortless Mastery CD by clicking here"


Oh, that's actually very interesting. I've always wondered what would happen when a musician somewhat versed in Qigong opts to stylize it for other musicians. I'll have to look into this just for curiosity's sake. OP, maybe give that a shot and see if it helps you at all.
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:19 AM   #13
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A mild alternative to lorazepam, which bares the risk of addiction, would be Propranolol. As an unselective beta blocker it prevents some of the effects of the adrenaline excess. It is very popular in professional orchestras aside from alcohol of course.
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Old 08-16-2013, 12:25 PM   #14
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If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, I'd listen to what your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist say rather than random people online (and do not take any drugs without first checking with them that they'll help, and that they won't interact badly with what you're already taking). I also definitely would not self-medicate with alcohol or drugs because (a) that's just substituting one problem for another and (b) a lot of anti-anxiety medicines (which you may well already be taking) interact with alcohol (and may well interact with marijuana too. Not to mention, marijuana is illegal in most parts of the world and if you get caught, that's hardly going to help your anxiety disorder either.

Don't listen to dumbasses on the internet, in other words.

Secondly (and I know this is easier said than done), try not to worry about messing up. If you're only practising, you're only playing for yourself, and the entire point of practising is to get better. You're *supposed* to make mistakes in practise, that's what it's for. If you didn't make mistakes you wouldn't need to practise.

sjones makes a good point about even brilliant players making mistakes, and that they only let you hear what they're good at.

Finally, don't worry too much about the anxiety, either (again, I know this is easier said than done)- to a certain extent, to get really good at something, you have to be almost obsessed with it. if you're apathetic, you probably won't become a good player, either. of course, it can go the other way to where it's holding you back, but it's just worth bearing in mind so you don't think that you're the only one with these problems (which can happen)- very few (if any) people are completely ideal on the apathy/anxiety line, most people are either too anxious or not anxious enough.

EDIT: been thinking about this a bit more. First things first, I'm no doctor nor therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist, so bear that in mind. As i said already, first port of call is your existing healthcare professional(s), at very least before you consider self-medicating or anything like that.

Everyone is different and what works for someone else may not work for you (and vice-versa). If something doesn't work, it's not your fault, you just have to try to find what will. So I'll just throw out a few things which might work (or which might not).

It may be worth actually messing up on purpose in your practise time, just to show yourself that nothing bad will happen.

Taking that even further, being able to recover when you mess up is actually a sign of a good player. It may be worth messing up deliberately so you can practise recovering. A little music theory will help here, too, so that if you forget what to play next, for example, if you're playing in the right scale or whatever, it won't sound like a mistake.

If you ever do play in front of others, very few of them will notice mistakes. It's much more obvious to the player what's a mistake and what isn't. You can also sort of bluff your way through mistakes by playing the same thing again, by acting like you "meant" to do it.

Instead of letting the anxiety of making mistakes stop you from practising, look at it the other way- practise more so you don't make the mistakes. Making mistakes is an excuse to practise, kind of thing.

As an absolute last resort, it may even be worth trying a different instrument. A similar type of anxiety affects my ability/willingness to play in front of other people- so much so that i stopped piano pretty much because of it. However, drums (which i also played) I actually enjoyed playing in front of other people. Funnily enough, I hardly ever practised drums, so that possibly contradicts what I said above- by not practising you almost give yourself an excuse to suck- "Oh if I practised I'd be better!". I'm not saying that's necessarily a healthy way to look at it, but as a last resort it might be better than nothing (and that could be applied to guitar too).
So maybe you just have to find an instrument which (for whatever reason) you don't have the anxiety with. As I said, it's an absolute last resort, but it might be worth bearing in mind if nothing else works.
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Old 08-16-2013, 05:07 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dave_Mc
If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, I'd listen to what your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist say rather than random people online (and do not take any drugs without first checking with them that they'll help, and that they won't interact badly with what you're already taking). I also definitely would not self-medicate with alcohol or drugs because (a) that's just substituting one problem for another and (b) a lot of anti-anxiety medicines (which you may well already be taking) interact with alcohol (and may well interact with marijuana too. Not to mention, marijuana is illegal in most parts of the world and if you get caught, that's hardly going to help your anxiety disorder either.

Don't listen to dumbasses on the internet, in other words.

Secondly (and I know this is easier said than done), try not to worry about messing up. If you're only practising, you're only playing for yourself, and the entire point of practising is to get better. You're *supposed* to make mistakes in practise, that's what it's for. If you didn't make mistakes you wouldn't need to practise.

sjones makes a good point about even brilliant players making mistakes, and that they only let you hear what they're good at.

