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  • Writer's pictureKaylee Nichols

When (my) anxiety creeps in...

I'm not really sure how to begin this post, but I've had a recent realization... (This is and probably will be the most vulnerable post I've ever be nice....and please still hire me, thanks!)

Anxiety has affected my career far more than I realized.

-The constant tension in my body

-Holding myself back from auditioning for some opportunities, competitions, and management

-Getting in my head while singing

-Playing the comparison game and thinking I'm not good enough

-Being at least 20 minutes early to almost every rehearsal

-Recording videos over and over until it's "right"(it never is)

-Doing everything my coaches tell me and not straying from it

-Wondering if what I'm doing is "correct"

-General perfectionism and the fear of missing something in a rehearsal

-Never saying no to a gig

Wow. That's.....literally the whole career. I've had the realization, now what?

First, I want to start by saying that I recently started going to therapy and am actively working through a lot of this. At the moment I am still seeing a psychiatrist to help me with my medication and a therapist to help me emotionally process the rest of it. This has been life changing for me!

I am newly diagnosed with ADHD and General Anxiety Disorder. Last year I realized that I was indeed an anxious person, but I didn't realize just how much it affected my life. I have hidden and internalized the majority of it.

I am often praised for things on the above list. After all I am always on time, prepared, and generally pleasant to be around. (see 5 Professional P's here) I'm always prepared because I was yelled at in a coaching once because I wasn't prepared. I changed my entire process after that coaching so I would never get yelled at again. I'm always on time because I usually arrive obnoxiously early and awkwardly wait around so that I don't miss rehearsal or meeting. I am a certified people pleaser and want everyone around me to like me. But when you are praised for it and they are generally good rules to abide by, you can't really change that. This is what I am currently processing, but I wanted to share where I'm at right now. I feel that so many of us (non-singers included) go through this.

The constant tension in my body

I am a fan of yoga these days and find that this, my medication, and sleep help so much with my tension!

Holding myself back from auditioning for some opportunities, competitions, and management

The "Do It Scared" mantra has been helpful for me here. I have Imposter Syndrome BIG TIME right now, but at least I am taking the steps to apply for opportunities and take more risks with my career and art. ***Future blog coming on this soon!***

Getting in my head while singing

This is usually related to "Am I doing this right?"or wondering if the people in charge like what I'm doing. I've been trying my best to just think about my character and focusing inward and I like it so far! I feel more artistic and less of a people pleaser this way. I'm still and will probably always be working though this one.

Playing the comparison game and thinking I'm not good enough

The easy answer is to just not do it....but also....I'm so nosy!! I know that where I'm at is where I am supposed to be, but what if I got there earlier? Or what if I was doing what this person is doing? That would be so cool! -- We're all at a different point in our journey. I definitely would have not been ready or mature enough (vocally and mentally) to be where I am now. I have worked too hard not to celebrate MY journey along the way!

Being at least 20 minutes early to almost every rehearsal

I will probably never change this. I don't know how. I'm just not willing to risk it, y'all. If I walk in any later, I was actually just waiting in the parking lot so it wouldn't be awkward. You're welcome?

Recording videos over and over until it's "right"(it never is)

See this blog for more info. I have a 2-3 maximum rule for myself. It's not going to get magically better the 4th or 5th time you record an aria (that day). What you do 1-3 times is representative of what you can do right now. I try not to think about all the little things I want to fix. I make a note of it and continue the work for next time.

Doing everything my coaches tell me and not straying from it/ Doing things "correctly"/

General perfectionism and the fear of missing something in a rehearsal

This one is hard for me! I combined these because I feel that my answer is similar. Obviously, there is a reason I go to my coaches. And obviously, I think we should listen to what our teachers and coaches have to say! I do think there could be a conversation shift around this subject in academia, but that's for another blog...

What I mean here is that I should trust my artistic choices, especially the informed ones. Sometimes I feel like I can't stray from an idea because of one person's opinion on it. One thing I have learned in the real world is that every production is a collaboration and YOUR ideas are part of that collaboration. Coming into a rehearsal space or coaching with your ideas and artistic choices is worth the risk! Bless John Hoomes during La Traviata (Nashville Opera) because I asked "Was that okay?" FOR LITERALLY EVERYTHING I DID. It took me way too long to realize that some directors just trust their principal artists to do the thing. Now I come in with a choice. If they don't like it, they'll let me know and we do something different!

It's also not the end of the world if you miss a note or forget a word. Especially if you are generally solid and correct it. I will continue my preferred level of preparation (role prep blog here), but I am trying not to sweat it if I miss something. CALM DOWN KAYLES.

Never saying no to a gig

I'm glad I took as many opportunities as I could when I was younger. I learned a lot and it helped me build my resume when I wasn't making it into the mainstream YAPs. I learned how to prepare for multiple gigs and understand the time frames I needed to prepare for a job.


There was a day when I told myself I wouldn't accept gigs under a certain pay point...and it changed my life. I was nervous that I was going to feel like I was missing out on work. But guess what happened? I was more available for better paying work! By that point, I built up my resume enough to land other opportunities and build more trust within the industry.

I do wish there was more diverse career advice available for those that aren't working in the YAP system. We talk about the audition process exhaustively, but not really how to actually manage a career. This is a big part of why I have this blog. To create a resource I wish I had coming out of school. It is only based on my experience, but I believe it to be a valuable one.


I'm interested to look back at this blog and see how I've grown. I realize now that I am resilient, scrappy, and artistic all while setting boundaries and taking care of my mental health. I know there are so many other artists that also struggle with this. I will no longer shove my anxiety under a rug only to let it fester.

Let's have more conversation around this in our artist circles so that others don't have to suffer alone.

If you feel that you struggle with anxiety and have the ability to do so, consider seeing a professional. If you are unable to seek professional help, consider a trusted and responsible friend so you don't have to suffer alone.

Photo by Brent Calis. Jo March in Little Women | Opera McGill

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