So in the last few weeks, I've been busy (and stressed, too!), but I've been thinking about stage fright, sympathetic response of the nervous system, and why things happen to us when we're nervous. Most musicians will at some point run into beta blockers as an antidote to stage fright- whether a colleague uses them or even a teacher, by adulthood, we have encountered someone who uses them for something not related to its initial prescriptive purpose. (Musicians are certainly not the only folks who use these-actors, presenters, etc., have been known to use them as well).
Whether or not you take them, it's useful to know what the heck is going on if one does take them.
First of all, a beta blocker is typically prescribed for folks with heart issues, arrythmia, and who need to lower their standing heart rate. It tackles the beta-receptors of the smooth muscles of the heart, kidneys, and sympathetic nervous system to prevent norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) from attaching to beta receptors, which ultimately encourages blood flow (as opposed to restricting vessels) and reduces overall heart rate. If that language didn't make things clear, let me simplify. Beta Blockers reduce overall heart rate and prevent adrenaline from playing its role in sympathetic response, AKA fight or flight. That means it reduces the physiological symptoms of the sympathetic nervous system, which affects breathing, fine muscle control, tremors, etc.
While this may sound like a wonder-drug, there are a few things to consider:
I leave the decisions with you, but notice if beta blockers become a crutch. Do you need them for every performance opportunity? Do you find yourself using them for rehearsals as opposed to concerts or auditions? (And if you're not a BB user, that's great too.)
Want to know more about the nervous system? Read here! http://www.musicianshealthcollective.com/blog/2014/8/18/nervous-system-101/Tweet
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