Updated: May 4
As a performer, you live for the thrill of being on stage, the rush of adrenaline as your passion takes center stage. But what happens when a sense of dread and anxiety accompanies that thrill? It is entirely normal to feel nervous before a performance. Even the most seasoned of performers experience clammy hands and hitched breaths. Fear not, however, there are techniques you can use to calm yourself in these moments of stage fright. Ultimately, it's important to remember that the amazing feeling of actually performing and sharing your art with others is what makes all the nerves and hard work worth it.
One effective way to manage stage fright is by incorporating calming techniques into your everyday routine. By calming your body and mind before a performance, you can reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and feel more focused and confident on stage. There are many different relaxation techniques you can try, and what works best for you will be different than what works for others. So read these techniques, and choose and try what might work for you!
1: Self awareness
One of the first steps in dealing with stage fright is to acknowledge that you're experiencing it. Accept that feeling nervous or anxious is normal, especially when performing in front of a live audience. Realizing what may be causing your feelings can help make them seem a lot less scary. The first step to conquering it is to take a second and realize that you are completely safe and that any panics you may be feeling are in your head.
2: Change the narrative
Now that we know why we are nervous, instead of fighting it, let's embrace it! Nervous energy is still energy that you can use to your advantage. The way we speak about things is the way we typically feel about things. Before going on stage we are rushed with a wave of energy, rather than framing it as anxiety, we can call it excitement. A good acting mentor with strong knowledge of the psychology of acting is Casting Director Faith Hibbs Clark, founder of the communication method for actors.
I know it sounds dumb, “Just breath” is not the advice one wants to get when overcome with anxiety. Doing deep breathing exercises involve taking slow, deliberate breaths to help regulate your heart rate and calm your nerves. A common method of deep breathing is called box breathing. Box breathing is a simple breathing exercise where you breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and then hold your breath again for four seconds. It's called "box" breathing because you imagine drawing the sides of a box as you do the exercise. This technique can help you feel calm and relaxed and is a great way to manage anxiety and stress.
4: Never stop performing!
The more you perform, the easier it'll be. However, it isn't because you get over the stage fright, even the best performers still get those pre-performance jitters, but rather because you discover your reasonings for performing. When your passion takes center stage and any one of your worries seem to melt away. Those are the moments you need to hold onto when riddled with anxiety. If you figure out why you want to do something, the how is the least of your worries.
Whether it's your first time performing for a live audience, or you’ve been on the stage for years, stage fright is a common experience for performers, but it doesn't have to control your performance. By using calming techniques and preparing your mind and body, you can overcome your fears and give your best performance yet. Remember that performing is about sharing your passion with others, and the rush of being on stage is an experience like no other. So take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and let your art shine. With practice, you'll find that stage fright becomes a thing of the past and that performing becomes an even more fulfilling experience.
Daniel Ward is an actor, writer, and contestant finalist of Broadway Bound Live Season 2 and can be contacted on Twitter @wordsofward34 or Instagram @wardledorp