top of page

Stage Fright- Why & What To Do

Stage fright—Where does it stem from? Tackling an issue like this requires understanding its origins. Also known as performance anxiety, stage fright is a phenomenon that many individuals, including seasoned performers, face before or during public performances. The root causes are complex and vary, involving psychological, physiological, and situational factors. Let’s dive into some key contributors:

Fear of Judgment: One primary source of stage fright is the fear of being judged by others. You may worry about how the audience will perceive your skills, appearance, or overall performance. Let’s be honest; we’ve all felt this at one point or another.

Lack of Confidence: A performer's confidence in their abilities can significantly impact the presence of stage fright. Those who lack self-assurance may feel more vulnerable to anxiety in the spotlight.

High Stakes and Pressure: Important auditions, major gigs, or public speaking engagements can intensify feelings of nervousness and anxiety because we just don’t want to mess up and miss out!

Social Anxiety: Individuals who struggle with social anxiety, a mental health condition that may need the help of a doctor, are characterized by an intense and persistent fear of social situations. The fear of negative evaluation from others can trigger and make anxiety even worse!

Threat to Self-Esteem: The thought of making mistakes or receiving criticism can be emotionally distressing.

Physiological Responses: The body's natural "fight or flight" response can contribute to stage fright. Physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and butterflies in the stomach are common reactions.

Negative Experiences: Past negative experiences, such as an embarrassing moment, can create a fear of repeating those experiences.

Perfectionism: A perfectionistic mindset, where individuals set unrealistically high standards for themselves. The fear of not meeting these high standards can be paralyzing.

Situational Factors: The environment in which the performance takes place, such as the size of the audience, the nature of the event, or the level of formality, can influence the degree of stage fright.

If you’ve experienced any of the above, try to identify which you relate to. Don't worry! There are physical and mental tips and tricks that will help! Here are a few that are tried and true!

Deep Breathing Exercises: This may sound redundant, but this can work. Practice slow, deep breathing exercises. It’s proven to work. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This helps calm your nervous system and reduces anxiety. I prefer to inhale slowly, counting to 7 in my mind, hold my breath for as long as I can, and then exhale slowly. I repeat this until I feel more in control.

Visualization Techniques: The power of the mind can have a real effect over your outcome. Visualize yourself succeeding on stage. Close your eyes and imagine the performance going smoothly, with the audience cheering and appreciating your talent. When on stage, stay in that moment and visualize success. This positive visualization can build confidence. If you can believe it, you can achieve it. If you believe you will fail, you will.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR): This is one we use all the time with our performers. A quick progressive muscle relaxation exercise tends to help because it’s physical. Tense and then release different muscle groups in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up. Inhale deeply and clench your fists tightly for a few seconds. Then, exhale slowly and release the tension, letting your hands and forearms relax completely. Inhale as you raise your shoulders towards your ears, creating tension. Hold briefly, then exhale and let your shoulders drop, releasing any accumulated stress. Tighten your facial muscles by squinting your eyes and clenching your jaw. After a few seconds, release the tension while exhaling, allowing your face to become soft and relaxed. Take a deep breath to expand your chest. Hold for a moment, then exhale slowly while imagining the tension leaving your chest and back muscles. Inhale deeply, allowing your stomach to expand. Hold briefly, then exhale, imagining the tension dissipating from your abdominal area. Tense the muscles in your thighs and calves by pointing your toes away from you. After a few seconds, release the tension while exhaling, feeling your legs become loose and relaxed.

Positive Affirmations: Create a set of positive affirmations to repeat to yourself before and during your performance. Phrases like "I am confident and capable" or "I am well-prepared for this moment" can boost your self-assurance.

Grounding Techniques: Practice mindfulness and grounding techniques to stay present. Focus on your breath, the sensation of your feet on the ground, or the touch of your instrument. Being in the moment can redirect your mind from anxious thoughts.

Pre-Performance Rituals: Develop pre-performance rituals that help you relax and focus. Whether it's a specific warm-up routine, a favorite piece of music, or a few minutes of solitude, having a ritual can create a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Reframe Negative Thoughts: Identify and reframe negative thoughts. Instead of thinking about what could go wrong, focus on the opportunity to showcase your skills and connect with the audience. Positive reframing shifts your mindset from fear to excitement.

Seek Professional Help: If stage fright is persistent and affecting your ability to perform, consider seeking professional help. Performance coaches or therapists specializing in anxiety can provide personalized strategies and support.

It's a common experience for performers, but with the right strategies, stage fright can be managed effectively. Try it all!


bottom of page