“Music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” Leonard Bernstein

Tips for Dealing with Stage Fright!!

Published: Sep 17, 2018  |   Category: Uncategorized

Performance Anxiety & A Holistic Health Approach of Stress Reduction for Performers
Anxiety’s Effect on the Body
  • Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers 
  1. Chronic stress and anxiety leads to long-term health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and more…
  2. Adrenaline in our bodies was developed as survival technique. Now this adrenaline remains in our bodies, causing long-term effects on our health 
  3. In short, Stress Makes Us Sick
How do we STOP feeling anxious?
What can we do to PREVENT a panic attack???
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a non-medical way to help a person reduce stress and anxiety.
This method offers ways to:
Change our thinking
Strengthen Emotions
Build Confidence
Take Control of One’s Life.
What are principles of CBT?
Adapted from Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judy Beck (1995).
  • CBT is based on an ever-evolving formulation of the patient and her problems in cognitive terms.
  • CBT requires a good client-therapist relationship.
  • CBT emphasizes collaboration and active participation.
  • CBT is goal-oriented and problem focused.
  • CBT initially emphasizes the present.
  • CBT is educative; it aims to teach the client to be his/her own therapist, and emphasizes relapse prevention.
  • CBT aims to be time limited.
  • CBT sessions are structured.
  • CBT teaches patients to identify, evaluate, and respond to their dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs.
  • CBT uses a variety of techniques to change thinking, mood, and behavior.
That’s great and all… 
But how can I fix it on my own???
Performance Anxiety Reduction Techniques
from Dr. Christopher Arneson, DMA - NATS Journal of Singing
  • Accept Your Fear (acknowledge the risks of what you’re doing.)
  • Understand Your Fear (what you do is not life-threatening… it’s O.K.)
  • Silence Negative Inner Voices (Self-talk should be positive)
  • Get Rid of Excuses (Don’t sabotage yourself, stay organized & prepare)
  • Eliminate Self-Destructive Behavior (We are our own worst enemies)
  • Don’t Fear Criticism (Constructive criticisms can help us to grow!)
  • Don’t Be “Unsure” (Fake it ‘til you make it… Self-confidence is key.)
  • Recall and Prepare (Audiate and visualize. You have studied, you know it!)
  • Release Physical Tension (Try your meditation script, relaxation is a technique, just like singing or playing!)
  • Refuse to Focus on Nervousness (Bring some object that calms you)
When it’s over...
  1. Have Realistic Expectations (Know that rejection is part of the job, and have a realistic idea of the risks of the concert. Nothing here is going to be life threatening!)
  2. Be Generous (Other singers know EXACTLY what you are experiencing. Be a supportive colleague and celebrate others’ successes as well as your own.)
Routine/Taking control of the situation:
  1. What aspects of a performance or audition do you have control of?
    • Your music
    • Your clothes/hair/shoes
    • Maybe the accompanist (auditions)
    • Can you go to the space beforehand and see it/sing in it/play the available piano, etc…?
  2. Plan your day-of strategy
    • Plan what objects you will need in advance. 
    • Give ample time for any emergencies or to calm down IN THE LOCATION before the event/recital/audition
    • Have the same routine (that you know works for you) for EACH time you sing/play/audition. (Continuity is key)
    • Wake up early enough (and to bed early the night before) to have a regular morning routine and vocal warm up
Notice when you begin feeling anxious or nervous about the upcoming events...
You may not be nervous until the day before. It may be a month of anxiety. Notice your fear, acknowledge it, write it down or talk it out with a friend and remind yourself that POSITIVE thinking will IMPROVE YOUR OUTCOME. Try to end your day on a positive note, word or thought. 
Decrease Negative Self-Talk & Begin Positive Visualization
  • When we tell ourselves we “can’t” do something, we most likely will lose our ability to do that thing. 
  • Tell yourself you are able and ready to do this!
  • Visualize yourself doing it perfectly and having a positive outcome. Visualize/internally audiate all music silently, in your head, before walking into the space. 
  • When you imagine yourself doing it well, you are more likely to have that positive outcome. 
If at ALL possible...
  • Give yourself a pre-event meditation schedule. 
  • Write a script if needed to bring yourself into relaxation before an audition/recital/speech.
    • Include “clue words” to release tension’
    • If there is no quiet space, try a short & brisk walk (have “mood music” if you can stand it). 
Other activities to try out:
  1. Yoga Activities (regularly… don’t try to do a full Sun Salutation for the first time on the day of your show)
  2. Guided meditation exercises to have a daily routine that gets you to your stress-free zone.
  3. Relaxation exercises 
Types of Relaxation - Make Health Happen 
  • Deep Relaxation
    • When the muscles are profoundly relaxed we can lower heart rate, slow breathing, normalize digestion, and lower blood pressure.
    • Entering a state of deep muscle relaxation occurs best with meditation exercises, during massage or yoga, or in quiet spaces. 
  • Differential Relaxation
    • Catch yourself tensing, and try to release tension (i.e. when singing or driving and you catch the jaw or shoulder tense: try to make a conscious effort to release).
  • Generalized Relaxation
    • Just as we condition ourselves to stop at a red light, we can begin to have almost unconscious triggers to RELEASE tension, rather than form it. (Often a small object, like a necklace, or a type of scent of a perfume can be all you need - things to take in an audition/wear onstage - lucky underwear???)
If you truly encounter problems with anxiety BEYOND stage fright, don't be afraid to ask for help from your doctor, therapist, or even a good friend. You are not alone. 
Available Resources:
“Performance Anxiety: A 21st Century Perspective” in the NATS Journal of Singing by Dr. Christopher Arneson, DMA (2010).
Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond by Judy Beck (1995). Quoted from Brownback, Mason & Associates website.
Make Health Happen by Erik Peper, Katherine H. Gibney, & Catherine F. Holt (2002). 
Musician’s Yoga by Mia Olson (2009). 
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky (2004).
The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner (2012).

Leave A Reply




No Comments Yet.