Safety and Wellness
5 Ways to Beat Pre-performance Nerves
Lots of people stress out about talking in front of the class or getting laughed at if they make a mistake in front of an audience. Feeling nervous before a performance is part of your body's way of helping you do your best. The "stress hormones" (like adrenaline) that your body produces at times like these can actually help you focus.
But when worry and stress about performing get to be too much, these hormones give people that "red alert" feeling — the one that causes you to feel cold or sweaty, get butterflies in your stomach, or feel like you can't think straight.
These tips can help you avoid that feeling:
- Psych yourself up. Confidence helps combat stress hormones! Watch a football team before they run on to the field. They get in a group and pray or sing a team song to pump themselves up with confidence and team spirit. You can do this whether you're performing alone or as part of a group. Have parents, family members, and friends give you a pep talk. Keep a journal as you practice; then if you think "I can't do this," you can check the notebook to see how well prepared you are.
- Be prepared. You're less likely to freeze up if you're well prepared. Rehearse as much as you can and practice in front of others at every opportunity. Most of all, think positively: Tell yourself "I'll be OK" or "I can do this" even if you are not 100% sure of it.
- Learn ways to chill. Young performers, such as Olympic gymnasts and music soloists, talk about how important it is to prepare for the pre-performance jitters as well as the performance itself. Some take along a photo album of favorite pictures, compile a playlist on their music players to help them relax, or learn yoga and breathing techniques to help them feel calm. Some people need to be active to relax, others need to be still and calm. Find out what works for you, and practice, practice, practice.
- Look after yourself. Before big performances it's easy to let taking care of yourself slip as you spend too much time on rehearsals and practice. You'll look and feel your best if you get enough sleep and eat healthy meals before your performance. Exercise can also help you feel good, and along with sleep and nutrition, is an excellent way of keeping those stress hormones from getting out of control.
- Find out what the experts do. You can find books, DVDs, and online information about how to give your best when you perform, depending on what type of performance you're preparing for. Check out stories about Olympic gymnasts or your favorite star to get their tips. Or ask the cast of your school play or your drama or music teacher how they beat stage fright. And if your parents or grandparents ever performed, they may have their own secrets to share. Even hearing stories of a worst-case scenario (like forgetting lines in a play or freezing up in a violin solo), can help you relax by realizing that people recover from potentially embarrassing situations.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: May 2013