BEFRIEND WITH YOUR STAGE FRIGHT
Stage fright and anxiety can be a challenge and very uncomfortable for a singer or musician. In some rare cases, some give in and stop their career because of their fear of performing. Barbra Streisand being one of the more famous singers, troubled with stage fright.
We can find essential information about fear and how it once was a healthy response to danger, causing us to protect ourselves from the danger, online and in self-help books about anxiety disorders. There are countless approaches and methods that help you deal with stage fright.
If you love what you are doing, the only way out of stage fright is through. Face the dragon and keep performing anyways, even if you feel you forget all your skills and feel like fainting, whatever the symptoms are, however dramatic they affect you, keep performing. The key is in your hands.
Interestingly enough, falling in love and stage fright have similar internal responses. The difference is our association and response. The good news is that stage fright is the best performance booster, when dealt with in a healthy way. It causes you to be more alert, to radiate this special magic, it transmits how much you care about your performance and in other words, is pure excitement. A performer without stage fright, is like a dead leave tangling off the tree. Stage fright only turns into a threat and scary limitation that needs to be overcome, if you allow it to dictate your self-perception and tricks you into the believe that you are not good at performing. It turns into a problem when you begin to judge yourself and your emotions and physical responses too much. When you allow the physical symptoms to rule you. Probably you have experienced the vicious circle of trying to relax, in order not to be the nervous wreck you are, trying to feel better or trying to focus on something nice only to stress out even more.
Can you re-educate yourself and begin to see the symptoms as an expression of excitement rather than something unwanted and scary?
Athletes learn to turn fear into the booster to run even faster. The self-confidence and trust in your skills will return as soon as you begin to accept your excitement and all the physical and thinking patterns that show up as a result of it. While simple methods like learning breathing exercises to calm or visualization and mindfulness meditation may help over time, I would like to introduce some ideas of helpful exercises that show results quite instantly.
Performing is very intimate. We never know what will happen. We might show an aspect of us, we are scared to show. Our interpretation of the music might be very personal just as the co-relation with the fellow performers and the audience. In the best case, we all leave the opera, changed. This is the magic of music, that it is so personal. To play safe and always stay in our comfort zone, even if this feels better, will rarely touch the audience and transmit from heart to heart. When we step out on stage, we have to accept that we cannot control everything. The skill is to balance the things we can control and the things we cannot control. Stage fright or stage excitement is our friend in this journey, without it, we would lose our authenticity.
FIND OUT WHAT FEELS GOOD:
Experiment with what keeps your excitement healthy and helps you not to turn it into stage fright prior to performance. Do you need to be with yourself and step out of the actions backstage to a quiet place, to focus on your performance only? Like an athlete that in preparation and during warm up before the contest “tunnels in” on the peak performance. Not allowing himself to be disturbed by outer factors. Or does that freak you out, causing you to worry and become self-conscious?
Is it better for you to distract your mind and connect with your fellow performers? To just have a chat or some fun backstage?
BALANCE TENSION AND RELAXATION:
Practice the balance of tension and relaxation. Educate your system on how tension is always followed by relaxation and that you are the decider on when you are tense and when relaxed. Like in progressive muscle relaxation, you can find your own exercises to do so. The only rule is that tension is immediately followed by relaxation. You can even experiment with how long you would like to hold your tension and your relaxation, finding your own rhythm. Here are some inspirations: breathe in (hold your breath if you can) and push your arms against the wall or floor as hard as you can until you start to shiver with tension. Immediately switch to relaxation by breathing easily and softly, doing flowing movements like waving your arms softly. Exaggerate even a little by tensing very hard, followed by easy, wavelike, flowing movements and breath.
DIRECT YOUR FOCUS, STRESS-FREE:
Practice your focus (and the struggle to focus on a healthy excitement rather than unwanted physical symptoms or thoughts will be easier). As funny and absurd as it may seem, the easiest way to practice focusing, is to count. Take a cup of rice or lentils or beans (or pearls) and empty it on the table. Now count (without taking notes). Yes, it might take very long and you might have to restart over and over again because your mind drifted off. The only rule: don’t take notes and don’t make heaps of counted rice in order to help yourself in case you got distracted. One heap of rice to count and one heap of counted rice. Should you drift off, restart. You will notice that it will be much easier to keep your focus on the healthy aspects of performance.
BEING AWARE OF THE AUDIENCE:
Practice awareness. Do you ever walk through the auditorium and look your audience in the eyes, get a sense of their energy and how they feel? No excuses, there is always time before the performance to spend in the audience. Get a sense of what is needed that night. Are they stressed? Happy and laughing? Excited too? Tired? How could you connect with them when you play or sing? You could even ask them (without identifying yourself as the musician or singer or not), talk to them.
Claudia Kohl is an artist, Alexander
Technique coach, designer and author. She is the founder of The Artists Coaching in Berlin, a studio dedicated to support artists in their creative, artistic process as well as life. She has helped singers, musicians, actors, dancers and circus artists, to build a healthy and inspired carrier. Claudia likes to work with artists suffering from anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, chronic pain, burnout or artists with the courage to start something new. She comes from a background of theatre and dance before studying the Alexander Technique and developing her own method with the artists of the famous Cirque du Soleil. As a nomad and curious soul she has traveled and experienced more than most people do in their lifetime. She believes that art is what we are and that it is our responsibility to make the world a better place. She is known for her down to earth, loving and highly inspired, engaging approach to coaching. Claudia’s insights inspire audiences around the world through her monthly “Inspiration” newsletter and online coaching. For artists in Berlin, besides one on one sessions, she offers weekly Bohemian Brunches and Artistic Vision Quests.