Performance Anxiety: You’re Nervous Because You Care! — Alex Taylor Lessons

Numerous polls show that one of the only things people fear more than death is public speaking, so it’s no wonder that we as human beings get nervous before we perform. It’s completely natural to be afraid of making a mistake or worry about being judged by other people — in fact, most people are too afraid to ever try! Let’s talk about nerves, why they happen, why they’re actually a good thing, and what you can do to get control over them.

You get nervous because you want to do a good job.

Remind yourself of this every time you perform or speak in front of others. Nerves stem from a positive desire to do well. Think about it — if you didn’t want to do a good job, would you care at all? No! Your nerves are good intentions, so start thinking about them in this positive framework rather than something bad happening to you.

Prepare as much as you can ahead of time.

Whenever you’re nervous, you’ll resort to your most practiced habits. If you’ve put in the work ahead of time, you can trust that you’ll be able to rely on your instincts.

Take deep breaths.

This will help physically calm you by activating a calming nerve in your stomach. Try to take a deep breath in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, then exhale for four seconds. Do this a few times and adjust the timing as necessary. Getting in touch with your breath is the most important thing you can do before performing. Remember, if you don’t breath, you die.

Nerves are your body’s fight-or-flight response.

Whenever we sense danger, our bodies naturally initiate the fight-or-flight response. This explains why you may have a desire to run away from the stage, or to never even go on! Instead of thinking about this as your body’s way of fighting a performance, think of it as your body literally preparing for the task at hand. Thinking about nerves this way lets you channel all of your energy into a good performance. Tell yourself that you’re ready to go (but don’t get too hyped up as that can also lead to more nerves).

Remind yourself of the worst case scenario: You’ll live.

Performing music isn’t surgery, it isn’t building a bridge, it isn’t a military operation — if your performance is a disaster, no one will get hurt, no one will die, and you’ll have another chance at performing. Getting in front of people feels like SUCH a big deal, and it’s easy to get swept up in the stakes of the moment. Taking a second to put things into perspective can help the moment feel less large and keep you calm and focused.

Try this exercise: tense up every muscle in your body and release.

This is my favorite anti-nerve exercise. I’ve had an issue that whenever I get nervous, my hands start to shake uncontrollably on stage. To beat this, I breath in and tense up every single muscle in my arms, hold it for a moment, then exhale and release my muscles. I’ll do this a few times right before I go on to perform, and then I have no problems. By doing this, you’ll be embracing all of the extra energy your body is producing while also relaxing your muscles so they don’t spaz out on stage.

Even if you do all of these things and are still nervous, just remember:

Everyone is rooting for you.

Imagine yourself in the audience about to watch a performance. You’re excited to see what the performer is going to show you, and you hope that they’re going to be great. Remind yourself of this whenever you’re performing — audiences are taking time out of their lives to come see what you’re doing. They’re excited for you, and rooting for you to do great!

Give yourself some credit — you’re brave enough to stand up there in front of people. A lot of people wouldn’t ever dream of doing that!

P.S. Even the most seasoned performers get nervous. Here’s a link to celebrities from Katy Perry to Adele to Harry Styles to Rihanna talking about how nervous they get before they perform. Even when you’re rich, successful, and famous, you still get nervous!

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2016/05/111114/celebrity-quotes-stage-fright-anxiety

Additional reading on performance anxiety:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/face-it/201304/performance-anxiety

https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/stage-fright-performance-anxiety#1

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/sep/08/how-classical-musicians-cope-with-performance-stress

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-real-story-risk/201211/the-thing-we-fear-more-death

Originally published at https://www.alextaylorlessons.com on July 13, 2020.

Professional singer, actor, and teacher. Member of the Grammy®-award winning Houston Chamber Choir. Visit www.alextaylorlessons.com for lessons and more info.