3 Simple Rules for Managing Your Stage Spookies



This one is for all of you performers out there suffering from stage fright. If you magically aren’t affected by it, GO AWAY THIS ISN’T FOR YOU. Just kidding...but I am super jealous.


As a performer with enough stage fright to fuel a haunted house, I have to admit that I got desperate trying to get rid of it. I’ve tried the breathing exercises, the bananas, the wacky “good luck” rituals...you name it. Some may work better than others, but none of them could really get me to keep it together.


Yes, beta blockers are out there, but I’d personally like to be able to go on stage and feel calm without a pill. Besides, I know that my anxieties affect me far beyond the main stage (generalized and social anxiety, anyone?). And since they’re all interconnected, tackling the stage scaries means tackling the everyday scaries, too, right?


Wouldn’t it be great to have a grip on it all?


 

A while ago, I brought this mission to my awesome therapist, Michelle, and she helped me realize that the things I was trying to do to help my performance anxiety were basically things I did to try to shut the anxiety up in the moment. While those methods have helped me manage, I was essentially just treating the symptoms, not the injury. Instead, Michelle suggested these three long-term solutions to help me work WITH my anxiety, not against it


1. A change of perspective: boost your confidence, womxn!


Performing on stage in front of people can be a nerve-wracking experience for some of us because: 1) we’re afraid of the rejection and criticism that can happen if/when things go wrong, and 2) we don’t trust ourselves to keep things from going wrong. Do you know who worries an unhealthy amount about these things? ALL of us who could use a lot more self-esteem and confidence.


If this is you (it’s me) here are a few simple tasks that my therapist put me up to that you may or may not already know about:


  • Practicing daily affirmations


Chances are, you don’t really think you’re hot stuff. The fact of the matter is, you are hotter than the SUN, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t see it yourself. Challenge yourself to find one thing (or more!) about yourself that you love every single day for three weeks. It can be anything from your hair to your ability to eat an entire can of Pringles in one sitting. The key here is to do it every day and turn it into a habit. Thinking this way consistently can eventually create a positive thought pattern that will replace the nasty negative one that lurks there now.


  • Gratitude


Here’s another way to focus on the positive: constantly take stock of all the good in your life. It can be as little as making your morning toast or as medium as eating soft tacos. It’s so much easier to focus on and remember the clouds and rain rather than the rainbows and sunshine, but making a habit out of seeing the silver lining through it all can be extremely useful (especially at intermission after you just lost your sh** on stage). Again, this is a mindset that has to be broken in. Michelle suggests beginning each day by writing a few of these things down.

2. Revamp your coping mechanisms: deep breathing out the wazoo


Something Michelle brought to my attention was the fact that I don’t HAVE to be at the mercy of my fight or flight reactions. She recommended that I start incorporating moments of deep breathing and meditation into my everyday routine. The more you practice grounding yourself in a calm state, the easier it is to get to your ooey-gooey center in a state of panic.


If you’re a meditation newbie like I am, I highly recommend the Insight Timer app. First of all, it’s FREE, and second of all, it’s super versatile and includes lots of handy tools and a ton of guided meditations for all of your mental wellbeing needs.


I also would like to share a fun breathing exercise that I do when I can’t feel my hands:


  • Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

  • Once there, softly close your eyes and visualize a fog of your favorite color and smell in front of you (I like to visualize a GREEN cloud that smells like melty dark chocolate).

  • Slowly start to inhale and imagine that colored fog slowly filling your lungs while you count to 5.

  • Hold that breath, then slowly begin to exhale, imagining the color slowly reappearing as you blow it out.

  • Continue this exercise for a few minutes (this is where the timer comes in handy) or until you feel settled in your skin.


3. Practice: practice, practice, practice


The bottom line is that all of these things take diligence and practice every day for them to start working. It’s the same way we make changes to our daily routines to improve our physical health. Our cholesterol levels don’t just drop after we eat a carrot, and we aren’t all of a sudden stronger because we did two pushups and a crunch. The strength and fitness come with long-term changes to our routines. Except, in this case instead of eating our vegetables and exercising, we’re thinking positively and meditating.


This is a long and difficult journey with little payoff upfront, but the best way to kickstart this process is to just do it. If the thought of committing to doing something every day puts you off, get yourself started by taking baby bites. Maybe plan to write down one affirmation and one thing you’re grateful for, and do a minute of deep breathing every morning for one workweek. In the process, you’ll learn how good it can make you feel! It’s stinky because we all love results (and we want them NOW!), but you won’t be seeing big results for a while.




If you can stick to it and use all the good feelies to keep you motivated, you will be well on your way to a less scary recital.



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