Finally, don't worry too much about the anxiety, either (again, I know this is easier said than done)- to a certain extent, to get really good at something, you have to be almost obsessed with it. if you're apathetic, you probably won't become a good player, either. of course, it can go the other way to where it's holding you back, but it's just worth bearing in mind so you don't think that you're the only one with these problems (which can happen)- very few (if any) people are completely ideal on the apathy/anxiety line, most people are either too anxious or not anxious enough.

EDIT: been thinking about this a bit more. First things first, I'm no doctor nor therapist or psychologist or psychiatrist, so bear that in mind. As i said already, first port of call is your existing healthcare professional(s), at very least before you consider self-medicating or anything like that.

Everyone is different and what works for someone else may not work for you (and vice-versa). If something doesn't work, it's not your fault, you just have to try to find what will. So I'll just throw out a few things which might work (or which might not).

It may be worth actually messing up on purpose in your practise time, just to show yourself that nothing bad will happen.

Taking that even further, being able to recover when you mess up is actually a sign of a good player. It may be worth messing up deliberately so you can practise recovering. A little music theory will help here, too, so that if you forget what to play next, for example, if you're playing in the right scale or whatever, it won't sound like a mistake.

If you ever do play in front of others, very few of them will notice mistakes. It's much more obvious to the player what's a mistake and what isn't. You can also sort of bluff your way through mistakes by playing the same thing again, by acting like you "meant" to do it.

Instead of letting the anxiety of making mistakes stop you from practising, look at it the other way- practise more so you don't make the mistakes. Making mistakes is an excuse to practise, kind of thing.

As an absolute last resort, it may even be worth trying a different instrument. A similar type of anxiety affects my ability/willingness to play in front of other people- so much so that i stopped piano pretty much because of it. However, drums (which i also played) I actually enjoyed playing in front of other people. Funnily enough, I hardly ever practised drums, so that possibly contradicts what I said above- by not practising you almost give yourself an excuse to suck- "Oh if I practised I'd be better!". I'm not saying that's necessarily a healthy way to look at it, but as a last resort it might be better than nothing (and that could be applied to guitar too).
So maybe you just have to find an instrument which (for whatever reason) you don't have the anxiety with. As I said, it's an absolute last resort, but it might be worth bearing in mind if nothing else works.



Listen to Dave.

I've been through this before, it will get better if you get help. Professional help.
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Old 08-16-2013, 07:04 PM   #16
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Not gonna get any better if you don't play.

Mistakes are inevitable. I've played for 17 years, and practice 2-4 hours 7 days a week. I still make mistakes. Awful, unacceptable, inexplicable, unforgivable mistakes. But practicing is the only way to get rid of them.

Mistakes are what practice is for. You sit down, play, make a mistake, and then work that shit out until you can do it right every time.

As much as I avoid taking days off, I actually like coming back with stiff hands because I know that my weaknesses will be all the more apparent, and when I'm done working them out, I'll be even better than before.

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Old 08-16-2013, 07:25 PM   #17
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One does not simply "try not to worry..." when you have anxiety. Trying not to worry is one of the surest ways to make the anxiety worse.

I think we need to make a distinction. Is this ANXIETY - as in a serious illness that interferes with your happiness? Or is it 'being a little anxious'? There's a huge difference and you're not going to get good advice unless we clarify that. Dave is treating you as if you need to just need to toughen up and that's okay if you're just a little anxious but it's terrible advice if you have ANXIETY.

In america the anti-anxiety meds are presciption meds that you won't be able to get without discussing things with your doctor.
Thorrre - you SHOULD go to see a professional first. I didn't look at your profile when i made my first post but i can see that you've listed new zealand as your location. I have no idea whether you can get ativan over the counter there but I wouldn't recommend self-medicating with something like that.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:26 PM   #18
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I think it is fairly obvious that one does not simply take proposed drugs. Where I come from you only get them via prescription. The proposals are obviously meant for discussing with your physician.
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Old 08-16-2013, 09:32 PM   #19
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You have face reality that you are going to mess up, everyone does, the greatest of all time mess up, either just play and be fine with the fact that you'll mess up (you will) or quit it's that easy
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Old 08-17-2013, 09:04 AM   #20
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Great tips from Paul. With regards to a nicer practice space: Consider running through your routine unplugged while watching something that makes you laugh. I've been known to put Family Guy on Netflix and just practice sweeping or something for hours on end; it's easy to lose track of time once you get into the swing of it.


You're doing it wrong..
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