Beta blockers are a class of medications that were originally prescribed to treat heart conditions, but began being used as performance enables when it became clear that they were able to neutralize the physical response of performance anxiety. However, beta blockers do not help the psychological or emotional response, i.e. your concentration, confidence, doubts, fears, racing thoughts, etc. In fact, they may even drain some of the energy you need to play your best, or cause negative side effects including dizziness, shortness of breath, reduction of blood circulation to the hands and feet, and more. Below is a list of natural supplements to try as an alternative to beta blockers.
1. Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) - GABA is a neurotransmitter that inhibits the transmission of nerve impulses in the central nervous system. It can be taken in capsule form to improve mood and help with relaxation.
2. Valerian Root - Valerian root is an herbal supplement derived from the root of the valerian plant. It can help calm anxiety and stress by increasing the amount of GABA in your brain. It can be consumed in capsule form or herbal tea blends.
3. Kava Extract - Kava is an herbal supplement that is derived from the root of a pepper found naturally in the Pacific Islands. It contains natural compounds known as kavalactones, which have psychoactive effects on the brain, helping to reduce anxiety.
4. Lemon Balm - Lemon balm is a plant that can be found in herbal teas and supplements. It has a positive effect on anxiety by helping the mind and body relax.
5. Ashwagandha - Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used for centuries in Indian medicine. It can be taken in capsule form to help the adrenals adjust to stress.
6. Rhodiola Rosea - Rhodiola Rosea is a Scandinavian herb and part of traditional Chinese Medicine. It can be taken in capsule form to support energy and focus in stressful situations.
7. Passionflower - Passionflower is a plant with a wide variety of medicinal properties. The flavonoids in passionflower can help increase GABA levels in the brain to promote relaxation. It can be found as a tincture, tea, or extract.
8. L-theanine - L-theanine is an amino acid found naturally in green tea. It can help the body and mind relax without having sedative effects. The best way to consumer L-theanine is by drinking tea, but it can also be taken in capsules.
9. Lavender - Lavender is a shrub of the mint family and has been widely used in medicine since ancient times. Lavender oil can be taken by mouth or used as aromatherapy to help with management of anxiety.
10. Magnesium - Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to our diet. A deficiency in magnesium can magnify levels of stress and anxiety. Magnesium also supports our adrenals, which stress causes to be overworked. Foods rich in magnesium include include spinach, chard, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, dark chocolate, bananas, beans, lentils, and tofu. It can also be taken as a supplement in capsule form.
Keep in mind that medication and supplements will effect everyone differently. The day of an important concert or audition is not the day to introduce your body to a new supplement. I recommend experimenting with supplements in a practice room or informal concert setting such as a play-though for family and friends before trying it onstage.
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