Tips to Manage Fear of the Stage
Learning how to overcome stage fright does not need to be difficult. Unfortunately, many people live their entire lives never conquering this fear. If knowing how to overcome stage fright is holding you back in some way, mastering the art of the stage (and managing your nerves) will do much to enhance your life.
There are as many symptoms of stage fright or communication anxiety as there are ways to overcome it. You might experience sweaty palms, butterflies in your stomach, hot flashes, or stuttering. Stage fright is very personal for those suffering from it.
So how do you overcome it? How do you master your fear? There are several tricks that you can employ to make your time on stage run smoothly and prevent panic from building.
Accept Some Fear is Normal
First, accept that stage fright is normal. Most people will admit that they get at least a little bit nervous when speaking in front of a crowd. You are not unusual, and your fear is not unheard of. However, if you experience stage fright regularly to an extent that it interferes with your quality of life, you may be experiencing social anxiety disorder (a more extreme form of stage fright).
Make Use of Your Stage Fright
Fear causes adrenaline, which makes you speak more clearly and react more quickly when things go wrong. Problems only occur if you let your fear control you. Try to imagine your fear as excitement instead of anxiety. Are you hyped up to get on stage? If you can flip this switch, your stage fright will go from a hindrance of your performance to an asset.
Practice as Much as You Can
Practice. Practice. Practice. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will feel. Do not assume that you will figure out what you want to say when you get up in front of the crowd. If you do stumble, take a deep breath. Stay calm.
Pausing for just a minute in your presentation to gather your thoughts is better than rushing. One deep breath can help you recover quickly, and put your performance back on track.
Look at the Back Wall
If you are in a small room, you might find looking directly at your audience causes more fear. Don’t solve the problem by staring at the floor or ceiling. This causes your audience to disengage and become bored. One solution is to look at the back wall of the room. Your audience will think you are looking at them.
Anticipation anxiety can be a significant contributor to stage fright. In anticipation of a performance, you might go over everything in your mind that you imagine could go wrong. Instead, practice detached mindfulness. Ask yourself what benefit there is to imagining the worst. Put a ban on those thoughts—don’t let them take up valuable space in your head.
Use Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and guided meditation may be helpful to get yourself into a relaxed state before a performance. If you make relaxation a regular part of your routine and pair it with a favorite scent such as lavender, you should find it easier to jump into relaxation when you need it most (right before you hit the stage).
If you’ve tried all other avenues, it’s possible that medication could help you get through the worst of your stage fright. Talk with your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing and how they could be helped through medication.
Drugs such as beta blockers help to eliminate the symptoms of anxiety during a performance and could be helpful in the short-term, while you continue to work on other approaches to manage your anxiety.
Most importantly, remember that stage fright is normal. Everyone feels a little nervous when they are putting themselves on display. The audience is observing you, so it feels like it is very important to master your fear and project a confident demeanor.
Remember though that showing a bit of anxiety will make you more human, which in the end, your audience may find endearing. Everybody wants to be perfect, but it’s the imperfect people in our lives that we find most interesting.