In this two-part blog series we are discussing how to overcome stage fright. The first part was all about the question “what is stage fright?”, namely the science behind what’s happening to your body when you experience it.
This is the second part, discussing some ways how to overcome stage fright for good!
A quick re-cap…..
So, when we’re facing a performance of any kind, we can experience stage fright, which is our body’s way of reacting to a time of unusual stress. It causes us to experience the Fight or Flight syndrome, including reactions such as shaking, trembling and nausea, to name but a few. This is a reaction left over from our cave man days, which means that our bodies are literally prepared to fight a sabre-tooth tiger, or run away from it.
But hang on, we’ve evolved from Neolithic Man, and we aren’t facing a physical danger here, are we?
No, we’re not. But, we’ve retained the primal survival instinct and our brains have changed the perception of dangerous situations to anything outside of our normal comfort zones. So by getting us to experience the fight or flight syndrome, our brains are trying to help us not to mess up, or ‘blank’ when we face the audience.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true and this feeling doesn’t actually help in this situation. We often stumble over our words, or miss our cue to sing – hence the terms ‘Stage Fright’ and ‘Performance Anxiety’. So, how can we overcome stage fright?
That is a very good question!
The main problem here is that your brain is perceiving the situation as stressful and frightening, triggering the fight or flight response. If you can change your perception of the situation you are in, then you’re on a winning streak to overcoming stage fright.
Yes, you did read that right. You can overcome stage fright by changing your perception from one of fear and dread, to one of happiness and excitement. Sounds too good to be true?
Try this for a minute
Picture yourself about to do a performance right now, really get hold of those feelings that come to the surface.
What do they make you feel? Nervous? Getting those uneasy butterflies in your stomach? What about those sweaty, shaky hands? What do the audience look like? Do you feel like you’re going to fail? Make the image so real that you feel like you’re going to have to walk out onto that stage any second now.
Okay, really focus on those butterflies for a second, why are they uneasy? You aren’t fighting for your life – you’re only going to open your mouth and sing, and how exciting is that? Feel the anxiety shift into excitement at the situation you are in, and how happy you are that you have this opportunity to perform!
The control you have over those shaking hands increases, all you need to do is give them one good shake and they’ll stop trembling. The sweatiness decreases in your palms, and you start to feel even better once it does!
The audience are looking at you with pride, they want you to succeed. With all these positive thoughts of your own, and those projecting onto you from the audience, why would you think negatively?
You’ve switched the anxiety to excitement, gained control of those pesky shaking and sweaty hands, and seen the positivity from the audience you’re about to sing to. How good do you feel now? Still want to run away and hide somewhere? Of course you don’t. You’re going to stand and perform the song you’ve worked so hard at, and with a positive mental attitude to boot!
So, after that task, how do you feel? Can you see how much changing your perception of the situation can help you overcome your stage fright?
Using images and feelings to change our perception from negative to positive is a proven way of helping ourselves reach our goals. If we keep seeing ourselves performing without failing, we’re more likely to succeed over and over again.
With practice, you’ll start to overcome stage fright for good, and your perception changes more quickly when it’s needed. As with one of our previous blog posts – practice is key to succeeding. So when you get a spare minute, try the exercise above again and see how much quicker you can get to the positive image and overcome those feelings of stage fright!
I know, I know
I said that I would give you some tips on how to overcome stage fright if you were about to perform, as well as the key to overcoming stage fright once and for all. Some of the suggestions below will help if you are about to perform imminently, so what are you waiting for?
1. Release any physical tension
Using relaxation techniques a few minutes before your performance can help to decrease the urge to hyperventilate and relax the muscles that are trying to tense up. Taking a brisk walk backstage or doing some light exercise before the performance can also help to release the tension in your body. If you’re getting shaky hands, increase the trembling so you are aware you can control it, then be fully aware of it decreasing until the shaking completely stops.
2. Breathe more deeply than usual
Taking deep breaths will help to decrease any potential hyperventilating before a performance, and make sure the body has enough oxygen in its system. This will stop the body’s need to hyperventilate as it has enough oxygen, and help with the butterflies you may be feeling by decreasing the sensitivity of the adrenalin rush.
3. Stay hydrated!
Make sure you drink enough water at least in the 24 hours before your performance. This has the added bonus of keeping your vocal cords supple, and will help to decrease the dry mouth feeling on ‘The Day’. It can also be helpful to have a sip of water backstage right before beginning your performance; it will counteract the decrease of saliva in your mouth that causes the ‘dry’ feeling.
4. Eat properly!
Make sure you have eaten an energy-rich meal a couple of hours before the performance. You want to make sure your digestive system has done its work before you need to perform – there is nothing worse than feeling nauseous on stage! Plus, if you have balanced energy levels, you’re more likely to perform at the top of your game.
5. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect……
Prepare for your performance properly! Make sure you know everything you need to know; lines, lyrics, stage directions, cues, etc. a good couple of days before the performance. The more prepared you are, the less likely you’ll feel the crippling effects of stage fright. As we all know, worrying about missing your cues is more likely to make you feel like you’re going to fail, which we do not want!
6. Think Positive!
Avoid negative people, or negative thoughts before the performance, as this will only enhance the feelings of fear and dread. Use the positive imagery detailed above during the rehearsals, several times during the day of the performance, and just a few minutes before it as well. You’ll go on stage feeling positive and you’re more likely to succeed if you do!
7. Remember the audience want you to succeed….
They don’t want to see you fail, just as much as you don’t want to mess it up! They are on your side. Try using a practice session or dress rehearsal to perform in front of a group of friends or family to get used to the sensation of people watching you. Once you get used to it, you’ll see that it’s not so scary after all, and you’ll be well on your way to overcoming stage fright.
So, what are you waiting for?
Go ahead and try some of these suggestions. You can start overcoming stage fright whenever you feel you may be affected by it. The best time to start is when you really feel it start to happen for the first time, so nip it in the bud! But, if you get the crippling fear that so many of us suffer from, it’s never too late to start trying to overcome stage fright.
So, all that’s left is for us to say ‘break a leg!’ You know you can do it, we know you can do it, and the audience is rooting for you. Remember, if you can change your negative perception of the situation to a positive one, then you’re on a winning streak to overcoming stage fright.
Do you have success stories of overcoming stage fright? Or did our tips work for you? Share in the comment box below, or find us on Facebookand let us know!
Laura & Tom