Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux, violinist, became a YCAT Artist in 2021. Here, as part of Musicians' Mental Health Month 2024, she shares her coping strategies for dealing with Performance Anxiety. 

Charlotte Saluste-Bridoux playing the violin at Wigmore Hall
As professional musicians, we often explore various coping mechanisms and preparation strategies to handle the inevitable Performance Anxiety. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, I believe the key lies in establishing a strong foundation of mental health and physical wellness. This baseline will in turn help us withstand the natural ebb and flow of stress in our careers.

Of course, certain things like being sufficiently hydrated and rested on the day of a performance will help, but rather than focusing solely on what to do on the day of a big concert, these strategies are most effective when part of an ongoing routine of good nutrition, regular sleep, managed anxiety levels, and focused, performance-oriented practise.

For me, adrenaline on concert days can be transformative. It sharpens my focus (otherwise a much-scattered ADHD mind) and energises me, allowing me to navigate physically demanding programs with joy rather than fatigue. Yet, when adrenaline turns sour, it can be crippling.

I’ve experienced moments on stage where my mind spiralled, my body tensed up to the brink of injury, and I questioned my worth as a performer, chamber musician and friend, all at once. These experiences taught me the importance of managing adrenaline and using it to my advantage. 


On looking after yourself long-term

“Channel your insanity,” someone playfully advised me not long ago. I’m quite fond of this phrase, as I see no choice but to embrace controlled chaos in life. In setting this healthy baseline, grasping the overarching principles is vital. However, making adjustments should be incremental, focusing on the macros while tweaking the micros and trusting things will slowly shift.  

Here are the macros that guide me:

Learning to practise:

Not just technically but emotionally and physically

I learned the hard way that last-minute, high-pressure practice sessions were toxic to my relationship with performing. It then took me a further few years to understand that true preparation involves more than just logging hours - it requires practising in a way that simulates the pressures and demands of performance.

Thus, managing nerves is about more than just ‘day-off’ rituals; it involves comprehensive preparation. This includes mental conditioning, open communication with the musicians you’re sharing the stage with, and a practise regime that mirrors the demands of live performance. When we truly know the works - not just technically but emotionally and physically - we set the stage for those moments of ‘magic’ to occur naturally.


Influences your energy levels, sleep quality, and muscle recovery.

Everyone’s needs vary and, for women, considering our cycles is crucial. Generally I follow guidelines from @glucosegoddess on Instagram to keep my sugar levels balanced. But there is a whole world of advice on getting the right nutrients, cutting down alcohol and sugar etc. The important thing is to find what works for you. 


Affects energy and recovery, but also mood, brain plasticity, and your engagement with the world.

Consistency is key. Consider using white noise and establish a bedtime routine. For me, eating early, reading, and avoiding my phone late at night helps immensely. I also find it beneficial to stop working before dinner and to only enter the bedroom when I’m ready to sleep.

Physical Activity:

Keeps your body strong, flexible, and helps clear your mind.

Exercise is a personal matter. As a violinist, given our instrument’s focus on the upper body and its asymmetry, maintaining a strong back is essential to counteract physical imbalances, but I also think it can be used as an outlet to clear your head, or as a chance to socialise! 


Allows you to shape your mental pathways, instead of being a passive recipient of your habitual thought processes.

Mindfulness can take many forms at first. If it’s just washing the dishes and being away from your phone for ten minutes at first, that’s already something. Alternatively, you can explore apps for guided meditations, or try a yoga class to integrate mindfulness through physical practice. 

I also find floating (sensory deprivation tanks) incredibly beneficial, both physically and mentally.

When more specifically thinking about mental preparation towards performing/practising, I would suggest reading 'The Inner Game of Tennis.'  Even if you only make it past the introduction, it may help.


We are inherently social beings; isolation isn’t our natural state.

Last, but not least, being surrounded by your people is essential. Although finding the right people might be hard (and I am a bit of a lone cat by habit) taking the time and energy to meet up with friends, even before crazy big concerts, is always a good way to embrace being a human being.


When it comes to Performance Anxiety, post-concert activity can help, too. Anyone out there have experiences with after concert blues? If so, I suggest you make sure to have socials/other work/rehearsals carefully planned in the days following a big concert or audition. And get a massage gun, that stuff is just magic.

It's also good to remember, of course, that there will be good and bad days, and that's a good sign; we might be slightly industrialised but we're still human! 


Other helpful links:

@foundmyfitness - Instagram

Pulse AIR - Massage Gun

Wim Hof breathing exercises

Huberman Lab - Podcast

'Zen in the Art of Archery', Eugen Herrigel - Book

(Please note all advice and linked resources are personal to Charlotte and recommendations do not come from medical or mental health professionals)


Find out more about Charlotte online: