You’ve completely blanked on choreography right before an audition. You can’t stand still before your performance. Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy. Hopefully there’s no vomit on your sweater already (mom’s spaghetti!). You’re freaking out but you still have to perform.
How can you overcome stage fright?
Stage fright (better known as performance anxiety) affects millions of people. Dancers, actors, musicians, public speakers, even athletes struggle with conquering the anxiety of performing in front of an audience. Anxiety activates the body’s “fight or flight” response, which is why the symptoms parallel the body’s reactions to real danger.
Performance anxiety symptoms include:
· Excessive sweat or cold/clammy skin
· Increased heart rate
· Rapid, panicked breathing
· Uncontrollable shaking/trembling
· Nausea, dry mouth
· Trouble seeing, speaking, recalling information
· Negative thinking/self-talk (fear, doubt, and self-sabotage)
· Feeling of losing control
Performance anxiety is simply the body urging you to panic, shut down, and run away. But success requires you to power through and fight that urge, so here are some strategies to LOSE that stage fright:
Look Good, Feel Good- Be intentional about your appearance. Studies show that looking good (whatever that means for you) positively impacts mood! A polished appearance improves self-image, which leads to a more confident self-projection. So, choose comfortable and flattering attire. Style your hair to best complement your wardrobe choices. Be sure your makeup matches your personality and the occasion. Looking your best also minimizes appearance-related stress.
Open Yourself to New Sensations- Anxiety fuels panic, but the exact same adrenaline exists in excitement! Instead of trying to suppress your nerves, re-program it to eagerness, enthusiasm, and elation! Stage fright always fades a few moments into the performance, just have to push through the anticipation!
Shift Focus- Rather than directing attention to the actual performance, focus on other things. Help another dancer prepare, practice deep breathing exercises, or give yourself something to look forward to after the performance. Thinking about dinner, an upcoming celebration, a treat, or even quality time with friends can minimize the anticipatory anxiety in the moments before performing.
Emphasize Areas of Control- Anxiety stems from a feeling of helplessness or a lack of control. Take a few moments to meditate. Remind yourself of all the things you can control. Simple, affirming statements like “I practiced for this,” “I know exactly what I’m doing,” “I am ready,” “I am able,” and “I am prepared” work wonders for the psyche.
Once you begin performing, lose yourself in the moment, the music. You own it!
If your anxiety persists and hinders your ability to function effectively, contact a health professional to see if anti-anxiety medication is right for you.