Performance anxiety: almost every singer will experience it and there is a wealth of information on how best to tackle it.
Having suffered performance anxiety myself, I believe the best solution is to practice and perform regularly, so taking to the stage feels as normal as having a cup of tea.
But I would also urge singers to consider what they eat and drink in the lead up to a performance. Certain foods and drinks have a calming and grounding effect, while others act as stimulants which fuel negative energy.
Go bananas for dark chocolate
The good news is there are two everyday foods that can help keep anxiety at bay: bananas and dark chocolate.
Bananas act in a similar way to beta-blocker drugs, which work by preventing adrenaline from binding to beta receptors in our bodies. This allows us to maintain a steady pulse rate and lower blood pressure. Bananas also provide slow release energy, which keeps us fueled and feeling full.
Meanwhile eating cocoa releases serotonin, the “happy hormone” that makes us feel upbeat and relaxed, as well as an amino acid from which dopamine is derived. So chocolate really does make us happy.
One option for performers is to eat a banana and a couple of squares of quality dark chocolate an hour before a performance – remember it takes about 60 minutes for the banana and chocolate to be processed into the bloodstream and the calming effects to take place.
Alternatively, if you would like to try more interesting ways of eating banana and chocolate together, try these recipes.
Superfood Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
This recipe is so easy and can be made in one bowl. It is high in protein and packed full of healthy ingredients. It uses no refined sugar, yoghurt instead of oil, and spelt instead of white flour. You’d never guess it’s so healthy.
3 ripe bananas
½ cup plain yoghurt
¼ cup rice malt syrup (or maple syrup)
pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cups spelt flour
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp baking soda
Mash bananas and then mix with all ingredients except the flour. Stir well to mix, then fold in the flour. Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes at 180C/350F.
Banana Choc Chip N’ice Cream
N’ice cream is incredible. It’s hard to believe there is no added sugar or cream. Experiment with different flavour combinations such as adding a few drops of peppermint extract for mint choc chip.
2 frozen bananas, peeled
¼ cup finely chopped dark chocolate
In a blender or food processor, process bananas for about 30 seconds until soft. Add chocolate and pulse to combine. Serve straight away or if needed to firm up, after an hour in the freezer.
Frozen Salted Chocolate and Banana Bites
These bites are addictive and are a perfect snack when an instant pick me up is needed. The peanut butter adds some healthy fat and protein to the mix.
2 bananas, peeled
2 bars of high quality dark chocolate
1 tsp butter or oil
1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
pinch of sea salt flakes
Cut the bananas into 1cm thick round pieces and place on a flat tray with baking paper. Using two teaspoons, dollop a little peanut butter onto each round, then put them together like a sandwich. Freeze for at least one hour. Slowly melt the chocolate and the oil in a bowl over a pan of hot water, stirring constantly. Pick up a banana “sandwich”, place into the bowl and then drizzle the top with some chocolate. Using a teaspoon, place back on the tray. Top with a tiny pinch of sea salt flakes. Repeat for each one. Return to the freezer for at least three hours.
Banana Pancakes with Chocolate Syrup
Pancakes are so easy to make without a recipe – just add enough liquid to produce a thick batter that you are able to pour.
1 banana, mashed
1 tbsp greek yoghurt
1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 large egg
2 cups almond milk (or any milk of choice)
For the syrup:
1 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp raw cacoa powder
2 tbsp butter
Combine all ingredients for the pancakes and add the milk, using more or less liquid as needed. Pour large dollops onto a hot griddle or flat plate. Flip when bubbles can be seen on the surface and give them only 30 seconds to a minute on the other side.
For the syrup, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and let come to a boil. Stir well and take off the heat, stirring occasionally until cooled. Pour into a jug and then drizzle over the pancakes.
Other great performance foods:
Turkey: This meat contains triptophan which has a soothing effect on our minds.
Oats: Slow release carbohydrates like oats keep you feeling full for longer and provide you with the energy you need to deliver a great performance. Your brain will be less likely to create adrenaline when your body is fueled with slow release carbs like oats.
Spinach: This vegetable is high in magnesium, which promotes restfulness and feelings of well-being, anti-oxidants and fibre, which keeps the “mind” in your gut at ease.
Salmon: Omega 3 fatty acids help keep adrenaline and cortisol from spiking when you’re feeling tense.
Foods to avoid:
Coffee and tea: Caffeine is a stimulant which will give you “the jitters” and is one of the worst things you can consume leading up to a performance.
Sugar: We often turn to sugary sweets when we feel the need to be comforted. But sugar enters the bloodstream quickly and gives you a short-term high which will ultimately end in a crash, making you feel worse. Beware of having too much in the way of “healthy” sugars like honey.
Alcohol: This is one of the most widely used methods for dealing with stage fright, yet can have some terrible repercussions, such as forgetting lyrics, dehydration and, in the long-term, depression.
Processed foods: These are best avoided. Studies have shown that a high processed diet contributes to anxiety and depression. Try and stick to whole, natural foods when possible.