Tips to Reduce Performance Anxiety
For most performers some nervousness is just part of the job. It can even be energizing and helpful. But sometimes nervousness can get in the way or become persistent performance anxiety or stage fright. Here are some tips to help performing artists handle nervousness and performance anxiety. Remember that some nervousness is normal.
Even after one negative experience with performance anxiety it becomes easy to worry at the first sign of nervousness. Try to remember that some nervous excitement is normal and even optimal for peak performance. A realistic goal is not to eliminate nervousness, but to keep it at acceptable levels.
Most performers experience some physical sensation of excitement, nervousness, or “butterflies in the stomach” before any performance. In terms of physical sensations “nervousness” and “excitement” are much the same, if not identical. What you call the sensation, and whether you regard it as normal, or the signal of a serious “condition,” makes a big difference.Cut nicotine. Reduce alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. Understand medication side effects.
Some of the most common substances that people use to regulate their moods, such as cigarettes and alcohol, increase anxiety. Even benzodiazepines that people take to reduce anxiety can have the opposite effect. If you are experiencing performance anxiety you should also watch your caffeine and sugar intake.Get enough sleep.
Scientists at University of California–Berkeley found that a lack of sleep can activate the same type of neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. You need 7-9 hours sleep for optimal health.Practice a daily relaxation exercise.
The body reacts to threats with increased levels of the stress hormone adrenaline. Under conditions of chronic stress, heightened adrenaline levels can cause the body to become locked in a physiological state of hyperarousal. In this situation, your natural counter response for relaxation will not take place on its own. It must be activated deliberately. Two of the best techniques to activate true physiological relaxation are:
- The Relaxation Response
of Dr. Herbert Benson
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
of Dr. Edmund Jacobson
A simple and consistent relaxation exercise is a must for anyone who experiences performance anxiety. The key to any relaxation exercise is daily practice.Learn to produce a positive mental state
If you do adopt a daily relaxation exercise, engage in this quick visualization exercise when you are most deeply relaxed during that experience. If you practice this regularly you can train yourself to enter a positive mental state quickly when you need to most. With your eyes closed, try to remember something what you feel like when you are most confident and/or having a peak experience with your art. For example, think of a memorable performance you gave, a positive review by someone whose opinion you respect, or what inspires you to be an artist. More important than experiencing the memory visually, try to fill yourself with the positive emotional memory of the experience. In other words, try to intentionally feel the physiological sensation that accompanies the emotion (ex: joyfulness or confidence).Work on the issues that affect self esteem and confidence.
For most performers what happens on stage reflects the conditions of your life. If you lack self esteem and confidence in general, it can be difficult or impossible to feel confident performing. Your self esteem and self respect, how much you worry about the opinions of others, and the presence or lack of supportive relationships in your life can have a tremendous influence on your performance.In summary,
the psychological Law of Reversed Effect tells us that the harder you try to do something, the less chance you have of succeeding (ex: trying to recall someone’s name). Therefore, instead of trying to fix nervousness and fight performance anxiety, remember, some nervousness is normal. Feel it, don’t fight it. Take good care of yourself physically, balance your nervous system with a daily relaxation practice, and make a point of building your confidence and self esteem.