You're Not Alone
Your heart is pounding; sweat dripping into your eyes, head about to implode from thoughts of failure. You are about to step onto the stage, and the fear of forgetting your lines has turned into reality. You freeze, imagining them all laughing at you.
Sound familiar? Stage fright is something that EVERYONE deals with. From seasoned Hollywood celebrities to fourth graders reading their first book report, the fear of performing in public grips all ages and walks of life. But how is it that some people manage to make it look so effortless?
Some scholars say that among the shy folk who overcame their timidity are greats like Abe Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein. Even stars like Kim Basinger and Michael Douglas have talked openly with their battles with this crippling ailment. Michael Douglas remembers his initial fear of stage fright: “I used to sit there in (drama) school with a waste basket offstage, throw up and then go off onstage. I conquered it. It took a long time.” (starpulse.com)
The point is, you’re not alone. And despite what the instant-cure-in-a-bottle populace thinks, there is no overnight cure for fear of performing on stage. But there are some simple steps you can take to ease the butterflies (and stomach bombs).
Take Deep Breaths
This is the key to relaxation. Yogi masters have known this for centuries, and the science of breath has been studied in Eastern philosophies way before ‘American’ entered the global vocabulary. Unfortunately, our society often overlooks this simple life-changing and essential practice. We tend to think that breathing is something we needn’t think about, because it happens automatically.
But the fact is, yogic breathing has helped millions of people stave off high blood pressure, heart problems, and stress. All you have to do is take a long inhale, counting to five, then exhale, counting to ten. When doing this, think about your breath traveling to all your internal organs, soothing them like a cool breeze under those hot spot lights. Imagine that your breath is releasing the tension of all your muscles, allowing for smoother blood flow and oxygen to travel to that frozen stump upon your shoulders.
Try taking ten of these deep breaths before moving on to some stretches.
This may sound silly, but so does sweating like you’re on fire when preparing for your first monologue. Remember – these people in the audience don’t like watching failure because it’s uncomfortable. They want to see you succeed. So get over your apprehension of silly excercises, and scrunch up your face into as tight a ball as you can muster. All your facial muscles should contract. Then release, stick out your tongue, open your eyes wide, and stretch that face out like your trying to scare away your in-laws with insanity. See? It can be fun.
Warm Up Those Vocal Chords
The worst thing about public speaking is everything gets so tensed up, that when you finally manage to let a word pass through those pursed lips, it sounds like an excited squirrel who just dropped his prized chestnut. To avoid those embarrassing squeaks, start with some simple voice warm ups.
Now pant like a dog. A little dog, who just took a BIG long run. Do this for a few breaths to open up your diaphragm and stabilize your breathing. Now take a deep inhale, and as you exhale, keep your lips loose but closed, and let out a ‘Hummmmmm.’
Next, recite some silly tongue twisters. Some favorites from acting classes are: “The lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue.” That one is more for pronunciation. Now try: “Unique New York,” three times.
Get On That Stage
Now that your body and voice are warmed up, you’re ready to go! Don’t freak out, instead, take some more of those deep breaths. And remember that the audience is looking out for your best side. Besides, under the glare of that spotlight, you probably won’t see ‘em anyway. And if you do, you can always revert back to the good old “pretend they’re all naked’ trick.
Just be yourself (or who ever you are pretending to be), and act out as that superstar you always wanted to be – the one who belts out tunes in the shower and dances around the living room naked. You know you want to.
Article by Jocelyn Brady.